Spock's Beard - Beware Of Darkness

Year of Release: 1995
Label: Radiant Records
Catalog Number: RA 001
Format: CD
Total Time: 57:32:00

[Bo Bo dipped into files for this review published here for the first time -ed. Apr 2000]

Seven tracks with a total playing time of just under one hour, now that's what I call value for money! For this release Spock's Beard has became a five-piece with bass player Dave Meros and keyboard player Ryo Okumoto joining as permanent members. The album is also rightfully dedicated to the great man Kevin Gilbert who remixed three of the tracks at his legendary Lawnmower & Garden Supply studios.

The album kicks off with virtually the same intro as Genesis' "Watcher Of The Skies" before loads of rhythm changes, layers of mellotron, and that unique voice of Neal Morse let you into the Spock's Beard territory. Strange but the title track "Beware Of Darkness" is a cover of a ... George Harrison song - but done in such a way that good old George won't probably recognise his own work! In fact, due to the skilful inclusion of Squire-like bass in combination with some outstanding Hammond work you get the feeling you're listening to some unreleased Yes-material from their most interesting period, but done in the fashion of the nineties. And once the backing voices from Wanda Houston and Molly Pasutti are heard (unfortunately mixed too far in the background) it's like an outtake from Dark Side Of The Moon. "Thoughts" we already knew from the Progfest '95 2 CD-set but here the "weird" singing part where you hear different voices coming from all over the place is even more stunning and original than on the live recording. There's even a section halfway into the song where Neal strongly resembles John Lennon!

"The Doorway" not only is the name of the Spock's Beard fanzine but also of the third track here. It opens with some brilliant classical piano before it evolves into a very Yes-like shape, especially when organ and guitar interplay and [Nick] D'Virgilio's drumming rivals that of [Bill] Bruford! Towards the end of the song the band introduces some nice acoustic guitar as well, whilst low Moog sounds get us back where we left off. The end section comes very close to "Wurm," the last part from Yes's "Starship Trooper." Then again, "Chatauqua" is without any doubt the band's own "The Clap."

Thunder and lightning, rhythm breaks and lots of delicious Hammond - that's the foundation for "Walking On The Wind." From the moment the entire band lends their vocals, I seem to get the name Starcastle in my head ... The chorus is majestic whilst both mellotrons and that B3 are banging my brains out of my skull! "Waste Away" is written in a sort of singer-songwriter way with some hidden folky elements thrown in to make it interesting. I can see this doing rather well during live gigs especially as it has a high "singalong" rating. [The band thought the same thing given Kindness's "June" -ed.]

The show-stopper on this second studio album surely has to be "Time Has Come," with its 16 minutes 33 length! It has become the Spock's Beard hotchpotch with Yes carrots, Gentle Giant turnips, and Van Der Graaf cabbage, all smelling deliciously, and melting into one unique platter. The intro is a fun-fair for guitar effects, whilst it's a pleasure to listen to Nick's versatile drumming throughout this epic. The lyrics are, yet again, very twisted which is like Neal's singing really. A perfect ending to a perfect record.

If you know that drummer Nick has toured with Tears For Fears and recorded with Sheryl Crow, Debarge, Manhattan Transfer, [Genesis!], and others; bass player Dave has toured with Eric Burdon, and keyboard player Kyo has performed with the likes of Peabo Bryson, Aretha Franklin, James Ingram, Roberta Flack, Melissa Manchester, Phil Collins, Eric Clapton, Kitaro, and Robbie Robertson, then you know this band consists of some ace musicians. All they would like is to live 100% for Spock's Beard, which is a thing that today is totally impossible. However, if every single one of you goes out and buys a Spock's Beard album, then maybe YOU can arrange it for this five piece to focus only on Spock's Beard, bringing us many more superb albums in the future.

For all I know Spock's Beard is "Close to the edge" of becoming THE new prog band we've all been waiting for. Now if the people from Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, King Crimson, Rush, ELP, ... would like to take this band on tour with them as support. Thank you very much! [Hmm, will Dream Theater do? -ed.]

Beware Of Darkness (5:41) / Thoughts (7:10) / The Doorway (11:27) / Chatauqua (2:49) / Walking On The Wind (9:06) / Waste Away (5:26) / Times Has Come (16:33)

Neal Morse - vocals, piano, synths, acoustic guitar, bouzouki
Alan Morse - electric guitars, cello, vocals
Dave Meros - fuzz bass, wah bass, fretless bass
Ryo Okumoto - hammond, mellotron
Nick D'Virgilio - drums, percussion, 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: April 1st 2000
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website: www.spocksbeard.com
Hits: 1013
Language: english


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