Spock's Beard - Brief Nocturnes And Dreamless Sleep

Year of Release: 2013
Label: InsideOut Music
Catalog Number: 0647-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 81:34:00

If you have been a long-time fan of Spock's Beard, Brief Nocturnes And Dreamless Sleep will not disappoint. It is proggier than they've seemed of late (I know, this is not their latest release). This realization (re)occurred to me while listening for the umpteenth time (and several times after that yet). The "classic" Beard sound is most prominently heard in "Afterthoughts," which naturally harks back to "Thoughts" (Beware Of Darkness) - the same effect of multi-layered vocals (singing in the round) for one, though they didn't patent that. You can also find the Beardness in the intro to "Waiting For Me" (but there's a reason for that...).

That Spock's Beard still sound like Spock's Beard shouldn't be too surprising, right? Three-fifths of the starting lineup is still intact after all. Just goes to show that as integral Neal Morse and Nick D'Virgilio were to the Beard, they only tell two-fifths of the story, though you might expect that with a new vocalist in Ted Leonard (also of Enchant) that there would be changes. There are and there aren't... It should be noted, Neal Morse (ah ha!) co-wrote two of the album's tracks, including the aforementioned "Waiting For Me," which is upbeat and energetic and of a "religious but with secular appeal" variety. I won't give Morse guff for his strong religious views and lyrics in his solo stuff; I'm just saying... (the other Neal-co-penned track is "Afterthoughts").

I thoroughly enjoy Brief Nocturnes.... Not just from a critic's perspective, but also from a purely personal perspective. There are songs that resonate with me - not in ways I'll share here. I will say, however, that that's what music should do, even if the music and lyrics mean something different to the composer than to the listener.

There is a lot of warmth and feeling on this CD. It is a beautiful album, rich in detail. Epic, as Spock's Beard is known to be. Exaultant! I will highlight a few tracks that stand out to me, in order of appearance, but each is a highlight: The third track, "A Treasure Abandoned" is where I feel Genesis is being channeled a bit in some intricate keyboard phrases. While the track does start with keyboards, unlike other tracks on the CD, it's not with a parpy/proggy flourish but instead introduces (and concludes) the track in more pastoral colours, coming across more flute-like than anything else. Elsewhere in the track, in progressive keyboard phrase that repeats throughout it is of King Crimson's "Red" I think, though here it is not as menacing a phrase. The pastoral phrases provide contrast to rockier rhythms that follow. In that following sections I think of Kansas (mostly in the vocal sections, though that doesn't mean Leonard sounds like Walsh), and of Yes by way of The Flower Kings. It is a track that has that expansive, epic feel, where the keys are big and bright, the percussion shiny, the guitar lines crisp and emotive... No other way to say it but epic.

The track that has become my favourite is "Submerged," which immediately follows "A Treasured Abandoned." It is the point where the subjective (personal) meshed with the objective (critic). It is an emotionally resonant track, no less in Leonard's soaring vocals for the chorus. It is a song he penned, so whatever it means to him certainly informs his delivery, though that doesn't necessarily mean that vocalists can't invest their own feeling into lyrics written by someone else. This is a more laidback track, lead mostly by steady, sparse percussion accented by acoustic guitar. Alan Morse's solo is short but effective. (Elsewhere on the album we hear more pyrotechnic playing, here it is more stately, befitting the track.) This is, admittedly, the most accessible track on the album - that is the most "radio friendly" (if radio were friendly) - but that should not be seen as a negative.

"Something Very Strange" is indeed (at first); treated, synthetic-sounding vocals (a la Styx's "Mr. Roboto") that suggest the otherworldly or that machine has supplanted man, though the song is not about the rise of the machines. No, this otherworldly is either the divine becoming manifest or life from another world arriving. And who knows, depending on what you believe, maybe that's one and the same. This is churning, upbeat rocker that gets in a very groovy groove - without being hippy-dippy 60s-like. It ends with a Close Encounters...-like keyboard phrase that sounds the call waiting for the response. And, incidentally, not one that the band will look back on and wonder what they were thinking as I imagine Styx might be with "Mr. Roboto."

A quick note on "I Know Your Secret," as this opens with spacey, also as in something alien (though the less alien than in "Something..."). This gives way to a funky rhythm driven by the percussions and more "conventional" keyboards. It's a grittier track, throaty guitar and bass churning. There is a dark context lyrically that is well matched to the dark undercurrent of the instrumentation.

What's interesting is that the meat of the first track, "Hiding Out," sounds a bit like Enchant. Perhaps because Leonard composed it, perhaps because one knows Leonard composed it and so it's more perception than fact. If so, that's my perception. The first minute, however, is led by the parpy keys -- and keys are all over this album -- underscored by grinding guitar, with sparse percussion. When all this gives way to Leonard's vocals, things smooth out, his vocals glide over a ... smooth valley.

One last comment on "Waiting For Me" ... I love the tribal rhythm at the 1:20 mark, giving this track a hefty feel. Oddly, Leonard sounds like Don Henley on this track - and I do not mean that as a criticism -- the Eagles are one of my favourite bands; musically, it does not sound like the Eagles here. (Though I can't say the same, entirely, about "Down A Burning Road," on the bonus disc, which starts with a jazzy, Santana-like guitar solo, morphs through some Floyd-like textures, contains a mid-western tang and Eagle-like harmonies (circa Desperado) to something that also brings Kansas to mind (again)).

Just a few more words on the bonus disk: "The Man You're Afraid You Are" is overall darker than anything else, more angular and gritty, and yet still manages to contain soaring choruses. There is a bit of spoken word that made me think of Rush's "Roll The Bones" (though without the rhyming) and of Frank Zappa, all over a funky, disco-y rhythm replete with "period" effects that melds into proggy-jazz. Even some Hawai'ian-like guitar is thrown in for good measure for the conclusion. "Wish I Were Here" gives off a dark Beatles-esque vibe with a modern twist - it's groovy at times, goofy at others, effect laden, and ironically, ultimately catchy. "Something..." is reprised in a "sanctified remix," that doesn't vary too much from the full version.

Disc One: Hiding Out (7:13) / I Know Your Secret (7:40) / A Treasure Abandoned (8:53) / Submerged (4:57) / Afterthoughts (6:08) / Something Very Strange (8:23) / Waiting For Me (12:36)

Disc Two: The Man You're Afraid You Are (7:11) / Down A Burning Road (6:51) / Wish I Were Here (6:33) / Something Very Strange (Sanctified Remix) (5:09) / Postcards From Perdition (4:27)*

*limited edition only

Jimmy Keegan - drums & vocals
Ted Leonard - lead vocals & guitar Dave Meros - bass, bass pedals, keyboards & vocals
Alan Morse - guitar & vocals
Ryo Okumoto - keyboards & vocals

Guests: Stan Ausmus - additional guitar (2:1)
John Boegehold - vocoder (1:6)
Craig Eastman - violin, viola, hurdy gurdy (1:7, 2:2)
Neal Morse - guitar (1:7)

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: May 26th 2016
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.spocksbeard.com
Hits: 2566
Language: english


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