SPOCK'S BEARD

Non-Metal / Metal Related • United States
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Spock's Beard is a US progressive rock band, founded in 1992 by the brothers Neal (vocals, keyboards, guitars) and Alan Morse (guitars, vocals). Their early line-up was completed by Nick D'Virgilio (drums) and John Ballard (bass), with the latter quickly being replaced by Dave Meros. This four piece line-up released the band's debut album The Light in 1995. Afterwards Japanese musician Ryo Okumoto joined the band as a second keyboardist, specialising in Hammond organ and Mellotron.

Under the leadership of Neal Morse Spock's Beard released a total of six studio albums, the last of which was Snow in 2002, a double disc concept album/rock opera. Neal Morse left the band, as well as his other band Transatlantic, after becoming a new born Christian, not wishing to impose his new beliefs on his bandmates. Nick D'Virgilio stepped up to become the new lead vocalist of Spock's Beard, continuing to play drums in
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SPOCK'S BEARD Discography

SPOCK'S BEARD albums / top albums

SPOCK'S BEARD The Light album cover 4.63 | 9 ratings
The Light
Non-Metal 1995
SPOCK'S BEARD Beware of Darkness album cover 4.44 | 8 ratings
Beware of Darkness
Non-Metal 1996
SPOCK'S BEARD The Kindness of Strangers album cover 3.79 | 8 ratings
The Kindness of Strangers
Metal Related 1998
SPOCK'S BEARD Day for Night album cover 4.22 | 9 ratings
Day for Night
Metal Related 1999
SPOCK'S BEARD V album cover 4.75 | 8 ratings
V
Metal Related 2000
SPOCK'S BEARD Snow album cover 4.88 | 8 ratings
Snow
Metal Related 2002
SPOCK'S BEARD Feel Euphoria album cover 3.07 | 7 ratings
Feel Euphoria
Non-Metal 2003
SPOCK'S BEARD Octane album cover 3.36 | 7 ratings
Octane
Non-Metal 2005
SPOCK'S BEARD Spock's Beard album cover 4.00 | 7 ratings
Spock's Beard
Metal Related 2006
SPOCK'S BEARD X album cover 4.25 | 8 ratings
X
Metal Related 2010
SPOCK'S BEARD Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep album cover 4.07 | 10 ratings
Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep
Non-Metal 2013
SPOCK'S BEARD The Oblivion Particle album cover 4.14 | 7 ratings
The Oblivion Particle
Metal Related 2015
SPOCK'S BEARD Noise Floor album cover 3.67 | 6 ratings
Noise Floor
Non-Metal 2018

SPOCK'S BEARD EPs & splits

SPOCK'S BEARD Live at Sweetwater Studios album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Live at Sweetwater Studios
Metal Related 2018

SPOCK'S BEARD live albums

SPOCK'S BEARD The Official Live Bootleg album cover 4.41 | 2 ratings
The Official Live Bootleg
Non-Metal 1996
SPOCK'S BEARD Live at the Whisky and Nearfest album cover 3.50 | 2 ratings
Live at the Whisky and Nearfest
Non-Metal 1999
SPOCK'S BEARD Don't Try This at Home album cover 3.75 | 2 ratings
Don't Try This at Home
Metal Related 2000
SPOCK'S BEARD Don't Try This @ Home Either! album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Don't Try This @ Home Either!
Non-Metal 2000
SPOCK'S BEARD There & Here album cover 3.50 | 1 ratings
There & Here
Metal Related 2001
SPOCK'S BEARD Gluttons for Punishment: Live in '05 album cover 3.50 | 1 ratings
Gluttons for Punishment: Live in '05
Non-Metal 2005
SPOCK'S BEARD Live album cover 4.00 | 1 ratings
Live
Metal Related 2008
SPOCK'S BEARD Live High Voltage Festival album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Live High Voltage Festival
Metal Related 2011
SPOCK'S BEARD The X Tour-Live album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The X Tour-Live
Non-Metal 2012
SPOCK'S BEARD Live at Sea album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Live at Sea
Non-Metal 2014
SPOCK'S BEARD Snow Live album cover 4.75 | 2 ratings
Snow Live
Metal Related 2017

