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Spock's Beard - The Light CD (album) cover

THE LIGHT

Spock's Beard

Symphonic Prog


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Greger
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars This is one of the best debut albums ever made by a progressive rock group. SPOCK'S BEARD from California, USA, is already with their first release a full-grown and matured band, and "The Light" don't have any weak moments at all. Three of the four tracks are passing 12 minutes. I really love long tracks when they aren't suffering in quality because of their length. Another great thing is that they use the great Mellotron and Hammond organ. A great combination indeed! The most obvious band influence is GENTLE GIANT without being a clone. There's also traces of BEATLES, GENESIS, YES, KANSAS and PINK FLOYD. They are skilled musicians with Neal MORSE being a great singer too. The music that is progressive symphonic rock, are very complex and intrigued, but it has got a lot of strong melodies and rich vocal harmonies too. It can be rather tiring when musicians obviously are trying to show of their technically musical skills, and just forget about the melody and to make an all in all good song. SPOCK'S BEARD has got the technically brilliance but also the capability to write memorably melodies. That's good! This is challenging and dramatic progressive music that will grow on you with its many emotion, mood and atmosphere changes. I recommend it to all lovers of complex symphonic prog. This is a good investment to your CD collection.
Report this review (#6888)
Posted Sunday, January 25, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
2 stars At the time , I had gotten excited at it like most people but today I wonder why. I suppose this was the novelty of a US band with a different sound as the Magna Carta standard , but this is still with a huge sound obviously influenced by that ever important Leftoverture album from Kansas mixed in with some Gentle Giant and Yes.

As I said above at first listen SB is interesting and can get your enthusiasm up (maybe a bit too much), but with repeated listenings, this gradually wears off and you find that their influences are a bity too evident, and actually stops them from having their own sound.

Count 2.5 stars, tops

Report this review (#6889)
Posted Monday, March 1, 2004 | Review Permalink
loserboy
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars This is one of the best '90's prog acts going today for obvious reasons. You will find lots of great keyboard work woven with grand bass and guitar moments making all prog heads drool with delight. Each delicious song is nice and long, allowing the semi-psychedelic ideas to groove nicely. Neil Morse's vocals are superb and the group add nice harmonies making "The Light" a very strong vocal recording. The album is very well produced and has a slight underground feel to it with no apparent concern for pop culture. Highly recommended!
Report this review (#6890)
Posted Friday, March 12, 2004 | Review Permalink
lor68
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Apart from some common places and a few derivative parts in the vein of GENESIS (period regarding the album "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway"), which make this album deserve-in some circumstances only- a "3 stars score" maximum (in the average between so many "clone-bands"), this suite is stunning and with a great impact on the European crowd of such Prog-Fans. It's very personal, even though in some circumstances the sound is easier and most accessible. The start is that one of an unforgettable band, then the tension doesn't increase, but they prosecute to alternate excellent solos with some odd time signatures in the final mini-suite and - for this reason - the output is memorable. The suite is always a must have, also during their performances live on stage.

Recommended!!

Report this review (#6891)
Posted Saturday, April 3, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars This was the first album I heard by Spock's Beard, and it's definately one of their best (Kindness of Strangers is very good too.) Long songs, and lots of neat effects are sure to please. Each song tells its own little story, and it only takes a little while to get into the album, which can be good and bad, but for someone just starting into Spock's Beard, its a very good thing.

SB is a very talented band and if you want to start listening to them, I highly reccomend you start with this album, its also probably the most progressive of all their albums.

-Alex

Report this review (#6893)
Posted Wednesday, April 28, 2004 | Review Permalink
maani
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Founding Moderator
4 stars [N.B. Greger and I don't agree on much. However, I completely agree with his review of this album, which you should read.] Like King Crimson and Gentle Giant - and precious few other prog bands - Spock's Beard "sprang full-grown from the head of Zeus." I agree with some of my colleagues that this is among the best debut albums by any band in any genre. / Although there are influences - Gentle Giant (though I don't hear it as much as Greger does), Kansas (though I don't hear nearly as much as Hughes does), Yes (a little), Floyd (a little), Genesis (a little), and even a bit of Supertramp (which is not an insult) - SB filters those influences beautifully to create something new and often exciting, if not always successful or compelling. [N.B. Contrary to other reviews, the Genesis influence I hear does not come from The Lamb, but rather from the ATTWT/Duke period. Indeed, I continue to be absolutely stunned at how influential the "sound" on ATTWT was on later prog bands.] And although the band uses some fairly standard chord progressions in the verses and choruses, they use them well, and the "jam" sections flow beautifully in odd progressions and shifting time signatures. / Have you ever had an extended dream that moved from "sequence" to "sequence," but you couldn't quite "hold" the "segues," and none of the sequences seemed to have anything to do with each other? "The Light" is such a dream sequence, brilliantly set to music, and is one of the best opening tracks of any prog album I know. [As an aside, the main theme of "Senor Velasco" sounds suspiciously like "Aint Nobody," the latin-based 70s hit song by Chaka Khan. Go figure!] "Go The Way You Go" has some very nice prog bits, but is not quite as successful as the other tracks. (The last three minutes or so are "lifted" (gently) from something on Genesis' "Duke".) "The Water" is the third lengthy composition - as cohesive as "The Light," and equally good, with lots of good to excellent prog bits. Among the best sections are: "When all goes to hell," which has some serious Floydian touches, from the organ to the guitar, from the rhythm to the female chorus of "oohs"; "FU/I'm Sorry" which (although the lyrics offended my "ministerial" ears...) is one of the most compelling sections on the entire album; and "Runnin The Race," which has an interesting Steely Dan feel to it. The final track, "On The Edge," is a good, solid prog song. / As others have noted, Morse's vocals are not only excellent, and integral to the music, but help to keep the entire thing together. (And you can clearly hear Morse's influence on Transatlantic's music.) [N.B. Something about Morse's approach here makes me think of a latter-day Brian Wilson. Don't ask me why...] / It is extremely rare that I give four stars to a debut album, especially by a band I've never heard before. However, despite some minor criticisms and misgivings, I give this four stars not only for the creativity involved, but because the album truly is "an excellent addition to any prog collection."
Report this review (#6895)
Posted Wednesday, June 2, 2004 | Review Permalink
mr_progresivo
5 stars ESPECTACULAR!!! This album is one of the best prog albums i heard ever!!!even including the classics of the big bands. They have a special touch, a own sound, but this album is a travel by sounds that reminds you Pink Floyd, Gentle Giant, beatles melodies, Genesis keyboards,jazzys touches...all with a deep sensibility and absolute instrumental skill. Sounds fresh but mature...and this is not easy at all!! Very intense!!
Report this review (#6896)
Posted Thursday, June 10, 2004 | Review Permalink
Menswear
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I'm actually speechless. Not by the record, but by my reactions. Am I the only one thinking this is not the real mckoy? I've heard so, so many comments on how superior this record is. Well, I'm disappointed. I've heard too much and my expectations were...well...I tought they were prog-messiahs. But, listening a lot to it and trying to figure myself back in 1995 (I was listening to Bristish-pop at that time...Blur, Oasis, Supergrass, Pulp, Elastica, Menswear, Echobelly and Sleeper) made me realize that the stuff was seriously refreshing. I mean, the influences are there but Neal Morse has a cool rocker voice and the pace is agressive at times and relatively fast. But, once again at that time, I already knew Images and Words from Dream Theater and The Light doesn't matches it (and I'd be still not blowed). Echolyn does it better. Except in one category....noisyness. Morse has the knack to make his songs VERY noisy and distorded at times. A little break of noise here and there is great innovation. Alan Morse's guitar make me think of Joey Santiago's in the Pixies. Big distortion breaks and telephone-like voices. A bit of Sonic Youth also, for the distortion noises. But somebody's got to do something for the lyrics. I know Morse's a VERY religious person, he should be more aware of what he writes. Man those lyrics blow serious chunks. The funniest one: "I am senior Valasco, I drink my milk with tabasco....". Made me laugh out loud. Great sense of humor or he has exceptionnaly nothing to say (maybe a relative of J-Kwon?). I vote for the sense of humor. But I'm not laughing when it comes to free obscenity. The FU song really made me shake my head in disapproving. I don't wanna be the local Flanders, but there is some other ways to express feelings than using poisonous insults. Anyway, a great album to explore and to see that America, against all odds, knows good prog.
Report this review (#6897)
Posted Friday, June 11, 2004 | Review Permalink
James Lee
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I instantly liked SPOCK'S BEARD- a modern but mature and distinctive take on the prog sound who seems to have a bit of fun with it all (a lot of prog albums are so unflinchingly serious). This is neither difficult prog nor saccharine pop prog; like ECHOLYN they find brand new ways to interpret the genre, but in contrast SPOCK'S BEARD has a bluesy, groovy, funky feel to bring to the table.

"The Light" is a convoluted but organic and energetic sonic journey through big synth fanfares, playful piano-accompanied narratives, flamenco-tinted caricatures, a brief party, a nicely abrasive distorted vocal verse, and even a chorus section which reminds me pleasantly of CHICAGO. The more unified "Go the Way You Go" has ties to classic rock anthems, but throws in left turns with intricate instrumental breaks and some exhilarating organ and guitar interplay. The pointedly tongue-in-cheek "The Water" has a lot of FLOYD groove-and-gospel, but also a bit of 'primal scream Lennon-meets-Trent Reznor' venting (where Neil gets to say "[%*!#]" more than anyone else in prog, except maybe ZAPPA), and even a tiny bit of country-rock harmony. "On the Edge" begins with a GENESIS piano arpeggio and then blasts off with aggresive, infectious energy (and am I crazy or does Neil sound a little like Jeff Lynne here?) to close the album with a barnstormer.

Besides an affinity for YES, they seem to have more KANSAS influence than I'm used to seeing in the new crop of bands, but that may be due to the big open-air production quality (I can see where a live show would be ideal). Neil Morse has a very distinctive voice- more soulful and ragged than I've come to expect in prog. Lyric-wise, I don't know what to make of it all; I hear sometimes an ingenuous prodigy like early Jon Anderson, an allegorical fancy like very early Bolan and Bowie, but also an ironic prankster like Zappa...but I'm probably reading too much into it. Among the other excellent instrumental performances, the bass playing is some of the best I've heard since "Close to the Edge- in the raspy fuzz if nothing else you can hear the Squire influence throughout.

