Spock's Beard - Feel Euphoria

Year of Release: 2003
Label: InsideOut
Catalog Number: IOMCD126
Format: CD
Total Time: 63:58:00

It was Friday the 13th when I received this disc in the post. Could it be an omen? After all the brand new Spock's Beard album not only sported a brand new logo, it was also the first CD without the band's engine: Neal Morse. With drummer Nick d'Virgilio stepping in the footsteps of Phil Collins and Dave Grohl, no doubt I was very much interested to hear how the band tackled the departure of their frontman. Would I be at all "euphoric" in the end and could the new album follow in the footsteps of the band's most prestigious release to date, the much anticipated double concept album Snow?

Working as a fourpiece, as opposed to being a quintet, certainly brings along its changes. Luckily Nick already sang several parts when Neal was still in the band, so that's not such a big difference. At times Nick even tries to evoke Neal's way of singing, which is not bad as long as he can put his own soul into it. Remember when Phil Collins took over from Peter Gabriel and he sounded exactly the same? Opening track "Onomatopoeia" sounds more like the Foo Fighters, which of course is a brave thing to do, but then again damned dangerous to open with, it being a new album with a new line-up! Throughout the entire album guitarist Alan Morse sounds much harder and aggressive than ever before but, thank god, he also knows when to hold back and emphasize the melody rather than hard hitting chords. "The Bottom Line" is the kind of music we have been associating with Spock's Beard since the very beginning: great arrangement, multiple vocals, nice keyboard passages, interesting musical changes and very Morse like towards the end. If this track had opened the album, I'm convinced a lot of fans would immediately be pleased to hear nothing has changed. But it has, believe me. Just listen to the sound of the drums during the title track whilst the vocals have also received a special treatment; Alan delivers some fusion-like guitar playing and Ryo attacks his bank of keyboards as if he's accompanying the latest hiphop sensation. And that's before the short Rage Against the Machine intervention! I needed several listens before I could digest that one. Still find it difficult to put the label "Spock's Beard" on that track, I'm afraid!

With "Shining Star" our friends try their hand at writing the ideal FM-song and come rather close to an unreleased Eagles or Don Henley song. OK as a song, but as a track on a new Spock's Beard album? Nine times out of ten it's good "old" Ryo that puts the Spock's train on the right track as he illustrates during "East Of Eden, West Of Memphis," delivering one hell of a keyboard solo. Don't really understand the backward tape at the end though. Solitary piano and a title that announces authentic Spock's genius comes with "Ghosts Of Autumn." I have to be very honest here and say that to me it's Ryo who rules this song all along. A classic if ever I heard one, containing sheer genius from all members involved. I'm not really sure whether the band felt it necessary, but believe it or not this new album also sports it's very own epic. Six shorter songs together make the long "A Guy Named Sid," which begins in a rather funky way. "You Don't Know" comes as a laidback bluesy number which once again is a complete surprise. Yet the biggest surprise is when Ryo (yep it's him again) delivers some synth sounds which I place in the Tales From Topographic Oceans frame of mind, changing towards powerful Audioslave moments in "Judge." A vocal highlight comes with "Sid's Boy Choir," which is a short barbershop type of composition that introduces the final part of the epic. "Change" once again is a straightforward rock song that ends in pure Spock's tradition by means of a very powerful and bombastic ending. The closing song "Carry On" is a pure Neal Morse classic and I even doubt whether it's Nick singing or whether Neal has been tempted to enter the studio anyway. This is the kind of material we (I?) want to hear, although it's a little on the mellow side. But hey, wait for it, this is also the end of the album!

Recorded at their favourite Lawnmower and Garden Supplies studio I think that Nick's idea of progressive rock tends to lean more towards the attitude of his great friend the late Kevin Gilbert. When you listen to some of Kevin's work you will also agree that this is not your average cup of prog tea, but that he tends to find the perfect marriage between seventies prog and contemporary music. But is Feel Euphoria a good album? To me it's not a bad rock album, but it's not such a good Spock's album. Spock's Beard has become Spock's Chin-Tuft and it'll take a while to grow that beard back. The precious metal might still be there but they'll need plenty of silver polish to get that old shine back. Livewise the band will hit the road with an extra drummer which will enable Nick to fully concentrate on his singing, whilst he will also do some drumming during the longer instrumental sections. Two separate gorillas? Now didn't Phil and Chester ?

Released also by the now defunct InsideOut Music America (IOMA 2059)

Onomatopoeia (5:16) / The Bottom Line (7:33) / Feel Euphoria (7:20) / Shining Star (4:06) / East Of Eden, West Of Memphis (7:05) / Ghosts Of Autumn (6:53) / A Guy Named Sid: Intro (3:02) - Same Old Story (4:25) - You Don't Know (3:11) - Judge (3:20) - Sid's Boy Choir (1:09) - Change (5:16) / Carry On (5:20)

Nick d'Virgilio - vocals, drums, percussion, loops, acoustic and electric guitars
Ryo Okumoto - keyboards
Alan Morse - electric and acoustic guitars, vocals
Dave Meros ? bass

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: June 15th 2003
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website: www.spocksbeard.com
Hits: 586
Language: english


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