SPOCK'S BEARD demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

SPOCK'S BEARD re-issues & compilations

SPOCK'S BEARD From the Vault album cover 3.00 | 1 ratings
From the Vault
Non-Metal 1998
SPOCK'S BEARD Two in One album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Two in One
Non-Metal 2006
SPOCK'S BEARD The First Twenty Years album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The First Twenty Years
Metal Related 2015

SPOCK'S BEARD singles (4)

.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
Skin
Metal Related 1999
.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
All on a Sunday
Non-Metal 2001
.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
To Breathe Another Day
Non-Metal 2018
.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
Somebody's Home
Non-Metal 2018

SPOCK'S BEARD movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
Live at the Whisky
Non-Metal 1999
.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Making of V
Metal Related 2001
.. Album Cover
4.00 | 1 ratings
Don't Try This at Home and the Making of V
Metal Related 2002
.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Making of Snow
Non-Metal 2004
.. Album Cover
4.00 | 1 ratings
Live
Metal Related 2008
.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
Live at Sea
Non-Metal 2014
.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
Snow Live
Metal Related 2017

SPOCK'S BEARD Reviews

SPOCK'S BEARD Day for Night

Album · 1999 · Metal Related
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On their previous album, The Kindness of Strangers, Spock's Beard had tried to find the precarious balancing point between their prog instincts and broader accessibility. On Day For Night, they hit the sweet spot - producing an album which at once sounds up-to-date and modern (for the time it game out) whilst at the same time showing as much influence from 1960s sunshine pop and 1970s power pop as it does from prog.

You could, perhaps, interpret the approach they take here as answering the question "what if prog had emerged from the West Coast psych-pop scene of the Byrds and the Beach Boys, rather than the UK underground scene haunted by the likes of Pink Floyd and Soft Machine?" - there's a certain 1960s sunniness to proceedings here which means that, whilst the band's centre of gravity is in undeniably prog territory, there's a certain openness and immediate appeal to the music here.

Whilst much of the music on here isn't necessarily enormously complex by itself, the sheer range of styles the band touch on over the running time - from sunny tranquility to foreboding heaviness - means that there's lots of ground covered, and whilst the individual bits might vary in complexity from refreshingly direct and simple to subtly intricate, the compositional complexity is rather cleverly handled.

The end result is an album which is simultaneously jauntily radio-friendly and at the same still satisfying from a prog perspective, as well as having a sound to it which is distinctly the band's own. It's on the one hand an album I'd have no qualms about handing to someone who hasn't previously heard much prog who wanted to hear what Spock's Beard was all about, but at the same time should keep many prog fans happy.

SPOCK'S BEARD The Kindness of Strangers

Album · 1998 · Metal Related
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Warthur
The Kindness of Strangers is the album where Spock's Beard don't quite go pop, but don't put such an emphasis on keeping the prog dial turned to 11 all the time. It had been apparent at least since Beware of Darkness that Neal Morse and company had a healthy respect for the 1960s psych-pop forefathers of prog, and for its middle run of shorter songs the band seem to dip into the sunny world of that pop era and save the prog workouts for the longer pieces which bookend the album.

Part of this may well be motivated by the desire to make the band a viable commercial unit going forwards - the plethora of radio edits available as bonus tracks on some editions of the album attest to that. Then again, Kansas - whose influence had always been part of the early Spock's Beard sound - also navigated a territory between full-on prog and prog-tinged pop, so whilst this gear shift might not be to the taste of listeners who'd prefer Spock's Beard to more consistently lean into their prog side, it's not a totally out of left field direction for the band to take.

As it stands, they aren't bad at it - though equally, they aren't great. Of the first three Spock's Beard studio albums, this is probably my least favourite. That doesn't mean it's bad - it's usually entertaining, June is genuinely beautiful, and you do get a sense of the band continuing to evolve their sound, which is welcome and necessary. At the same time, I wouldn't prioritise it above The Light or Beware of Darkness.

SPOCK'S BEARD Beware of Darkness

Album · 1996 · Non-Metal
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Beware of Darkness was Spock's Beard's second album, and also longstanding keyboardist Ryo Okumoto's studio debut with them, Ryo having previously debuted as part of the live performances supporting The Light. Their debut had very much been dominated it its two epic tracks (The Light and The Water), but this time around the band go for more of a balance between epics and briefer compositions, the longest track being the 16 minute closer Time Has Come and the briefest being Chatauqua, which weighs in at less than 3 minutes.