On the downside, infrequently the songs seem strung together from unrelated parts- there's not always a logic to adjacent passages (probably due to the Canterbury influence). And it can feel pretty indulgent at times, but in an almost self-deprecating way, and definitely no more indulgent than the majority of prog albums, even many classics. But it does so many things so well and so distinctively (and on a debut no less) that I'm almost having a tough time NOT giving it five stars, because this is really the cream of the modern crop.

Report this review (#6898)
Posted Saturday, June 19, 2004 | Review Permalink
penguindf12
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Sorry, I've had to drop the star rating from 5 to 4. It's just not as good as I origninally thought.

The BEARD's debut album begins with the 15 minute title track, divided into movements. It is by far my favorite song on the album, with classic progressive shifting time signatures, changing themes, and, of course, the fact that it is divided into movements.The beginning movement is "The Dream", and it sounds sort of Disneyesque. It is a short piano piece, with fantasy-type vocals over it and an, of course, dreamy feel. A short sort of overture follows, simply amazing. Better than anything I could've hoped for, which leads into "One Man." The overture section is practically vaccuumed up into a thudding piano background. "One Man" is another excellent movement with "21st Century Schizoid Man" type vocals at first, giving way to the overlapping chorus. Then it "comes down" to "Garden People," a psychadelic interlude broken up by a gutar at intervals. Then it grows into "Looking Straight into the Light", a very nice section with what sounds like an electric violin or very distorted guitar. After this, "The Man in the Mountain" interrupts the loudness to bring us down to earth. It is very lonely, but soon leads into a sort of story ending with...a party!? Some decidedly out-of-place Mexican guitar strumming enters as does the refreshing "Senor Volasco..." movement. This soon gives way to the crunching "Return of the Catfishman" and its unpleasant (but by no means bad) vocals. This is followed by a reprise of the "One Man" chorus and finally a reprise of "The Dream."

Following this amazing song is "Go the Way You Go." It is a softer song at points, but then soaring and clashing. Although it is not divided into movements as the previous songs are, it shifts themes throughout its 12 minute running time just the same. I used to dismiss this song because of its incoherence and lyrical pointlessness, but now I realize it deserves just as much recognition as the other songs.

"The Water" is another good song, it has the most comprehensive lyrics of all the songs. The title movement reminds me of "The Thin Ice" on PINK FLOYD's "The Wall." Then it dips into "When it all Goes to Hell," an angry sort of bass theme, which goes even lower into the brooding bluesy/Floydian/gospel-backed "Thief in the Night." All of them very good. Then an angry sort of blaming threat, and some brewing reverse sounds, and we have reached "FU!!" This song doesn't offend me nearly as much as I thought it would. It is merely the song's protagonist's hateful rant, but at least it is a musically planned rant. Actually a good song which is not entirely out of place in a prog album. The "I'm Sorry" part completely reverses all that was said in the last part, and does so with a folksy guitar backing it. "Runnin' the Race" follows a quick reprise of the original theme, a fast-paced, brighter version of the "When it all Goes to Hell." Then it closes out with "Reach for the Sky," a nice ending for the 20 minute opus. I've noticed that this song and the following song have better lyrics than the first two, which seem to have lyrics there just for effect as they certainly have no point.

Then we have "On the Edge," a shorter, edgy, psychadelic piece. Very ambient, but again it pales in comparison to the longer tracks. Still worth many listens, however.

In conclusion, it's a good introduction to neo-prog/symphonic rock of the 90s. If all you've heard of prog is 70s material, get this. If you don't mind the explicit lyrics on track 3, of course. But it pales in comparison to other new prog I've heard recently, and that's why it's only 4 stars.

Report this review (#6902)
Posted Friday, September 24, 2004 | Review Permalink
Peter
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars THE LIGHT, the 1995 debut release from American act Spock's Beard, is one of the best entries in the latter-day progressive rock field that I have yet heard. With intelligent, well-crafted lyrics, impassioned vocals and harmonies, soaring guitars, choice piano and superb "retro" Hammond and synth sections, the disc does a very good job of recapturing the sound and spirit of classic 70s prog, but without being hopelessly derivative.

Sure, we can readily point to influences from early prog bands, but, for my grateful ears, the result is not slavish imitation, but a solid album that I enjoy listening to. I'm glad that singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Neal Morse and company seem, in their formative years, to have absorbed the classic works of their pioneering forebears, and then had the courage to inject some much-needed new blood and vitality into a genre that had almost dropped off the musical radar, and/or degenerated into radio-friendly lightweight pop. (You want fries with that new Genesis disc? Extra cheese? Maybe slathering it in ketchup would make it more palatable....) "The Beard," if nothing else, deserve credit for choosing to pursue their muse in a rock sub-genre that (perhaps regrettably -- perhaps not) now seems to preclude radio play, riches and fame. Clearly, they're not "only in it for the money" -- there's a palpable love of, and commitment to the music here.

The title track is a top-notch fifteen+ minute suite (try getting that into regular rotation at the local FM station!) with varied sections and themes that are in turn sensitive and pretty, powerful, and humourous. A tasty, generous and satisfying helping of pure prog!

"Go the Way You Go" is perhaps my overall favourite of a first-class set. While somewhat more pop/accessible than the other material here, it is still heavyweight progressive rock. The speaker-shaking ending has a majestic feel that would be especially effective live -- crank it!

At over twenty-three minutes, "The Water" is the longest piece on the album. This suite contains some of the album's heaviest moments, and the crunchy Hammond riffs at the beginning are particularly welcome to this old rocker's ears. A very varied piece, it holds my interest despite its length, but is a trifle marred for me by the inclusion of the abrasive, almost shouted "FU" section. As a father, I don't play this one when the "shell-pink" ears of my young children are within range!

The final number, "On the Edge," at only six minutes, is, perforce, not as "epic" as the tracks that precede it, but is still a terrific, hard-rocking song that brings this excellent album to a strong finish.

The radiance of a hopeful new day has dawned upon my once "frozen in time" prog collection, and there is fresh growth upon the old tree -- long may THE LIGHT and Neal Morse shine!

Report this review (#6904)
Posted Wednesday, October 13, 2004 | Review Permalink
[email protected]
5 stars This LP is a true little wonder. For me, it's just the best Prog album of the 90's. Each pieces are excellent, mixing a huge variety of themes and atmospheres, whatever they are groovy, metallic, symphonic or mellow. I really enjoy the guitar parts and Morse's warm voice. A must-have and a first masterpiece which will be followed by many great works.
Report this review (#6905)
Posted Thursday, October 21, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars I have to imagine that the late 80's and early 90's were pretty rough on prog rock fans (I wasn't yet into progressive rock at that time). Most of the great bands from the 70's had more or less turned their backs on prog, and only a handful of the neo-proggers were putting out anything solid. However, the mid-90's seemed to see a wonderful resurgence of progressive rock. Leading the way in this (arguably) third generation prog movement was Spock's Beard. Taking a page from the Genesis playbook, the Beard crafted an amazing collection of epic progressive rock tunes for this incredible debut. While the band's arangements were pretty typical of their influences, the thing that sets 'The Light' appart is the presence of a more modern attitude. Amidst all the proggery, Neal Morse tells stories of life, insanity, betrayal, love, and loss. These are not new concepts for prog rock, but the Beard choose to take a an honest, straight-forward (dare I say poppy) approach rather than hiding the meaning in obscure mythological references or complex stream-of- consciousness lyrics. Simply put, this album is probably one of the most accessable prog rock albums of all time. Musically, the band is in great form (as they are on most of their albums) and, of course, Neil Morse's voice is supurb. The album's stand out song is the title track. This is arguably one of the greatest epics of all time, from any band. The song flows seamlessly through numerous movements that seem to represent different personalities in one person's mind. I tend to find "Go The Way You Go" a bit boring. Its got some great moments, but it is not as strong as the other three songs. That said, I certainly don't skip over it when I'm listening to the entire album. "The Water" is another great epic, but it does get a bit long winded in places. I was certainly caught by surprise by the flurry of f-bombs in the middle section, but it serves the song's purpose nicely. The song gets downright funky in places and comes to a great soaring finish. The album concludes nicely with the rousing rocker "On The Edge." This song reminds me more of early solo Peter Gabriel than of Genesis. The song ends the album on a great high note and left me really looking forward to the band's next album (which turned out to be a dissapointment...). Of the band's seven albums released as of this date, there are four that stand out as thoroughly impressive. I am going to rate this album as the fourth best out of seven, keeping in mind that the top four are all very close in terms of quality.
Report this review (#6908)
Posted Monday, January 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
Man With Hat
COLLABORATOR
Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team
5 stars Out of nowhere comes Spock's Beard's Debut. This is one of the finest debuts i've heard thus far. Musicianship is top notch, solid (and at times meaningful) lyrics, and an undeniable flow all come through from second one to the last note played. Neal Morse's vocals are unique (at least in my eyes) and he really sings with a passion like other famous singers (Fish and P. Hammill come to mind, but that is not saying he sings in their style). although his voice is not as "perfected" as on other albums. The rythym section is as solid as bands that have been around 20 years. And Alan's guitar playing is the last cornerstone that needs to be placed, and a very solid cornerstone it makes.

First up is the epic (although not the longest song on this album) title track, The Light. Starting off with a simple, quiet piano part, the song sprawls into many directions. There are quiet interludes, fast paced action, loud and gritty sections, and an overall cohesiveness to this song. While i feel it doesn't compare to the other epic on this record (or others in their catelogue) in terms of complexity, it still is a high quality song that many people should enjoy. Next up, is the gentler Go The Way You Go. I still feel this song is a little too long, but its nothing that takes away from the pleasure of the album. Good vocal harmonies, and cool piano riffs lead this solid song. After that comes the hard hitter of the album, the 23 minute giant The Water. This epic winds its way through many moods, including anger, regret, mysterious, and arrogance. It is also notable to mention that this is really the only vulgarity this group has produced (specfically in the FU/I'm sorry part of the song). Anyway, a catchy piano intro starts off this monster, and it grows in intensity until the first part is unleashed (also notable is the cool cello part). One thing that i like (and dislike about this song), is the fact that the music is always changing, always progessing into something eles. While a good thing, it makes the better sections too short. But this is not a major complaint by any means. There is not a weak part to this song and is, IMO, one of the best modern examples of progressive music. Finally, the album ends with the shortest song (and the only one under ten minuets), On The Edge. A nice little more agressive song, with a cool lyrics and vocal line. While there is nothing stellar about this song, there is nothing terrible about it either.

