Spock's Beard - Snow

Year of Release: 2002
Label: Metal Blade
Catalog Number: 14406
Format: CD
Total Time: 166:29:00

Spock's Beard has been one of the most visible bands to come out of the 90's progressive scene. It is rare that you don't see daily postings about the band (as many negative as positive) on progressive chat groups, and the band's members have spread themselves out with solo projects, other bands, and as sidemen. Signing to a semi-major label a few years back (Metal Blade), the band seemed to be gaining steam, and touring with Dream Theater could only increase the bands visibility. Their latest release Snow is a two disc concept album, and now seems very close to home in the wake of the departure of front man / leader Neal Morse. More on that later in the review.

The main character "Snow," is born with the power to see peoples inner thoughts, problems and feelings, and heal them. The basic plot of the story has Snow leaving his family for New York City to follow his calling. He meets many people along the way, becomes famous, builds a following, falls for a girl; ultimately his ego goes out of control and ruins him. The closing shows Snow healed and redeemed, "Made Alive" again if you will.

Musically, it is instantly recognizable as Spock's Beard. Guitarist Alan Morse seems to have a bit more presence on this record than the past few. There are no epic tracks (although over 2 hours of music should satisfy), as the songs range from about 3 to 7 minutes typically. Morse's ear catching melodies are present throughout in songs such as "Open Wide The Flood Gates", "Long Time Suffering", and "I Will Go" to name a few. Each disc opens with an excellent instrumental "Overture (I & II)", that gets each side off and running. The band displays a harder edge on tracks like "Freak Boy", "Devils Got My Throat" and "The 39th Street Blues (I'm Sick)." Musical themes (as Transatlantic has done) repeat throughout the recording helping to tie sections together. Though it is enjoyable to listen in its entirety, the songs stand up very well on their own, so it can be listened to without the concept in mind.

Having learned of Morse's departure at the time of this writing, I could not help but mention some obvious parallels between Morse and the character "Snow." Both have decided to leave something behind to follow a calling from God, Morse his music, and Snow with his family. "Stranger In A Strangeland" applies to Neal, as he leaves the comfort and security of Spock's Beard for the unknown. Also mentioned in this track is the line..."a calling he had to obey", which apparently Neal feels has come to him. Another line in "Solitary Soul" ..."Got a lot of breezes left to blow, Where I'm Going I don't know.." You can pull something from almost every track here and relate it to Neal's description of why he is leaving the band. This recording must have been in some way a catharsis for Morse, laying out his feelings in his music. "I Will Go" speaks of God welcoming him back to life, and following him down the road.

As sad as this departure will be for fans, the band plans to continue. I must show a bit of scepticism at this point, since Neal wrote the majority of the lyrics, music, and melodies, the band cannot be the same. Their intentions may be to move on as well to different territory, but Neal Morse was the defining member of the bands musical identity. I wish them all the best of success.

As I mentioned, listening to the record prior to Neal's announcement, I listened mostly to the music. I truly enjoyed it, and thought it was a great effort by the band. Though they are often slagged as copycats, I thought the band had really found their sound and identity. Snow should satisfy the band's fans with some great and powerful moments. It is difficult to listen now without applying the storyline to the departure of Morse. In the story, "Snow" realizes that he has made a difference to the people he has helped, and hopefully Morse also understands that through his music he has touched people and been a positive in our lives. Good luck Neal!

Released also by Radiant Records, and in Europe by InsideOut (IOMCD 100/IOMLTDCD 100)

Disc 1: Made Alive Overture (5:32) / Stranger In A Strange Land (4:29) / Long Time Suffering (6:04) / Welcome To NYC (3:33) / Love Beyond Words (3:24) / The 39th Street Blues (I'm Sick) (4:06) / Devil's Got My Throat (7:17) / Open Wide The Flood Gates (6:14) / Open The Gates Part 2 (3:03) / Solitary Soul (7:34) / Wind At My Back (5:12)

Disc 2: Second Overture (3:47) / 4th Of July (3:11) / I'm The Guy (4:48) / Reflection (2:49) / Carie (3:05) / Looking For Answers (5:16) / Freak Boy (2:12) / All Is Vanity (4:36) / I'm Dying (5:09) / Freak Boy Part 2 (3:01) / Devil's Got My Throat Revisited (1:55) / Snow's Night Out (2:05) / Ladies And Gentlemen, Mister Ryo Okumoto On The Keyboards (2:40) / I Will Go (5:09) / Made Alive/Wind At My Back (8:28)

Disc Three: Southside Of The Sky (9:11) / Good Don't Last/Open Wide The Flood Gates (Live Acoustic) (11:26) / Working On "Devil"/Fiddly/Disco (4:41) / Looking For Answers (Live Acoustic) (4:59) / Stranger In A Strange Land Demo (2:34) / 4 O'clock (0:24) / Working on Ryo's solo (7:42) / Lost Bass Solo Demo (2:01) / The Light (Live Acoustic) (6:08) / Working on "I Will Go" (2:10)

Neal Morse - lead vocals, piano, all synth, acoustic guitar
Ryo Okumoto -hammond and mellotron
Dave Meros - bass, vocals, French horn
Alan Morse - electric guitars, vocals
Nick D'Virgilio - drums, percussion, vocals


Chris Carmichael - violin, viola, cello
Jim Hoke - saxophone, clarinet, autoharp
Neil Rosengarten - flugelhorn, trumpet
Molly Pasutti - background vocals

The Light (1991)
Beware of Darkness (1995)
The Beard Is Out There Live (1995)
Official Live Bootleg (1996)
The Kindness of Strangers (1997)
From The Vault - 1995-1998 (1998)
Day For Night (1999)
Live At The Whiskey and NEARfest (1999)
Don't Try This At Home (2000)
V (2000)
Snow (2002)
Feel Euphoria (2003)
The Light - The Artwork Collector's Series (2004)
Octane (2005)
Gluttons For Punishment (2005)
Spock's Beard (2006)
Live (2008)
X (2010)
Brief Nocturnes And Dreamless Sleep (2013)
The Oblivion Particle (2015)
Noise Floor (2018)

The Beard Is Out There Live (VID) (1995)
Spock's Beard's Home Movie (VID) (1998)
Live At The Whisky (VID) (1999)
Making Of V (VID) (2001)
Don't Try This At Home & The Making Of V (DVD) (2002)
The Making Of Snow (DVD) (2004)
Live (DVD) (2008)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: October 13th 2002
Reviewer: Eric Porter

Artist website: www.spocksbeard.com
Hits: 702
Language: english


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