This is not the only respect in which the band seem to be making an effort to show their range here. With the album opening with a George Harrison cover (alright I suppose, but I'm just not keen on the song) and some gorgeous Kansas-esque vocal harmonies and sparse voice-and-guitar moments on The Doorway, the band seem to be testing just how commercial they can go, but on the other hand how much of a shift to commercial acceptability can this represent when you have stuff like Thoughts which is very much in the style of Gentle Giant's most complex works?

For that matter, The Doorway really illustrates how many different styles the band are able to touch on - the band also work in Genesis-esque keyboard solos, classical guitar, and an almost reggae-ish moment into its running time. They'd roved all over the map stylistically on The Light too, of course, but here things seem just a touch tighter and more purposeful than the free-wheeling explorations there. That said, if you want something more sprawling, the album closer absolutely has you covered and feels like the logical extension of The Light and The Water.

I can't give this a perfect mark solely because I just don't rate the George Harrison cover very highly. The fact is, Spock's Beard concentrated on honing their songwriting this time around to the point that they don't really need the cover - the original material here is that strong.

SPOCK'S BEARD The Official Live Bootleg

Live album · 1996 · Non-Metal
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Spock's Beard's first live album comes in two distinct configurations and - confusingly - under two different titles, though in terms of the actual music you get the versions are almost identical. To keep them straight: The Official Live Bootleg is what the release was called when it came out on Radiant Records, the independent label Neal Morse originally set up to put out the band's own works on, whilst The Beard Is Out There is what the album was retitled as when InsideOut gave it a wider release.

Either way, the basis of the album is the band's set at Progfest 1995, in support of The Light, and includes performances of all the tracks from that album, plus Thoughts from Beware of Darkness. The Beard Is Out There version adds on to the end the finale - a performance of Waste Away, also from Beware of Darkness, intertwined with Jimi Hendrix's Fire to bring the set to a rocking conclusion.

Whichever release you are dealing with, you're getting into an interesting spot in the band's history. They're riding high from the warm reception The Light received in prog circles, and they've just added Ryo Okumoto on keyboards, but they've not yet gone into the studio to complete Beware of Darkness. Okumoto slides seamlessly into the lineup, making it possible to perform live renditions of the complex epics from The Light in the first place (Neal wouldn't have enough arms otherwise!), the band's ability to bring those studio marathons alive in tight, energetic versions is impressive, and the previews of Beyond of Darkness are welcome. Thoughts, in particular, is about as unabashed a tribute to Gentle Giant as any 1990s band would produce.

The recording quality is broadly fine - a little shaky towards the start of the album, perhaps, but this may well be down to the live mixing desk not quite being right until a little way into the performance; such is often the case at festivals, after all. Either way, in whichever configuration, this is a decidedly solid live album which really shows how well Spock's Beard's early material translates to the stage. If you'd only heard The Light at this point in time, you might have wondered whether the Beard could really pull this off, or whether they were relying on studio wizardry; this is where they prove they could tackle the stage right from their earliest days.

SPOCK'S BEARD The Light

Album · 1995 · Non-Metal
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Warthur
The Light finds the brothers Morse, their anagrammatic buddy Meros, and Nick D'Virgilio setting off on a prog adventure which, despite its twists and turns, hasn't come to an end yet.

Sure, Ryo Okumoto hasn't joined the lineup yet - but just look at where the core musicians on this debut album have gone since The Light was released. These days, Alan Morse and Dave Meros are still providing the bedrock of continuity underpinning the current lineup of the band, Nick D'Virgilio has helped take Big Big Train to new levels of success (and once had a quick side gig in a small group you've probably never heard of called Genesis...), and Neal Morse is a one-man musical cottage industry, not only helming his own diverse solo career but also playing a key role in a range of acclaimed side projects like Transatlantic and Flying Colors.

No matter how you cut it, between the four men that's an impressive CV in the prog world, and you can certainly make the case that it was The Light which launched them on those respective trajectories. But is it an album of only historic interest, or does it still hold up today? I'm glad to report that it does.

