Inside/Out Records, 2003
REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/14/2003
Spock's Beard was, in many ways, Neal Morse. The spiritually-seeking center of the Beard, the producer, songwriter, and lead vocalist -- what do you do when that's gone?
For those living under a progressive-rock-deprived rock, Morse quit Spock's Beard soon after the recording of 2002's brilliant double CD, Snow -- thereby earning me the Miss Cleo Award from our Fearless Founder, Chris Thelen. (For why, read the review for Snow, here.) The remaining members -- Nick D'Virgilio, Alan Morse, Dave Meros, and Ryo Okumoto -- decided to carry on, but there were questions as to what the band would be like. Heck, I had questions, and I'm a huge fan…so when Feel Euphoria came out, the first post-Neal CD, I felt some trepidation. I finally grabbed it and gave it a listen.
First impression: different.
Second impression: Good, but different.
Third impression: Good, who cares about different?
For you hardline Neal Morse fans -- get over it, y'all. This isn't SB as it used to be -- there are breaks on "Feel Euphoria" that sound like King's X on a Kansas bender -- but it's still tight and tasty. Yes, there are a few miscues. No, this isn't as good as Snow or Day From Night -- but it's a damn sight better than, say, V.
What works? Easy. This band sounds more like they're having fun, like it's a team, like a single unit. On songs like "Onomatopoeia" and "The Bottom Line," they lay down a progressive-meets-hard-rock groove that you can't help but like. There's even a love song (isn't that illegal on progressive rock CDs?), and it's one of the best things on the disc; "Shining Star" is a sudden tone change with Eaglesesque verses and soaring Eric Woolfson-like harmonies on the refrain. The haunting piano intro on "Ghosts Of Autumn" leaves one chilled at the cool brilliance of the songwriting. And yes, there is a multi-song progressive rock opus on Feel Euphoria, "A Guy Named Sid" -- which is much more thought-provoking and complex than the title would bear out and includes the incredible "You Don't Know." And I loved the trumpet fanfares on the closing "Carry On."
There are, however, a couple of things that don't work as well. I don't much care for "Feel Euphoria," the title track; for my tastes, it's too atonal and too much a departure from anything the Beard has ever done. "East Of Eden, West Of Memphis" has its moments, especially the complex harmonies and plucked-string synthesizer parts, but the long instrumental break is just a bit too typically self-indulgent, almost a progressive rock cliché.
Nevertheless, Feel Euphoria establishes one thing without a doubt; the Beard can survive losing one of its guiding forces, and still remain one of the best bands out there.