The Kindness Of Strangers

Spock's Beard

Metal Blade Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


For being someone who likes progressive rock, I don't always like progressive rock.

All right, now, put away the funny jacket whose sleeves tie in the back and let me explain that one. I like progressive rock's complexity, its willingness to take risks and try new things, and the use of classical instruments and motifs with rock tempos. What I don't like is the overblown pretentiousness of 24-minute long songs with nine parts (usually subdivided with i. those annoying little outline things that ii. no one outside of an English term paper has iii. ever used unless they were iv. just neurotic). Fact is, prog rock rides a thin line between self-indulgence and obfuscation, and most bands don't do it well. (For example, don't get me started on Yes. We could be here all night.)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Spock's Beard, on the other hand, has gotten it right for a good deal of their recording career. In fact, in my opinion, The Kindness Of Strangers, their third CD, was the first time they did get it exactly right. While it still has some progressive rock cliches (long songs with subtitles, enthusiastic use of the Hammond organ, and quirky lyrics), it's also a tight, well-performed, and intelligent piece of music.

As always, the musical performances are without peer. The lineup of Neal Morse, Alan Morse, Dave Meros, Ryo Okumoto, and Nick D'Virgilio are just plain great. The production is tight, the mix is perfect…so it all really comes down to the songs, doesn't it? On The Kindness Of Strangers, the songs are pretty damn fine. "The Good Don't Last" is a nice intro with a couple of funny lines, but the real kick in the pants to get the album moving is the intense groove of "In The Mouth Of Madness," with its blistering keyboard solos, jangly guitar, and intense distorted vocals (somewhat reminiscent of ELP). From there, "Cakewalk On Easy Street,""June" and "Strange World" continue the brilliance. The CD wraps up with "Harm's Way" -- kind of the weak sister on this CD, though still pretty tasty -- and the brilliant, brilliant "Flow," where Spock's Beard proves that yes, they can do a long multi-part song and not fall off the tightrope.

This is also, interestingly enough, a pretty hard-rocking CD -- a tendency the Beard continued on further releases "Day From Night" and "Snow". On songs like "Cakewalk" and "Mouth", Alan Morse really kicks out the jams, straying very close to the progressive metal territory of bands like Dream Theater and King's X.

Out of six studio CDs (I haven't heard the new Neal Morse-less Feel Euphoria yet, but to all reports the Beard is a very different band now), Spock's Beard hit the progressive rock nail on the head at least three times -- with Day From Night, Snow, and The Kindness Of Strangers. Kindness is definitely worth checking out as one of the Beard's best.

Rating: A-

User Rating: B+



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