Spock's Beard

Metal Blade Records, 2000


REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


Say this for Spock's Beard; they keep you guessing.

Progressive rock has one huge fault; going to extremes. If you go too far into the ozone, you end up with twenty-nine minute keyboard flatulations. (See a good deal of Yes's catalog,). If you go too far towards the four minute world of radio play, you get…well…pop music. (See Alan Parsons' Ammonia Avenue CD.)

By the time their last CD, Day From Night, came out, the boys in the Beard had gotten the balance down pat. Quick, tight songs like "Skin" balanced perfectly with longer opii like "Crack The Big Sky". So the question remained, as I put V on my CD player for the first time, could the balance be maintained?my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Well…like I said, they keep you guessing. The answer is no. Not really. Except…well…

I hate reviewing CDs like this.

See, it's all in how you phrase the question. If you ask, "Is V a good progressive rock CD, as most progressive fans view the genre?" the answer is, "Yes". If you ask, "Hey, Duke, we know you're a schmuck, but tell us, did you like this as well as Day From Night?", the answer is, "Uh, no."

What Spock's Beard did right was, as usual, stellar musicianship. I think SB may be the single most talented group of pure musicians currently performing, and they nail every single thing they try to do on V. Every note, every riff, every bizarre shift to new weirdness (say, the Spanish guitar and organ break on "At The End Of The Day" or the Ets-ate-my-string-quartet intro to "Revelation") works. It's like watching Mark McGwire hit a home run or Michael Jordan dunk; it's perfection so matter-of-fact you grow to expect it. My only criticism is for keyboardist Ryo Okumoto: yes, Kansas had some neat organ parts, didn't they? Do you have to sound THAT much like a refugee from Leftoverture? Right, it's minor, move on.

What they did wrong is harder to quantify. There aren't any bad songs on this disc, but I knew we were in trouble when after three listens I went, "What was the name of that song again?" There's just not much identity or passion to V. It's clinical to the point of being almost…but not quite…sterile. This is the hardest thing for a music critic to describe; when you listen to a CD and it sounds OK, it seems OK, but there's somehow a heart missing to it that you can't quantify. All I can say is what I've said. There's something missing. Only "Revelation" and "Goodbye To Yesterday" come close to showing real passion.

Spock's Beard is one of my favorite bands, and it's hard to give them a review that's less that glowing. But in this case, it's not as good as it could be, and it's missing something. V still is recommended for Spock's Beard fans and progressive rock fans, but if you want an introduction to what Neal Morse and company are capable of, stick to Day For Night.

Rating: B

User Rating: A-



© 2001 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Metal Blade Records, and is used for informational purposes only.