Spock's Beard - Feel Euphoria

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

This has to be one of the most keenly awaited albums in prog land in the last 12 months, and the question in everyone's mind is "Can they still cut it without Neal Morse?" Well, when I saw BoBo's review of Feel Euphoria I was less than encouraged by what I read, but now having heard a sneak preview, I think there needs to be a little balance against BoBo's slightly negative reaction to the album.

I should say upfront that while I admire the band, I'm merely a casual listener, and Morse's departure was only a disappointment to me because I'd missed the chance to see that line-up live. Once it became apparent that the others were going to carry on, I was pretty confident they'd continue to produce good music, it was just a question of where the inspiration would take them. After all, Marillion have forged a largely successful path following Fish's departure, and immediately after Peter Gabriel left, Genesis produced two of their finest albums. And from my own point of view, after Snow, I felt that The Beard were fast approaching the point where they needed to break off in a new direction if they were to remain relevant.

The band pretty much nail their new colours to the wall on the opening track "Onomatopoeia," which rocks with a vengeance. It's not metal, but it has all the energy of band revitalized and determined to prove that they're in the game for the long-term. If they choose to open shows with this track then I think they can win over the doubters pretty quickly. The chorus is catchy and great singalong stuff, and the guitar elbows its way to the front of the song with the rest of the instruments snapping at its heels. The mellotron is still very much part of the sound, working well against the urgent guitar riffs. And NDV's vocals sound fine, even breaking out into full-throated screams in the wilder part of the song. If any one track on this album exorcises 'The Ghost of Morse Past', then this is it.

But the more committed fans shouldn't lose heart, because all the elements of the Spock's sound are still very much in evidence. The vocal harmonies, the chunky Rickenbacker bass, and the uplifting guitar and keyboard melodies are all present on "The Bottom Line." Similarly, with "East Of Eden," "West Of Memphis" and "Ghosts Of Autumn" there are still plenty of progtastic melodies and arrangements to recall former glories. And if anything, Ryo is allowed a lot more leeway to colour the songs with his keyboards.

The title track, on the other hand, may take a little swallowing for some fans. I really liked the funky bass, the swirling organ and another memorable chorus line, but when the song veers off into chaotic alt.rock territory, it does jar a little with the earlier mood of the song. But hey, this is a different band now, and why shouldn't they try out new ideas? The only reason I wouldn't choose this track to introduce newcomers to the band is simply because of its uneven structure, and in fact, it may work out better live as an improvised jam.

As for the "epic" "A Guy Named Sid," it's more a series of short pieces rather than one long take, and it works well on that basis. To these ears, it's as good as any of the older stuff, but it sounds more streamlined and energized, and has a very contemporary edge to it. Everyone gets in on the act on this song, clearly coming across as a group effort, and as the song fades out with another uplifting solo, I challenge listeners to deny that the Beard magic is still potent!

Bottom line ? this is not just a good rock album, it is a good Spock's Beard album. It's just a different kind of Spock's Beard now. While some will mourn Morse's absence, I think it's given the guys a new lease of life. Feel Euphoria moves in a new direction, but still with one eye looking backward over its shoulder. Some folks may see this mixture of styles as a bit of a fudge, trying to keep all sides happy, but I'm more inclined to see this as the band flexing it's creative muscles while still feeling comfortable with the musical heritage that has brought them this far.

I hope readers will take a leap of faith and give this album a listen, because the band still clearly have plenty of ideas in them, and if they can continue to build their confidence, I have a feeling that the next album will be even more interesting.

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 23rd 2003
Reviewer: John Stout

Artist website: www.spocksbeard.com
Hits: 499
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]