All in all, I strongly feel that if there is a Spock's Beard album to check out, it is The Light. There are only a few downsides to this album (as mentioned in my reveiw), that get totally outweighed by the positives. There is certainly a unique feel to this album, that for whatever reason, decided to adbondon for their future releases. 5/5 no question. Highly recommended.

Report this review (#6909)
Posted Saturday, February 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Spock's Beard's debut album took the worldwide prog fan community by surprise, catching everybody's attention and gaining a good reputation almost instantly. Now, 10 years later, it has obviously passed the test of time and remains one of the best appraised prog albums from the 90s, as well as an absolute SB classic. Basically, SB's prog style is pretty much inspired in 70s Kansas, Wakeman-era Yes, classic Genesis, and some of the acoustic sensibility of CSN&Y. Recorded and released while they were still a quartet (Neal Morse took care of all keyboards, except for some mellotron portions played by brother Alan), the album was a catalogue of exciting musical ideas, skillfully performed, and collectively ordained and distributed into four tracks. 'The Light' and 'The Water' are two multi-part suites, full of varied motifs and effective contrasts between the rockier and the calmer moments, containing some occasional reprises in order to keep the sense of integral unity. Both suites are great, but I particularly prefer the former, since I find that the inner articulation among all sections is more fluid; besides, some motifs contained in 'The Water' tend to meander a little, somehow affecting the whole unit - but generally speaking, let me reiterate that both pieces are great. The third long track 'Go the Way You Go' is not exactly a suite, since it is not divided in particular sections. But that's not strictly a formality. Each portion of tracks 1 & 3 is designed to have their own personality and be part of a whole at once; on the other hand, 'Go the Way You Go' comprises a fewer amount of motifs, integrated with each other in such a compact way that not one of them can afford a place of its own. All of these motifs are properly developed and adorned to expand the song to 12- minute duration, without dragging around or becoming unnecessarily repetitive - IMHO, this is the best track in the album. The sense of epic splendour achieved in the most pompous passages is well accomplished, and it also contains some of the best interplaying between the foursome, particularly in the jazzier moments. Last but not least, we are treated a shorter song ('only' 6 minute long), 'On the Edge': this piece is so catchy that you might as well want to listen to it after the album is over, or maybe you'll go humming its main theme in your head for a couple of hours. Anyway, it's clear that this track is accurately placed to cause a lasting impression of excitement in the listener's mind. "The Light" was an excellent starting point for SB, and as such it will always be remembered: one of its major merits was that it helped strongly to reinforce the new found faith that prog rock had found during the 90s.
Report this review (#6911)
Posted Friday, February 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Neal enjoys a wee swearie

Whether or not you enjoy the music of Spock's Beard, there is no denying that they make progressive rock music in its purest form. For me though, the main reasons their music sometimes fails to hit the mark is that: a) The vocals are weak. Neal Morse is unquestionably a highly talented musician, but he is at best an average singer.

b) They do not develop themes sufficiently before moving on

c) On long tracks, the various sections which make up the piece do not always sit well together, resulting in the music sounding disjointed.

"The light" was Spock's Beard's first album, so the band can perhaps be forgiven if they appear to be finding their way a bit. It is though an excellent first offering, full of invention and complexity. While the album lasts for almost an hour, there are just four tracks in all. These range from the (comparatively) short closing track "On the edge" at 6 minutes to the 23 minute, seven part, "The water".

The opening (title) track, which clocks in at over 15 minutes and consists of 8 contiguous sections, is an excellent introduction to the band. The listener is immediately presented with a myriad of reminders of the prog greats such as Yes, ELP, Marillion and Genesis, not to mention The Beatles! There are time changes a plenty, loud and soft passages, and more themes than most bands manage in an entire career. The paradox is that these factors are both the strength and the Achilles heel of Spock's Beard. There is no time to enjoy a theme before it has been replaced by another then another. The magic of "Close to the edge" by Yes for example is that they develop each theme before moving on to the next, so when the first theme returns, it has the familiarity of an old friend. With Spock's Beard it's more like the return of an acquaintance with whom you are on nodding terms only, the music seems cold and aloof.

"Go the way you go" continues in the same vein, with an ELP ("Black moon") like intro, leading into some Chris Squire like dominant bass. The track gets a bit messy at times, before the slower big ending.

"The water" is the longest, and most rambling track on the album. There are lyrics here in the "FU" section which I'm sure the post "rebirth" Neal Morse would be extremely reluctant to sing, in fact in the sleeve-notes for the remastered version, he actually apologises for them! The use of female backing vocals is however interesting and effective, if more than a little derivative of (Pink Floyd's) "Great gig in the sky". Once again, the time and mood changes are frequent and at times jarring. The final track, "On the edge" is the most commercial and accessible, with more of a straight rock feel. Morse says of the track that it was written for use as an encore at live gigs.

In all, a highly creditable first album, which indicated that Spock's Beard were more than capable of helping to keep the prog fire burning. Yes it has its faults, but worthy of investigation nonetheless. Some of the final recordings were taken straight from the original demos by Neal Morse and his brother Alan.

The version of the album I have is the "Artwork collectors' series" edition. It is presented in a 7" (vinyl single size) double fold out digipak style sleeve, resembling a mini LP. The lavish packaging includes a poster, postcards, and an excellent booklet with sleeve notes written by Neal Morse. It also has a bonus demo version of the title track.

Report this review (#6912)
Posted Wednesday, March 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
Blacksword
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Some albums impact on you immediately, others take time to sink in. 'The Light' by Spocks Beard was an instant hit for me. I had been unfairly sceptical of US prog after hearing Echolyn, but SB's strong debut has restored my faith. I had expected a collage of re- hashed British prog cliches, without any soul, but 'The Light' is distinctly Amercian, while still managing to capture that classic prog spirit.

The album opens with the title track, a fifteen minute, well structured piece that shows off Morse & Co's obvious technical skill, and moves through a variety of moods and styles. There is humour and Latin groove in the 'Senor Valascos mystic Voodoo love dance' and by contrast anger and drama in 'Return of the horrible Catfish man' although humour is still in evidence. Some of Morses lyrics are best ignored IMO, and I feel he is at his best as a lyricist when expressing rage, an emotion that reapears later on the album. The anger gives way to a gentle reprise of 'The Dream' This opener is a strong and addictive musical package, and my cynicism led me to believe that it probably wouldn't be topped by any other track.

'Go the way you go' follows, and although I dont feel it is as strong as the opener, it is still a great song. With a gentle memorable chorus, 'GTWYG' keeps the listerners attention in place in preparation for what follows; the 'EPIC' 'The Water' weighing in at 23 minutes. As far as epics go I would perhaps hope for a little more. Some chapters are much stronger than others in this song, and for me the 'F*CK YOU' section is perhaps the strongest, certainly the most memorable part of the piece. MY immediate thought was that this is what John Lennon may have sounded like had 'The Beatles' been a punk band! Sorry, but I think there is a trace of Lennon, without the love and peace, in Morses voice at this point. Like all epics this takes time to get acquainted with, but even after many listens I dont think its the strongest song on the album, and according to my own 'stuck in the mud' symphonic prog rule book, the epic should always come out on top. Nevertheless, a pretty good work.

The albums closes with the shortest track 'On the Edge' am upbeat, attention grabbing rocker of a track, once again allowing SB's musical prowess to shine. Fine percussion, good lead guitar work, and strong keyboard work throughout. A fine close to a very strong, well produced, well performed debut album.

Report this review (#38110)
Posted Thursday, June 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
Cygnus X-2
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Magnificent debut from Neal Morse and co. Unfortunately, some flaws hinder it from a 5/5. Anyway, as a debut, one could not ask for more. 3 epics lasting more than 12 minutes each, bizarre concepts, watery hammond organ, and searing guitar solos, who could ask for more? Alan Morse plays a nasty lead guitar that has a nice rough sound that doesn't stray into the metal foray. Neal Morse plays some awesome piano throughout, hammering through vocal sections with precision. Dave Meros plays a jagged bass, with a sound similar to that of Chris Squire and Geddy Lee combined. And finally, Nick D'Virgilio plays some complex patterns and sings some very nice back up vocals. This ensemble combines into a cohesive progressive unit better known as Spock's Beard.

The highlights of this album are Go the Way You Go and the Water. Go the way you go begins erratically, but after a minute or two of this jagged riff, some nice acoustic guitar comes in and Neal begins to sing. The rest of the song has a very hard-rock oriented sound, but keeps the rest of the instruments at the forefront. The wah guitar and the solo on this song are also among the best of the album. This song also has a very catchy chorus, a thing that Spock's Beard would become good at doing. The other song, The Water, is a 23 minute epic of harsh and pretentious scale. With a section that features some very premiscious vocals (Neal Morse swearing over and over again), and some very impressive guitar and bass interplay. But that's not saying that Neal's Hammond is left out. It is one of the main features of the song, with its watery sound that is very fitting of the mood.

Overall, I did enjoy this album. I only had a few problems. The sound quality during some of the vocal sections and instrumental parts was questionable, and the vocals from Neal aren't terribly spectacular (they're adequate). Minor faults aside, this is a brilliant debut that no one should miss. 4.5/5.

Report this review (#40031)
Posted Saturday, July 23, 2005 | Review Permalink
Zitro
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This is a strong debut from one of prog rock revivers in the 90s and today. It contains many flaws (incoherence, sound quality, and not so good lyrics) but I highly recommend this to any spock's beard fans.

The Light 7.5/10 starts off this album on a very high note and is easily the best song in the album. It draws influences from Kansas, Yes, Genesis, and most notably : King Crimson. It is a huge epic with many different sections, but sadly, it has too many themes for its duration, making the themes feel short and unexplored. It also suffers from some incoherence. Anyways, all negatives aside , This is one beautiful song.

