Monday, August 19, 2013

Spock's Beard

As I travel the road of progressive music, I am amazed, impressed, surprised, and even a little shocked by it all.  Perhaps I was living in a time warp where progressive music consisted of King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Atomic Rooster, Yes, Genesis, ELP, and other "intellectually superior" bands from an era long how refreshing the face slap of humility can be...

One of the more recent bands I have listened to (albeit very occasionally) is Spock's Beard.  This is another one of those bands I find hard to nail down and quite honestly that is what brought them into my sights this week...a band that just looks to mimic the sound of another does an injustice to both the flatterer and the flatteree.   Besides; if I want to hear Pink Floyd I will play Pink Floyd.  I prefer to try out a band not afraid to leave their own stain on the ears of the listening public...and that is Spock's Beard.

Although there are hints of Yes, Genesis, and Gentle Giant, when I am listening to Spock's Beard I get a sense of being tossed into a time machine and coming out at different times in the past and other times in the future...a la "Time Bandits" if you will; hopping through holes in space to steal the best the era had to offer. Spock's Beard has a unique sound that is at once soothing, stimulating, shocking, and easy to get lost in.

Started in  Los Angeles in 1992 by brothers Alan and Neal Morse, Spock's Beard current line-up consists of the aforementioned Alan Morse on guitar, Dave Meros on bass, Ryo Okumoto on keyboards, Ted Leonard on lead vocals, and Jimmy Keegan on drums.  Neal Morse, the original keyboard player and primary lead vocalist, left the band in 2002 to pursue a solo career; original drummer Nick D'Virgilio left in 2011.  Not wanting to get too caught up in the line-up and personnel changes the group has dealt with, suffice to say the current five members of Spock's Beard have quite a good thing going.

Each current  member of the band is listed on their website with vocal credits and the lead vocals are often shared on different songs...making SB a very versatile band. The layers of guitar, percussion, and keyboards work extremely well and the lyrics are well written.  Listening to "The Healing Colors of Sound" I am transfixed by the complexity of the  intro as it leads to 21 minutes plus of a walk through history as seen through the bible, family, politics, life in general, and a bong...very impressive.  Get too lost in this song and you can easily forget you have an alternate life with responsibilities...

"The Doorway" is another song that opens with an impressive instrumental piece, this time it is keyboards that take you in gently and prepare you for the 'E' ticket ride.  Released in 1996 on the band's second album "Beware of Darkness," this is the kind of song that helps lift progressive music to the upper class of rock 'n' roll where it belongs.  The guitar layers flow beautifully with the percussion and keyboards, and the vocals--while fantastic--bring the sound around to its completeness without fading into obscurity or overpowering the listener.

"Gibberish" is another earlier release from SB, coming out in 1999 on the "Day For Night" album.  Spock's Beard truly is a band that understands the complexity that is prog music; layering the vocals between guitar, keyboards, and drums like a well made sandwich.  It comes at you simultaneously from all sides...slapping you in the face one minute and tapping you on the shoulder the  next.

For those unfamiliar I strongly urge you to dive into Spock's Beard music full on.  Do yourself a favor and start with the early stuff--but don't stick to any chronological order...better to play it like Monty Python and go the time bandits route...and believe me there is plenty of good stuff at each stop.

I chose the cut below, "Into the Mouth of Madness" because it sums up Spock's Beard and proves my point; they are the square peg that you can't hammer into the round hole.

So far I like the journey we are on and I hope you are enjoying the ride as well.  I can't wait to see where this train stops next...


  1. Hi Vincent,

    Reading your blog is my end of week (yes I know it's only Thursday)indulgence. Great choices to cover Marillion and Spock's Beard. They have both done much to keep the prog flame alive and well IMHO. Whilst the classic prog bands are just that,classic, there's a huge world of new prog material from newer bands too. For years from about 1990 on I revered Dream Theater. More recently whilst they have become even more technically accomplished and famous, for my taste they have lost too much melody and crossed into the realms of what some call 'math rock'. It's very clever and very musically challenging, but just because you can do it doesn't mean you should...

  2. Neil-
    Great points and thanks for the feedback. I agree on the status of DT;they have become somewhat overly meticulous in their playing lately;almost as if they are more concerned with the structure rather than the sound of the music. Hopefully the personnel changes and side projects they are all involved in will give them the needed kick to go back to their roots...