Spock's Beard - The Kindness Of Strangers

Year of Release: 1997
Label: Metal Blade
Catalog Number: 3984-14165-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 55:52:00

The future of progressive rock is here and it is called Spock's Beard - named after the bit of fuzz on the alternate-universe Spock's chin in the Star Trek episode "Mirror, Mirror."

Well, maybe that's a bit of hyperbole. But what if it were true? And what if it meant that progressive rock would get played on the radio - not just on speciality shows, but on the regular play list? I mean, they're too "new" for the classic stations (and they sound nothing like Yes) so what else is there? And, by golly, it would mean thoughtful, intelligent rock was on the upswing again.

While we'll be dreaming for some time yet, we few, we proggy few, at least have the knowledge that we're not alone and the government doesn't control our CD players (yet). So I fired mine up and put The Kindness Of Strangers in.

Spock's Beard have their own particular spin on music - taking the extended arrangement, changing time signature aspects of progressive and intermixing that with a more traditional rock sound, and throwing in odd bits of instrumentation - weird keyboard noises or vocal effects to acheive certain ... well ... effects, to set a mood. A voice, distorted and amplified through a megaphone (okay, its probably a synth and a microphone) sets the initial tone for "The Mouth Of Madness" - evoking a carnival huckster along the midway. And even with a "traditional" arrangement, Spock's Beard skews toward the "not quite right" aspect of our world - "Cakewalk On Easy Street," for example.

If there is any negative criticism to leveled at Spock's Beard it is that much of their music follows similar dynamics. "Harms Way" (track 6) sounds close to "Walking On The Wind" (track 5, Beware of Darkness). "True Believers" (movement one of "Flow") will remind of "Waste Away" (track 6, Beware) in parts. (And I wonder if it's their own "Waste Away" that gets a name check in Kindness' "June" because I swear there's a classic 70's track of the same name - if only I could recall the artist). [Um, yes, it is. -ed.]

All of which doesn't mean that SB are a one note band, just that some notes are repeated to similar effect. If any comparisons could be made between SB and some other, perhaps more well known, progressive artist, no one in particular comes to mind. Except that SB and the late Kevin Gilbert explored music and themes in similar ways. Which isn't suprising given Gilbert's relationship with the band, playing a part in producing their first two albums. And the abovementioned "June," however, could very well have been recorded by America.

All the musicians involved - Neal Morse (lead vocals, keys, some electric guitar), Alan Morse (guitar, cello, mellotron, vocals), Dave Meros (bass, vocals), Ryo Okumoto (organ, mellotron), and Nick D'Virgilio (drums, percussion, vocals) - are all excellent at their craft, which makes their brand of progressive particularly effective, lesser musicians wouldn't be able to carry it off.

Of the discs I've heard released in the past year or so, Kindness is one of the few that is getting repeated plays, and one of even fewer that contains no filler. This comes highly recommended with a suggestion to pick up their two earlier releases.

The Good Don't Last (10:04) / In The Mouth Of Madness (4:45) / Cakewalk On Easy Street (5:01) / June (5:29) / Strange World (4:20) / Harm's Way (11:05) / Flow (15:48)

Neal Morse - lead vocals, piano, synths, and guitars
Alan Morse - guitar, cello, mellotron, and vocals
Dave Meros - bass and vocals
Ryo Okumoto - Hammond organ and mellotron
Nick D'Virgilio - drums, percussion, and vocals

The Light (1991)
Beware of Darkness (1995)
The Beard Is Out There Live (1995)
Official Live Bootleg (1996)
The Kindness of Strangers (1997)
From The Vault - 1995-1998 (1998)
Day For Night (1999)
Live At The Whiskey and NEARfest (1999)
Don't Try This At Home (2000)
V (2000)
Snow (2002)
Feel Euphoria (2003)
The Light - The Artwork Collector's Series (2004)
Octane (2005)
Gluttons For Punishment (2005)
Spock's Beard (2006)
Live (2008)
X (2010)
Brief Nocturnes And Dreamless Sleep (2013)
The Oblivion Particle (2015)
Noise Floor (2018)

The Beard Is Out There Live (VID) (1995)
Spock's Beard's Home Movie (VID) (1998)
Live At The Whisky (VID) (1999)
Making Of V (VID) (2001)
Don't Try This At Home & The Making Of V (DVD) (2002)
The Making Of Snow (DVD) (2004)
Live (DVD) (2008)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: August 11th 1998
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.spocksbeard.com
Hits: 974
Language: english


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