Go The Way You Go 7/10 has more genesis/yes influences and is more melodic than the title track. It still suffers from the same problem (incoherence) and some parts seem out of place.

The Water 6/10 is the most coherent song from the album, and flows nicely ... the problem is that the influences are so heavy that seem almost like rip-offs (bass line in the intro like roundabout, female vocalist like 'Time', etc etc). Besides, the song seems to drag. Nevertheless, The F**k You - Im sorry transition always makes my day =D

On The Edge 7/10 : This is a good track. It contains one of my favorite basslines from Spock's beard, good melodies, and nice solos.

Overall, if you don't mind the main weakness of the album, you may enjoy it a lot.

My Grade : C

Report this review (#41603)
Posted Thursday, August 4, 2005 | Review Permalink
[email protected]
5 stars Spock's Beard's The Light is an absolute pinnacle of 90s progressive rock, and a great addition to the genre for any era.

Like 70s prog, this album features expert musicianship, especially from vocalist/keyboardist Neal Morse, but the guitars and rhythm section are excellent too.

Like 70s prog, the songs are long, serendipitous journeys. Of the four tracks on the album, three exceed 12 minutes, with one topping out at over 23 minutes.

But a couple things make Spock's Beard, and in particular this album, fresh. Morse's singing has a big emotional range, and always seems heartfelt, even when shouting "I am the catfish man, I can't hear you, go ahead and have a nice day now!" Lyrics like this haven't been heard since "I Am the Walrus," and indeed the band is influenced by the Beatles as much as by the 70s prog giants.

The album also has a wacky sense of humor, both musically and lyrically. A passage featuring grand organs and mellotrons, for example, might switch suddenly to playful flamenco guitar with the lyric "I am Senor Valasco, I drink my milk with Tabasco."

Always surprising, always fresh. Highly recommended.

Report this review (#43186)
Posted Wednesday, August 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Let me confess this way: I have owned the first three albums of The Beard since 1998 and I rarely spin the CD since I purchased all of them. I purchased all of their initial albums because my progmates in Bandung who influenced me to buy as he said that the band was one of prog icons in the nineties. What I got was a complete disappointment especially with the composition - it sounded to me so many influences from many bands that The Beard did not package 'em into truly the Beard sound. The most obvious influences were coming from Gentle Giant, Yes, Genesis and . surprisingly The Gypsy Kings! I could not believe it. This album comprises three epic tracks plus one track with normal duration.

Yes, I have to admit that the band members' virtuosities and musicianship they perform in this album. Just take an example on the opening track "The Light", no one would argue on the neatness of Beard's music especially with heavy and solid bass guitar work by Meros combined with soaring keyboard work by Neal that sometimes sounds like Keith Emerson. Nick d'Virgilio's drumming is also marvelous. It's an enjoyable music, basically. But, look at the structure. There are many disjointed parts that the band did not make a proper effort to smooth the transition piece that glues all parts into a cohesive composition. The music sounds to me like "being forced" to show that this is a prog tune. There seem like many unplanned tempo changes even though some segments are really memorable and melodic.

"Go The Way You Go" starts off beautifully with a music harmony combining keyboard and solid bass lines. I really like the opening part even though the piano parts during quiet session in the intro part reminds me to Van Halen's slow track in "Balance" album (hey, any hard rock fans down here? Anybody knows who Van Halen is, right?). I don't remember the title of the track but I think the lyrics something like "To love somebody peacefully ..". Got that? But, overall it's not exactly the same style with the Beard.

"The Water" starts off with a blast of music featuring Emerson like keyboard work in a packed musical composition. The opening choirs remind me to Gentle Giant but with keyboard sound in the vein of Emerson. The alternate play between Hammond organ and guitar work during lyrical verse is really wonderful. Unlike other tracks this one is performed in an accentuated voice line augmented with Hammond and guitar fills in rocking style. This track contains word that is strongly prohibited from this site.

With some caveats and weak points, I still consider that this is a good album - a promising debut by the band. The musicianship is excellent. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#43856)
Posted Monday, August 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
kunangkunangku
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Spock's Beard was the first band I listened to among those who emerged during progressive rock's 1990s revival. And it was their debut album, this one in question, that has brought my enthusiasm for the genre back into life once again.

OK, I have to admit that there was a vacuum in my life in which I practically stopped keeping myself up-to-date with anything new coming from the music scene -- well, sometimes I listened to radio or watched television, but I did not go to record stores and buy albums. Amazingly, I did not crave them.

Until I got my hands on this self-financed four tracks effort. It was a gift from a friend. And what a great gift: in first listening, the opening title track immediately blew me away. A smart combination of strong melodies with complex arrangements, superb musicianship and stunning performances, although some parts exposing rather disjointed movements or structures. It reminded me to Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant and all -- those considered by progressive rock fans among the greatest of 1970s.

I keep listening to this album since then. And when I do putting the disc into my player's tray, the impression of capturing almost pompous but splendid music (this is also the case with "The Water", the second multiple-part suite) is always there. Overall, throughout the album, not only Neal Morse, the frontman, who can prove confidently his awesome talent as a song writer and keyboard player, but the rest of the band too has their moments to exhibit their virtuosities.

This is a must have album.

Report this review (#44110)
Posted Wednesday, August 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
The Crow
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This is the Spock's Beard debut, and a very good album, but not a masterpiece, of course...

Here we can find the classic Spock's members (except Ryo Okumoto) and sound, but with a weak production sometimes, and Neal Morse doesn't sing very well here... But the Spock's style it's well defined from their beginnings, with the Gentle Giant influences, the 70's feeling, and with amount of pop and symphonic cliches too...I like specially the suite The Light and Go The Way You Go, two great songs... The epic The Water it's not bad, but it's a little boring and repetitive sometiemes. On The Edge it's the classic Spock's Beard's hard rocking song, but nothing really remarkable...

Excellent album, with true wonderful moments and a stunning bass playing by one of the best bassist in the world: Dave Meros!!!

Report this review (#48309)
Posted Sunday, September 25, 2005 | Review Permalink
[email protected]
5 stars First time I listened "The Light" I was a little disapointed, but with time this CD has grown in me. In fact Spock's Beard has several influences : classic symphonic prog ( Yes and Genesis especially ) but also US Rock ( steely Dan and Eagles are the more evident). But if Neal Morse and Co listened to many genres they really created an unique and very progressive sound. Singing and playing are outstanding. Songwriting is really one of the best of the nineties.

Take your time with this one. Don't judge it too fast. "The light" is really a masterpiece of modern prog.

Report this review (#55136)
Posted Tuesday, November 8, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I bought my first Spock's Beard album, The Light, a few months ago. I gave it a run-through at home, and at first thought I had spent my hard-earned euros unwisely. However, the last review before this my own effort by H.NOT made me decide to have another look at this album (surely I'd have done it anyway later rather than sooner...). I put it in the car CD, and for days I listened to it every time I drew my car.

And what a revelation! You simply must give this fantastic album a few listenings before passing a comment on it. The four songs open themselves slowly, but I am really, really happy now that I had the tenacity to give the album the time that it needed. How rewarding it was!

Apart from On The Edge, which lasts "only" just over six minutes and is a relatively straight forward rock tune with a couple of lovely riffs, The Light consists of long works that almost have it all: great compositions, witty yet touching lyrics, great instrumentation, fine musicianship, you name it - all the ingredients that make a brilliant prog album.

Then why only four stars? I just know it. I can give five stars to works that effect my way of thinking as a human being, like Bruckner's 4th Symphony, Stravinsky's Rite of Spring/Firebird, the works of Karol Szymanowski, Béla Bartók, and of course CTTE, Acquiring The Taste or Free Hand, and this is not up to them, albeit a fantastic introduction to a prog band. What I find most satisfying is that at last I have found a band that I think might progress to the highest class and - are still in function!

Report this review (#59913)
Posted Friday, December 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
[email protected]
5 stars This is the first SB album I ever heard. And I still think it as their best effort right after 'Snow'. Highly influenced by Genesis, Yes, (and Utopia).

The Light: The strongest song here. Very pleasant and varying. Morse's vocals might annoy in the first place but you get used to it. The music is marvellous, it takes you with it. 10/10

Go The Way You Go: A nice song, which reflects later SB work nicely. This song could be right from Yes's fragile. 9/10

The Water: Longest, the most beautiful and strong song. My fav section is FU/I'm sorry, because the guitar riff is straight from "Behing Blue Eyes". Love it 10/10

On The Edge: The worst song here, but still very pleasant. Basic SB work. 8/10

Report this review (#62638)
Posted Sunday, January 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Gah well this album was interesting when i first listened to it. Anyway I got BEWARE OF DARKNESS and KINDNESS OF STRANGERS and love them both but i was wondering the how THE LIGHT would sound. i was afraid it was gonna be dissappointing since ryo wasn't a member of the band, alot of neal morse's vocals are just weird and horrible (especially the FU section of THE WATER). however though i knew it was their debut album so i knew it wasn't gonna blow me away so i decided to give a try. and when i got their were parts where i was completely wrong about this album. First off i love the music the music is awesome with great guitar riffs, aweomse bass, FANTASTIC DRUMS, and of course neal morse supplying the beast within him of playing all those keyboards. Anyway alot of the music is very diverse i mean their were parts like GO THE WAY YOU GO were it almost sounded like country but it was actually really catchy and not bad. BUT my favorite parts of the album is those awesome jazz breaks especially from the piano/keyboards sound that neal morse brings to let us know that hey even though its our first album were still gonna rock your face off. plus i love the fact of how funky ON THE EDGE is and man that keyboard solo is so slamming. Plus the epics you gotta give credit first epics by the beard and well they aren't my favorite but i do like them i just wish neal morse's life was going better back then so he didn't have to put that annoying FU section in THE WATER cause i would love that song if that part wasn't in it. Anyway definitely a 4 and a half on music but gah i just don't think the lyrics are all that great kinda silly at times i mean whatha heck is neal doing singing about a catfish man on THE LIGHT lol well i'm sure it has some meaning. but definitely this CD is worth a buy if your interested in what the SPock's Beard sound originally was in 95.
Report this review (#70891)
Posted Thursday, March 2, 2006 | Review Permalink
NJprogfan
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Not my favorite album by the Beards. Reasons being: Neal's voice, (way too nasaly and flat), and Alan's guitar, (pitched too high and whiny with way too many spots where he distorts the guitar). The other gripe I have with this disc is the length of the songs. There're drawn out, (especially 'The Water', with that notorious "F**K" section..) and wordy. Neal could have used an editor and put his point across without going on and on. Lastly, I tend to zone out on the music. There's no life, or snap to the songs, (other than the Genesis inspired 'On The Edge' which is the best in the bunch). It could have boiled down to first album jitters or production, but for most of the album its pretty lame and boring. There are spots, tho, that I enjoy; the senoir valasco section of 'The Light' and all of 'On The Edge', those have spark. The rest....ugh! I won't say that this is an overall terrible album, its just not great. I would start with Neal's last album with the band and work backwards. A decent album, but definately not as good as their later ones. 2.5 stars for me.
Report this review (#71486)
Posted Thursday, March 9, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars I'm a big, big fan of '70's Yes, Genesis et al so I was told to give Spock's Beard a try... but you know, just because I am doesn't mean that's the only style of music I want to listen to!!