Consisting of three fairly epic compositions and the closing On the Edge, which at six minutes is practically terse compared to the other material here, the album certainly wasn't out to win people over with slick, commercially-oriented material that fit the conceits at the time. At the same time, I think it would be wrong to lump this in with the sort of retro-prog which is out to merely replicate the approach of the 1970s masters of the form.

Sure, there's obviously parallels you can here - if you imagined a sort of mashup of Gentle Giant and Kansas and then added the theatricality of Genesis you wouldn't be completely off-base - but there's more to it here. It was Neal Morse who composed the vast majority of the material here, and if there's one thing that's very obvious from Morse's overall discography is that he's a man of broad musical tastes who likes to be able to perform in a wide range of different styles. Just as Neal's output without the backing of the beard has run the range from pop rock to symphonic prog to devotional Christian music to Beatles covers and beyond, so too does he work an intriguing range of musical influences into the compositions here.

There's the deep bench of prog predecessors to take inspiration from, of course - and that's where the centre of gravity lies - but you also get poppier moments, snatches of Latin music, and more besides. Crucially Neal doesn't seem to have completely ignored what's been going on with more modern musical styles as well. Don't get me wrong: Spock's Beard aren't a prog metal band and they certainly show no sign of becoming one here, but there's moments with a bit more crunch to them here which suggests that Neal wasn't entirely writing off the harder, heavier end of then-current alternative rock. (This is particularly apparent in some of the ways his vocals are produced in some parts.)

There's also something of the torch song or the off-Broadway musical in some portions of the proceedings here - perhaps unsurprisingly, since before Spock's Beard came together Morse had applied himself to writing a couple of musicals (Homeland and Hitman), which would go unproduced until he knocked out renditions of them for his Inner Circle fanclub. The Water, in particular, feels a bit like sections of a musical strung together in a sort of "best of" condensation, rather than a more typical prog approach.

This can mean that sometimes things come across a little cheesy, in the way that musical theatre often is, and not all of the musical sections here are as proggy as all that even if the song structures certainly are. Then again, I think a knack many of the original prog bands often had - and which some of the proggier-than-thou high-technicality groups out there sometimes miss - was a capacity to go simple at the right moment, rather than err for unceasing complexity all the time.

One could even argue that The Light represents a sort of American heartland equivalent of Script For a Jester's Tear and other products of the UK's neo-prog wave in the 1980s, in the sense that it's a prog album put out by musicians who'd grown up listening to the original wave of prog artists but who added some modern sensibilities to the formula. The distinction is that whereas Marillion were able to hit the big time when most of the band were in their twenties, most of Spock's Beard were in their thirties when it all came together for them here. Both albums were put out there in a musical environment where prog rarely troubled the commercial radar, and found success.

Of course, there's differences. Marillion stormed the charts quickly; Spock's Beard took longer to build up a head of steam. Nonetheless, they wouldn't have been able to get that momentum going to begin with had The Light not been as good as it is.

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adg211288 wrote:
1 year ago
Yeah Neal is one of those artist who seems to have a funny relationship to Spotify: he has some live releases there and some singles plus his rock opera (the one release where I think he really went overboard on the Christian lyrics) but otherwise it's compilations. And as you say none of his Spock's Beard albums are there either, though there is a good selection of material on The First twenty Years comp, plus the newer 20 minute track that he wrote with him, Nick and Ted all on vocals.
1 year ago
The Neal Morse Spock's stuff isn't on Spotify except for a compilation but I managed find V on YouTube. Loved the album and am going to listen to Snow next.
adg211288 wrote:
1 year ago
Well for Spock's if you want a heavier one we're called those out here. Personally I'd say V. If you're prefer something more symph prog, go for The Light.

Morse has no other albums quite like Sola Scriptura (though I'm hopeful for his new one based on the single), but One would be a good next stop. I've been digging the debut of his The Neal Morse Band outfit recently as well.

1 year ago
I've heard Morse's Sola Scriptura but that's about where my knowledge of him and Spock's Beard begins and ends.

What would be a good starting point for Spock's Beard? And a next Morse solo album? I really like Sola Scriptura and should have gone further by now.

1 year ago
Always been partial to a bit of Spock's Beard. Good to see them recognised here.

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