Overall, this is too derivative for my taste; and as other reviewers have pointed out, the vocals are weak, and often a theme is discarded before it's been properly developed.

It's an enjoyable enough album, but listening to it doesn't set the pulse racing in the way listening to Close to the Edge or Going for the One did when I first heard those. No, if I want that reaction, I'll wait for the next Tool or The Mars Volta release...

Report this review (#71936)
Posted Wednesday, March 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars A wonderful debut album by Spock's Beard! I seem to enjoy this more than most of the people here. The music is just amazing, maybe amateurish but I don't see that as an object.

This albums starts with the magnificent "The Light". One of the most variying and exciting epics I've ever heard. It starts with true symhphonic prog. All of the parts are awesome, but "Looking Straight Into The Light" is my favourite. Stunning song. Neal Morse definetly god some influences from Utopia's "Singring And The Glass Guitar".

"Go The Way You Go" is a simplified version of "The Light", very entertaining, basic SB song. I love the end of it which happens to be very theatrical.

"The Water" is as magnificent as "The Light". The music is interesting, the athmosphere is unique. The FU/I'm sorry part is pretty funny, cause the guitar rif is straight from The Who's Behind Blue Eyes :). The last two parts are maybe the best, wonderful climaxes and very entertaining. Lovely song.

"On The Edge" is also very basic, simple SB song. Entertaining but not as great as the epics here.

I really recommend this album to those who love 70's symphonic prog. A masterpiece to me.

Report this review (#74017)
Posted Tuesday, April 4, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars The debut of Spock's Beard is usually criticized because the quality of the recording is not the best, as it is a cheap home studio recording, and it lacks the addition of Ryo Okumoto's keyboards, who would enter the band on the second album. These complains may be true, but they don't change the fact that this albums contain four awesome compositions, with great songwriting and amazing musicianship. Even if their influences are evident (Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant, Adrian Belew's era King Crimson, Kansas, etc) the music in this album is still original and unique. No matter how long are the tracks, they never bore me in any moment. They include many different subsections wihich are nicely bridged with clever arrangements, so they really flow well. Neal Morse plays masterfullly Hammond, synths,mellotron and piano (even with jazz improvisations at certain moments) so Ryo Okumoto is not that necessary in this album.. The album is also the most guitar-driven of their discography. I love Alan Morse's guitar tone, and his use of the whammy bar effects, and I find his solo playing always entertaining. The bass is a little low in the mix and the drums don't sound as good as in the following albums by the Beard, but the playing is very good for both. I think this album deserves 5 stars. Yes, it could have sounded even better, but after all the most important aspect of an album is the quality of music. And The Light contains superb music.
Report this review (#76508)
Posted Thursday, April 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
[email protected]
3 stars This was my second SB ablum that I heard, and the first one that caused me to actually start to appreciate this band (Beware Of Darkness I didn't like the first several times I heard it, though now I consider it their best along with "V"). I've never been a huge fan of this band, and it took quite a while to really truely appreciate their talent. In fact, the album "V" was really the beginning and end of my true appreciation for them.

Getting back to this album, the title track hit me on the very first listen and to this day is one of my all time favorites from them. It has everything I like about the band and nothing I don't. It is a brilliant display of everything they would ever do well musically and vocally. It flows well, is not overlong and doesn't dwell on the more pop sensibiliites that they would expand on in later albums (and which is the main aspect about this band that I simply can't enjoy). With a single listent to this one brilliant track, I understood what this band was about for the first time.

The following track, "Go the Way you Go" is nearly as good, with only a slightly cheesy chorus to bring it down a bit. But it does contain some outstanding solo and instrumental sections.

"The Water", however, is an overlong, disjointed and IMO failed attempt at a truely epic song. It just doesn't gell for me at all really. Oddly enough, one of the best parts for me is the "FU" section followed by the "I'm sorry" section. A great transition and some great Morse vocals (the gritty, angry sound that would dissapear after the next album.........but a style that I really liked and think works well with the music). Overall though, I find this track pretty tedious and poorly written and concieved.

Finally, "Out On The Edge" finishes off the album and is a decent song, if sounding a bit too much like Yes (the music, not really the vocals or vocal lines though). My copy actually has a couple of minutes of the Gentle Giant like acoustic guitar duet the Morse brothers used to do in concert in the middle of the song The Doorway from the next album. A nice addition, but something better heard in the context of the entire song.

All in all, I give it 3 stars, mainly for being one of the first true American prog albums of the "3rd wave" in the mid 90's. And the first track is good enough to pull it up from 2.5 stars.

Report this review (#76569)
Posted Friday, April 28, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Probably one of the best debut albums ever. Great songs, good clear production and top notch performances from Neal and the rest of the band. Yeah, it ''steals'' from several classic prog bands, but in a balanced and tasteful way, but The Light has great and varied prog rock from beginning to end, so I can't complain!!

Very progressive, and still very catchy. Well done guys. An essential album of contemporary prog rock.

Report this review (#87775)
Posted Sunday, August 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
1 stars No point in buying this album if you have Yes, Gentle Giant, Genesis, Emerson Lake and Palmer etc etc. Each song is just taken from any of those bands and the lyrics have to be the worst lyrics I have ever heard ever "You gave me a home then you left me alone.. f**k you!" Hmmm..

Neal Morse has to have the worst voice I have heard in Prog Rock.. He seems to be on an ego trip on any album he has done, no one else gets a look in.

No songs I would class as classics as it all sounds like stuff thats been done before.. "The Water" and "The Light" could have been a lot shorter, and seem to be padded out too much.

The only saving grace is the drums.

Save your money and purchase The Flower Kings "Unfold The Future" instead.

Report this review (#102550)
Posted Monday, December 11, 2006 | Review Permalink
Fight Club
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Spock's Beard exploded into the prog scene with this album back in 1995. It got critical aclaim from reviewers everywhere and with justification. The Light is a fantastic album for both traditional and new proggers! Leading man Neal Morse and the band managed to come up with 57 minutes worth of pure prog magic that just clicked in all aspects. The Light manages to fuse highly melodic hooks with the complexities we all know and love in prog. 3 out of the 4 songs clock at over 10 minutes in length yet I still find myself humming them at work.

The band has quite a few obvious influences here, notably Gentle Giant and Genesis. However, don't be fooled, they aren't mere copies of these bands. They manage to combine all their influences into one highly unique and enjoyable sound. Every musician here is practically a virtuoso, but Morse stands out above the rest, taking lead mostly on piano. However he blows away the listener with pretty much everything practically smothering the album in mellotron and hammond organ. It's really a pleasure to hear such melodic tunes yet be amazed by the stunning musicianship. Few bands managed to do this in the 90s which is why Spock's Beard became one of the best selling prog acts at that time.

The Light might as well be the perfect track to introduce anyone to the band. There's some real melodic twists that can't really be heard by anyone band before them. Spock's Beard formed their own signature sound with this kind of orchestration. The harmony arrangements are absolutely masterful through the entire album. The 23 minute magnum opus, The Water is brilliant. The infamous "Fuck you" section is always a burst of adrenaline for me, which I found comes very frequent with the band due to their zaniness. The thing that makes the band so unique is the converging of all the diverse influences that is just executed so well. This is really demonstrated beautifully in The Water.

And of course there's enough mellotron use and time signature changes for any prog lover! All in all this album has something enjoyable for anyone. Not only can prog fans appreciate it for it's complexity, but modern rock and pop fans as well! One of the most essential albums of the 90s by one of the decades most essential bands!

Report this review (#116332)
Posted Sunday, March 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
obiter
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars It's over 10 years since I fist heard this album so I suppose I should chuck in my tupennce worth

Light always reminds me of quite early Yes spiced up with a smidgeon of Marillion and gently stirred with a little AOR. Like a lot of concoctions in the kitchen (most of which occur after a night out with your mates in the pub) the result falls into 3 categories:

1 tastes fantastic at the time but oh dear ... next morning the dog puts it's tail between tis legs and backs out of the room keeping eye contact 2 your masterpiece is immediately consigned to the netherworld of the bin while the local take away is called to the rescue 3 somehow, it just works. you can't tell why, and you can;t remember what it was you did, or what you put in.

The light is most defintiely in the third category. The sense of smug self-satisfaction which warms you after listening to the album is priceless.

I like recommending this album to the uninitiated I just wish the band had a better name. "You've got to listen to this album ... The Light" (no rat eating aliens in sight but the band is called Spock's Beard. (or you default to the Evil Dead 3 mumble as you pass over the disc).

A progtastic offering but not essential

Report this review (#123589)
Posted Sunday, May 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
1 stars Listening to The Light gives me a sudden appreciation for Kansas' Leftoverture, an appreciation which Spock's Beard must certainly have shared while recording The Light. Spock's Beard draw nearly every trick and sound on The Light from that classic (as well as notable scatterings of other classic Symphonic bands) and mix it with a bit of Neal Morse's distinguished modern style. The result isn't too pleasing. The Light is unfocused, disjointed, and most importantly simply not enjoyable. The melodies oscillate between boring pop and boring prog, and playing the originality card is really out of the question.

The two weakest points of the album come from the Morse brothers. Neal's vocals leave much to be desired. At best he's mediocre and at his worst he's intolerable. Also, for every nice, vintage sound he achieves on the keys, there's another that just sounds purely dated. Secondly, Alan's lead guitar really prevents me from getting any enjoyment from the instrumental passages. I can't think of a applicable word to describe his tone, so I shall just say I find it horrible. And he does not redeem this quality by his playing. There are a good bit of enjoyable parts thread throughout the songs, however, they're always outnumbered by exponentially worse passages. This is especially true in The Water which contains a section Neal himself apologized for.

For those who enjoy the whole Neal Morse production though, I suspect this will be a solid 3/3.5 star album. For those unfamiliar with his style this isn't the best way to be exposed to it. For those critics of his style looking to be converted, there's certainly no revelation to be found here.

And if by chance Dave Meros happens to stumble across this review, for all my harsh words I was thoroughly pleased by your playing, but that, unfortunately, was about the only thing.

Report this review (#127988)
Posted Monday, July 9, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars For me the album the Light is all about Dave Meros on the base. It is one album that is best served with a healthy side of sub woofer. The singing is good and overall passionate as is Neal Morse's way, but at the same time the lyrics are on the simplistic side. The time signature changes are a treat for the ears but I really wished that the transitions were smoother. At times the music just stops dead only to pick up again and completely shift gears. I really like the shifts from hard and fast to kind of mellow and back again. Especially on Go the Way you Go which for me is the highlight of the album. The whole band just seems to come together so well on that track. My first experience with a full Spock's Beard album was the Kindness of Strangers but I really wish I had started out with the Light. It shows the strained limits of what SB is capable of while not totally refined yet. For the record I prefered Snow to the Light but it would really be a shame to skip out on this one.
Report this review (#128291)
Posted Friday, July 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
Flucktrot
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I tend to agree with most of the collaborators' reviews: The Light has a large number of tantalizing moments and we're all grateful that the Beard threw their hats into the prog ring, but there are serious flaws that just can't be ignored, such as irritating distorted vocals, silly (and pointless) parts, and a general lack of direction to the music. Because it's a debut, I think The Light warrants 3 stars: it takes guts to release music like this, especially without any kind of a fan base.

The Light. Let the inconsistency begin. We start with a nice rocking, building intro, giving the impression that these guys are serious about making good music. Then we get awful distorted shouts about the catfish man. The result is neither serious nor fun--it's just goofy. Too bad, because the chorus is decent, and things improve from there: parts that remind me of Yes on TOPO and then a bit of IQ later, but then we get Senor Velasco drinking his milk with Tabasco and more catfish man to bring down the quality once more.

Go the Way You Go. The most consistent tune, and fortunately they would later improve at making this kind of music. The intro is where I hear the Kansas influence most (though not really that strong for me overall, compared to others), and I like the fat bass. The rest is very enjoyable: a series of melodies and a nice refrain at the end to set up the excellent climax. This is the skeleton for my favorite work of theirs: The Great Nothing.

The Water. Sometimes you just have songs that don't agree with you. I come back to this once in a while, and every time it's a struggle to make it through. Just know that the truly cringe-worthy moments (FU, the initial verse and chorus) are frontloaded in the beginning ten minutes of the song, so if you can make it past that point, the rest provides a lot of what we enjoy about the Beard: keyboard/guitar call-and-response, good keyboard flourishes, and overal tasteful melodies.

On the Edge. It's easy to write this one off, but I think that's a mistake. This is evidence that the Beard could combine prog and rock in a consicse package, and as such it's my second favorite tune from the album.

When I think of Neal's other work, I am almost astounded that some of this material bears his name. It's not THAT bad, just different enough to surprise me. If a few bad spots don't ruin your enjoyment of extended pieces, you'll find plenty here. That's not the case with me, and this album is just a bit too much work to recommend.

Report this review (#138563)
Posted Sunday, September 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars 3.5 stars actually...

SPOCK'S BEARD is among those bands that helped to the revival of progressive rock during the 90's.They were formed in Los Angeles,USA in 1992 by two multi-instrumentalists brothers,Neal and Alan Morse,who have been lovers of 70's progressive rock for years.Their debut album ''The light'' was released in mid-90's and it was a fantastic mix of the modern technologies available in producting an album with 70's influences and instrumentation.The band's first work is an endless list of vintage sounds through the heavy use of analog keyboards like the Hammond organ or the mellotron and the undoubtful hints of old bands like GENESIS,YES,KANSAS,GENTLE GIANT and KING CRIMSON.However,in a weird/majestic way,their compositions are quite easy-listening for even a mid-listenester and that's what ''The light'' is all about:Creating a classic progressive rock album with changing moods and climates but without being overly complex.I can only say that this is a very decent definition of progressive rock!Grab this nice little gem!

Report this review (#147764)
Posted Sunday, October 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
progaardvark
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars I credit Spock's Beard's The Light as the album that brought me back to progressive rock. At the time, at least for me, the newest releases on the music scene were at best deplorable and dismal. I was hanging on to prog rock by just a thread with Talk by Yes and the newest incarnation of Asia, and then eventually discovering the tribute albums by Magna Carta. On a whim, I saw this album by a group named Spock's Beard, noticed the long playing times, and bought it from a record store that no longer exists. I was literally blown away. These guys were not only giving a strong nod to their predecessors of the 1970s, but they were taking it to new and higher levels of musical composition and ability.

The Light is probably the best progressive rock debut album ever released, at least to my ears. It contains, mind-boggling lyrics (I just love those), extremely skillful playing, two incredible multi-part epics, beautiful melodies and hooks mixed in with delightfully complex time signatures, and a raw energy that I think separates Spock's Beard from all of their contemporaries as well as their predecessors. There are influences present all over the place and intertwined with each other to create something quite unique. At best, I can pick out influences from Yes (mostly in the bass playing, Dave Meros is as skilled as Chris Squire in my mind), Genesis, Gentle Giant, and Kansas. I'm sure there are more, but these were the more obvious ones. But don't think that Spock's Beard sounds like Yes or Genesis. They don't for the most part and that's probably because they don't put the keyboards as forward in the mix as Yes and Genesis did, relying more heavily on Hammond organ and Mellotron (one of my most favorite instruments).

Neal Morse, for the most part, is the man behind this group. His voice, though not on the level of a Jon Anderson or Peter Gabriel, carries a raw and emotional feeling to it. His voice is just perfect for this music and I can't imagine anyone providing the proper delivery that Morse does. Nick D'Virgilio is probably one of the best drummers I've ever heard. He's definitely in the same league as a Mike Portnoy, or a 1970s Phil Collins. Neal Morse's brother Alan is the guitarist and is also quite skilled for this style of music. Although not in the same league as a Steve Howe or David Gilmour, his playing style is quite unique and has a reliance on making effective use of feedback to produce some really cool sounds.

Clearly a masterpiece, possibly the best prog rock debut ever, and the attention-grabber that brought me back to prog rock to discover the new movement that was taking place in the mid-to-late 1990s. Definitely in the same league as the 1970s greats, possibly even better. Five stars and very highly recommended.

Report this review (#149724)
Posted Friday, November 9, 2007 | Review Permalink
progrules
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I bought this album in the nineties when Spocks Beard's reputation wasn't really as significant as it is now. And I have to say there wasn't really any reason for a great reputation after this album. This is a nice debut but not really impressive inspite of the two epic tracks, the ones I'm usually very fond of. But I feel this band (songwriter Neal Morse that is) had to warm up before they got slowly but surely better and better. The epics are ok but far from really impressive. I even like the shorter songs better this time. Go the way you go is a bit ballad like and very nice but the best track of the album is the shortest and last track. On the Edge is even one of their better efforts ever I believe and saves the album for me. But all in all this isn't good enough for 4 stars to me, so I will have to leave it at 3. (3,25)
Report this review (#150955)
Posted Thursday, November 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars A bonafide gem of '90's progressive-rock reveling in the legacy of the genre's '70's glory days, performed with boundless enthusiasm and energy which will absolutely appeal to fans of the classics and will more than likely attract newcomers with its catchy lyrics, melodies, and infectious feel.

The real magic is in the songwriting, which sprawls its dynamic signature over the songs extended length allowing for exceptional variety of tone and themes; The Light features heavy, straight-ahead rock and fine balladry in equal portions, and uses them to weave fine, memorable tunes. Neal Morse's distinct vocals are powerful (and I think secular), while Alan Morse demonstrates his virtuosity for both big, bombastic solos as well as wild creativity with his guitar-- top notch; the fat sound of the rhythm section rounds things out powerfully.

Ultimately, The Light remains one of the band's finest albums, most exciting albums; a brilliant homage to the old greats while simultaneously creating a new voice for the genre-- highly recommended, a great place to start listening to classic progressive rock for newcomers.

Songwriting: 4 Instrumental Performances: 4 Lyrics/Vocals: 4 Style/Emotion/Replay: 4

Report this review (#157555)
Posted Thursday, January 3, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Spock's Beard had to start somewhere, and The Light is certainly a decent piece of prog rock. The title track is often heralded by fans of SB as absolutly fantastic, but it's a little overrated. Not bad, just overrated. Neal Morse has a very good voice, and the whole I Am section is fun to listen to. One thing that really annoys me about modern prog is the sudden, warningless switches in tempo and volume; something that earlier bands like ELP, King Crimson, and especially Yes excelled at. I did find the coolest line in a song ever. I am Senior Valasco. I drink my milk with Tabasco. Love it! Sounds disgusting, but I love it.

I saw a review somewhere saying that Go the Way You Go sounded very Yes like. Whoever said that got it wrong. Again, the sudden changes were annoying, and the jam session in the middle is far from what anyone would consider Yes quality. The piano solo particularly stands out as just being plopped there, whereas Rick Wakeman and Tony Kaye were better at making their solos fit in. Still, it's upbeat, and sets up the best song on the album.

The Water is where we see a little more Yes. The opening instrumental, sprinkled with Neal Morse's harmonies, is very effective and sounds great. (Can you say CTTE like?) Better still, the transitions were good! A lot smoother than other songs. FU in the middle was a little harsh, but it's the perfect song to crank up when you come home from a really sucky day and know at least someone else is having a more misrable life than you. Some also think this song plods on. I disagree. It flows smoothly, and everything seems to fit in place. Best song on the album, and I would put it next to Endless Dream or even Mind Drive

On the Edge is, like everything else, upbeat, fast paced, and fun. I like the bass work here. Almost sounds like something you could expect to hear on the radio, but not quite.

Overall, it's a great album. Maybe not their best, but its worth your time, money, and attention

4.25 Stars

Report this review (#159798)
Posted Saturday, January 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
Moatilliatta
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Spock's Beard turned a lot of heads upon the release of their debut, The Light. Featuring a blend of classic prog-rock favorites including Genesis, Kansas and Gentle Giant, the band activated nostalgia in many and also became one of the leaders in the modern progressive movement.

Spock's Beard has a great melodic strength to coincide with their skillful instrumentation - and this album boasts a bunch of moments that will have you smiling with sheer delight - but on this debuting outing, be it the band's immaturity at the time or their low budget, the group have not yet clicked. Do not be misled by my using the term immature; these guys are clearly fine musicians, and they work well together. It is apparent, though, that they still have more potential to activate. Daring as the pieces may be, they fail to captivate from start to finish and seem to have some unpolished ideas. As the years pass, we will see this potential gradually be actualized up until the departure of frontman Neal Morse, whose vocals on this record are really rough. I don't think Neal is too proud of this record anymore - he has done much better since then, though this was a solid starting point - especially considering the precocious lyrics. The lyrics here aren't awful, but they can be at times quite silly. You can decide whether you laugh at them because they are hilariously bad or just plain funny. Then, of course, you have the unprecedented barrage of foul words he spews on the FU segment of The Water. Frankly, that is a bit much. Dr. Dre doesn't even drop that many F-bombs in that span of time.

What we have here is merely a foundation. Good as it may be, the polished Spock's Beard will outdo this record. Don't feel like listening to this is a waste of time though, there is bound to be something you will get out of it.

Report this review (#164950)
Posted Tuesday, March 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
The Pessimist
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars One of my favourite albums from this band, it has a unique charm to it that none of their albums have yet to touch upon again. Sometimes I do wish that they would return to the style of their routes, as it is a unique one, not mainstream in any way, yet it is very melodic, humourous in places and a downright jem. Yes, arguably it has it's bad moments, but who cares? I surely don't, and those mediocre moments are absolutely nothing compared to the music this album has to offer. Now for a track by track, as this is a very deep album:

1. The Light - An excellent start, this still gets played at most of their concerts, and is dubbed as their best song by many fans. There is a very good reason for this: it is reminiscent of the earlier days, still holding a unique structure and top quality musicianship. It is their architypal prog song that should appeal to most classic-era fans. Not the incredible 5/4 intro section, the eerie Garden People section and the finale. Second best off the album - 9.5/10

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2. Go The Way You Go - Yes, here it is, the highlight of the album. This is one of my favourite tracks of all time by this underated band, and they have taken one leaf out of Gentle Giant's book with this song. Not in musical style to say the least, but in their approach to making music. They cram into 12 minutes what most bands would stretch into 20 minutes, keeping the listener interested throughout, and that's the magic of this incredible song. I cannot possibly break this down into sections as there are so many intricate twists, turns and changes in mood. Let us put it this way, you won't be disappointed. Masterpiece - 10/10

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3. The Water - The second epic of the album. A lot of people slate this album because of its unecessary swearing, but I'm a Tool fan, so couldn't care less TBH :P A remember hearing this song live at the Robin Hood 2 in Dudley last year, and I was blown away. It is almost perfect, but this is where the faults lie: first of all, it is too cheesy to listen to more than twice in one day. It's like overdosing on the Beach Boys! The bit I blame for this is the FU/I'm Sorry section. The surrounding areas are very good however. You should note actually that this song is Dave Meros's finest moment, the bass playing is fantastic - 9/10

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4. On The Edge - It's very strange from any band to finish with the shortest song on the album, but these guys have done it, and it doesn't drag the album down in any way. It is, like Go The Way, crammed full. Nothing much can be said about this album, apart from the incredible guitar work, bass playing and melodic structure. It fits the standards of the other 3 tracks very well indeed - 8.5/10

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Total Marks, 37/40

Yes, this is a masterpiece for me. It is almost perfect, and I really cannot see why people slate it so much. Spock would only repeat this sort of standard in 2 later albums: Kindness of Strangers and V. 5stars easily.

Report this review (#165892)
Posted Sunday, April 6, 2008 | Review Permalink
LiquidEternity
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This is a very good start to the band. I don't have much depth to add to what else has been said, but here goes with my opinions:

The Light - this track, while more than just a tad overrated, is nonetheless pretty consistent. A lot of the keyboard sounds are pretty dated to me (which seems to be the case only in the pre-Ryo stages of the Beard). But this song proved to the world that, yes, Spock's Beard could rock; yes, Spock's Beard could write cohesive epics; and yes, Spock's Beard has a great sense of humor. I can't think of any other band I've ever listened to who could pull of yelling, I AM THE CATFISH MAN! I CAN'T HEAR YOU! Pure gold, lyrically. It makes no sense, except maybe the bracketing from which the song got its name, but it's fun. And I think that's the general aim the Morses and their bandmates are taking here: Spock's Beard are going to be fun to listen to. The instrumentation is pretty fiery, the drums as always inspiring, and the vocals raw and quite different (I think) to later SB and Neal Morse solo work. His voice sounds different--thinner, lighter, raspier. It's not bad, but if you have only listened to, say, V before, Neal will sound completely different.

Go the Way You Go - I'll admit it. The first half of this track really drags for me. I love slow starters, and I love mellow songs, but I always catch myself staring at the timer, waiting for that magical moment to kick in at 6:11 or so. Alan here proves he's in possession of some amazing guitar chops. Once some of that musical wizardry plays out in the midsection of the song, the ending is much more fitting and interesting. Not a song I liked at all on my first listen, but I really do appreciate it now. Mostly.

The Water - My favorite song on the album, even though as far as epics go, it's not particularly cohesive. The title section carries a very strong Run Like Hell Pink Floyd vibe, at least for me, except it sounds completely fresh and not derivative. Really cool. And throughout the entire song, Neal is on fire. The man sings like he has nowhere else I've heard. What's more, there is a section full of some rather graphic language which to me, who before this album was mostly only familiar with Neal's solo Christian work, sounds absolutely ridiculous. The same voice that embodies Oh Lord, My God to me is now screaming, And I don't give a [&*!#] about anything, so [%*!#] you! It throws a very eerie, abnormal light on the whole part. Fans of Neal's Christian work need to be warned about this, because it will color everything you hear the man sing now.

Out on the Edge - I don't have a lot to say about this one. It's a fairly standard song, at least in my mind. More the direction of how Spock's Beard's shorter songs will sound. Fun and more cheerful than the last two. I don't skip it ever, but I never start with it, either.

All in all, a fine and worthy album. If you like Spock's Beard or Neal Morse or Transatlantic, I think it's worth checking out. They do get much better over the next five albums, though. At least in my opinion.

Report this review (#169213)
Posted Wednesday, April 30, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 4.5 stars. First of all a big thankyou to King By-Tor for pestering me into reviewing a SPOCKS BEARD album. He's not the only one on this site(you know who you are !) who is good at that. I thank him though because like with THE FLOWER KINGS I have put off too long reviewing this band who in the mid nineties really caused a buzz among prog fans all over the world."The Light" was the album that gave hope along with ANEKDOTEN, ANGLAGARD and others,that prog was on the way back. SPOCKS BEARD signed to Greg Walker's label "Syn-Phonic", and he promoted them by allowing them to play at his Prog-Fest 95 in Los Angeles that same year. So 1995 was a huge year for this band. Interesting that the late, great Kevin Gilbert who was a friend and fan of this band did the mastering of this record. Funny, but the band that I thought of the most when listening to this album was THE FLOWER KINGS. One thing I love about THE FLOWER KINGS is that they all can shoot the lights out with their playing. The bass, drums, guitar, keys you name it, these guys are pros of the highest order. And I can say the same about SPOCKS BEARD. The lead guitar by Alan Morse is killer. The bass is absolutely huge, monstrous from Dave Meros. Nick on drums has played with some amazing bands in his career and is incredible. Neal on piano and vocals needs no introduction or praise, he's one of a kind in my mind.

"The Light" is slow to get going as piano and vocals lead off but when it gets going it's fantastic. This is a 15 1/2 minute song with many twists and turns and repeated themes. The drums and bass are so good, and check out the ripping guitar 2 minutes in ! Vocals before 3 minutes. A calm with mellotron after 5 minutes. Nice. The piano is impressive after 9 minutes. Spanish sounding after 11 1/2 minutes. More aggressive guitar before 13 minutes.The lyrics are meaningful as well. "Go The Way You Go" is a 12 minute track. Check out the amazing mellotron floods early. I'm completely melted before a minute with the gorgeous soundscape. No words from me here. Nice chunky bass changes the mood as outbursts of sound play at a fast pace. Vocals 3 minutes in as it calms right down. More great bass 5 minutes in. The last half of the song instrumentally is just a joy.

"The Water" is a 23 minute epic. Beautiful piano melodies early before deep bass, drums, organ and guitar come in, then vocals arrive that remind me of THE BEATLES. Two minutes in all I can say is that I feel like i'm home. It gets a little jazzy. Guitar is outstanding and so is the bass that follows. A calm after 6 minutes with mellotron. Some guest female vocals in this one. Then we get to the controversial section where Morse drops the F-bomb 10 times during the sing-a-long chorus. Tee hee. Some vocal harmonies 11 1/2 minutes in along with an uplifting melody. Two minutes later the drumming and vocals remind me of FLOYD("The Wall"). It gets jazzy a minute later. It ends in a high and emotional way. "On The Edge" has such a cool intro. These guys are so good. The bass is very fat after a minute. Fantastic sound ! The guitar 4 1/2 minutes in is killer.

One of the reasons it took me so long to delve into this band and THE FLOWER KINGS was because of all the negative comments i've seen over the years. I put them off thinking neither band were very good. WRONG ! And as Morse says so eloquently earlier in this album (10 times in fact)...nevermind.

Report this review (#173100)
Posted Thursday, June 5, 2008 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The Light is the debut album from american symphonic prog rockers Spock´s Beard. I was introduced to Spock´s Beard via their fifth album V, but shortly afterwards I bought The Light ( and every other album by Spock´s Beard) as I was very excited about V. Spock´s Beard play retro seventies symphonic prog rock inspired by such groups as Yes, The Beatles, Genesis and especially Gentle Giant.

The Light consists of four songs. Three of them are over 10 minutes long and the last one called On the Edge is a more straight forward rocker which lasts for about 6 minutes. The album opens with the title track which is a very beautiful and structurally complex song. It´s a great song and a Spock´s Beard classic. Go The Way You Go is the next song and it´s a great melodic track as well. Not as good as The Light but enjoyable never the less. The Water is a 23 minute + epic track which is the best song here IMO. Truly symphonic prog rock heaven. This song reeks of class. On the Edge has never dazzled me much. It´s my least favorite song on The Light. The music is generally very melodic and memorable. There are lots of arranged instrumental sections but Neal Morse vocal lines are the focus of the music.

The musicianship is excellent. Frontman, keyboardist and main composer Neal Morse is an extraordinaire artist, but his sidemen brother Alan Morse on guitar, Dave Meros on bass and French Horn and Nick D'Virgilio on drums, percussion and vocals are also very accomplished musicians and all members bring something special to the sound.

The production isn´t as good as it would be on later albums, but the message comes across, so I guess it´s allright.

If you can see through the pretty obvious christian messages in the lyrics ( which I can´t stand) and Neal Morse sometimes too sensitive vocal approach ( Read: Cheesy) this is great music. The Light is one of the albums that helped re-ignite the american prog rock scene in the nineties which Spock´s Beard should be credited for. The Light isn´t my favorite Spock´s Beard album but there are plenty of quality music here to justify either a big 3 star rating or a small 4 star rating. I´ll go for a big 3 star rating. I know many people can´t stand Spock´s Beard either because they make retro prog rock or because of their obvious christian lyrical approach. For me it´s not a problem that Spock´s Beard is influenced by the great seventies prog rock bands but sometimes the christian approach does take it´s toll on me and destroys my listening pleasure. It´s very seldom though as the great music overshadows the problem most of the time. It´s like that on most Spock´s Beard albums for me.

Report this review (#174176)
Posted Tuesday, June 17, 2008 | Review Permalink
Chicapah
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars After being duly impressed with both "The Kindness of Strangers" and "V" I decided to venture back to the beginning of Spock's Beard's career. Sometimes backtracking to a band's starting point can be risky because more often than not you hear an understandably amateurish, embryonic version of what they would become years down the road. However, with "The Light" I found a group of musicians who were not only talented but studio savvy, stepping confidently into Progland with an album that suffers little from their lack of experience. In the liner notes of the 2004 reissue Neal Morse relates that, despite their high level of ability, they still had lousy luck in securing a recording contract. (Ya think?) I can just imagine a scene set in the early 90s in the Hollywood office of a major label. A know-it-all executive has just sampled their demo. He puts down his nasty cigar and looks them straight in the eyes: "So, what kind of music did you say this was? Prague rock? Sorry, fellas, we don't take Czechs here. Har, har, har! Seriously, though, I thought you dudes were from Culver City! Where's the grunge? I got news for you kids. No one wants to hear this convoluted crap! Come back when you've got a catchy hit single and a video with lotsa half nekkid women dancing around. THEN we'll talk."

Thank heaven they stuck to their guns and recorded this album on their own nickel, only aiming to please themselves. This is a wonderful debut. Some other reviewers complain that they sound like Kansas but I don't hear it. The only thing they have in common with that courageous band is A. They're Americans and B. They play symphonic prog. It's like saying Yes and Genesis sound alike because they're of the same genre and they're both from Britain. That lame argument just doesn't hold up under scrutiny. What these guys create is a unique brand of energetic, U.S.A.-styled rock containing traces of jazz, salsa, metal and California folk in an imaginative brand of progressive music. And, since we can count on one hand the number of State-side prog groups, a certain amount of respect should be granted them for defiantly swimming against the overwhelming tide of crass commerciality.

Neal relates that "The Light" was his first prog rock composition and, that being the case, it's no wonder that he's still one of the best at planting and harvesting in this particular realm of the music world. It's a very adventurous eight-segment piece that works well on multiple levels throughout its fifteen and a half minute run. After a brief, light piano intro "The Dream" explodes into a driving 5/4 jag from the ensemble that grabs your attention immediately. "One Man" follows and any notion that this is going to be some timid, new-age undertaking is dispelled by Alan Morse's rude but strangely gratifying electric guitar spasms. Lyric-wise it's a jumble of abstract images that seem to be presenting a portrait of society in general as if it were embodied in a single personality. "I am rock & roll/I am classical, country and soul/I am the nun and the flasher/I am the father, the son and the bastard," he sings. Next comes "Garden People" and it only serves as a short transition to the lively tempo of "Looking Straight Into The Light," where their admiration for their English prog predecessors is evident in its bouncy lilt. The movement ends with a trip into the wall-of-sound, cavernous dimension that I crave. "The Man in the Mountain" is a piano-based interlude where Morse delivers an emotional vocal, expressing a sadness that many of us have felt at one point or another. "I stand alone/I've been drowned/in a sea of loveless illusion," he cries. But before they allow things to get morose they slide into the spicy, humorous "Senor Velasco's Mystic Voodoo Love Dance," a Latin-styled song that showcases Neal's impressive Flamenco guitar playing. "The Return of the Horrible Catfish Man" snaps that festive mood right in half, though, with Morse shouting out a menacing vocal that'll make your hair stand on end. The whole number comes full circle with a return to "The Dream" where Neal conveys that the only thing he's trying to accomplish is to make music that can "stand up in the light." He, along with his bandmates, did.

"Go The Way You Go" starts off in a big, dynamic way and then segues into a smooth-running groove fueled by the great rhythm section of Dave Meros with his fat bass tones and Nick D'Virgilio with his clean but ever-punchy drum technique. These two are the unsung heroes of this whole album. This tune about searching for truth ("you can't know what you don't know") eventually drops down into a ballad mode for a while but they never let it overstay its welcome or get boring as they soon stoke it back up to a fiery rock beat with Alan blazing a swath with his hot guitar solo. (I don't recall him being this expressive and downright dangerous in his approach on other albums. It's like he's tiptoeing along the edge of losing control throughout and I kinda like it.) Neal tosses in a too-brief jazzy piano ride before they build up to a huge, satisfyingly grandiose finale. This tune is a fine example of Morse's uncanny genius for arranging that characterizes everything I've heard from him right up through his most recent solo album. His ability to seamlessly connect what should be conflicting musical ideas never ceases to amaze me. He is one of the all-time masters.

"The Water," a 23 minute extravaganza, is the epic centerpiece of the project and it's a doozy. A no- holds-barred statement of personal frustration and a maniac's rant against the human condition, it's as good as it comes. Neal's grand piano and Alan's cellos cruise along for the introduction until the group kicks in sporting a razor-sharp edge as the mighty Hammond organ steps to the forefront. Cascading vocal harmonies lead you to the scathing "When It All Goes To Hell" with its incredibly tight track supplied by Dave and Nick. The addition of a full chorale and Neal's tactful use of the Mellotron is a nice touch but it's Alan's tortured, deranged guitar lead that really twists your brain. On "A Thief in the Night" Morse's tone takes on an admirable Billy Joel-ish quality as he sings about how unfair life has been to him, how he's been callously abandoned by those he most trusted and how none of this is his fault as female vocalists wail in false sympathy behind him. All of this finally reaches the boiling point in a brutally honest, outraged outpouring of vicious venom on "FU" as Neal angrily screams at all within earshot that, as far as he's concerned, we can all take a phallic-shaped object and cram it up our personal orifice of choice. While some find this uncensored expression of pure hatred to be offensive, I find the use of this particular expletive to be most appropriate. It's not uttered gratuitously and it's absolutely necessary to the story. I admire the artistic integrity it took to leave it in because it makes a stark impact that gentler words wouldn't have. "I'm Sorry" follows right behind and its pitiful sentiment delivered in crisp, three-part CSN-like harmony is very effective. It's as if he thinks saying those two words makes everything okay. (I know people just like that.) Perched atop a pulsating bass line, the number reprises the initial "Water" melody before slipping into another slick, jazzy feel on "Runnin' the Race." If there's a dip in the momentum it's in the slow, bluesy aura of "Reach for the Sky." They break it all down to a lone piano and then gradually build to a crescendo complete with a soaring chorale and Neal's impassioned warblings about a "storm raging" in his soul. I think they were shooting for a spectacular gnashing of teeth effect here but it just doesn't pack the punch they hoped to land. Yet I won't criticize too harshly because this epic cut succeeds way more often than not and I consider it to be one of their finest moments.

After that almost anything would pale in comparison so the shorter "On The Edge," a life-in-the-fast- lane tune Neil wrote to be an encore in their stage show, works as well as any tune would. It's more of a straight-ahead, hard rock approach by the boys but it's nothing to look down your prog nose at, either. It has a heavy-rocking bass/guitar riff and features another tight-as-epoxy rhythm track that can't be beat. I especially like the deep synthesizer lines they employ on some of the connecting passages. Not bad.

The bonus track is a home demo of "The Light," interesting only in its display that this group had their parts nailed down pat before they even strolled through the studio doors. It shows the level of dedicated preparation on their behalf that led to this album being so professional sounding. My hat's off to them for doing it right.

As debut albums go this one's a blue-ribbon winner and an exemplary place to start for the Spock's Beard neophyte. As stated earlier, American prog bands are as rare as interviews with Bigfoot and what these guys had to fight against to even get "The Light" distributed would probably have made lesser groups throw up their collective hands in disgusted concession. Lucky for us they stubbornly persevered in pursuing their dream. 4.3 stars.

Report this review (#176113)
Posted Friday, July 4, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is such a strong debut.

''The Light'' spans about 15 minutes and it'll be a memorable 15 minutes at that. The harmonizing in it.The keyboard playing really stood out for me.It's something reminiscent of early Genesis. This is a good way to get to know the band.

''Go the Way You Go'' really reminds me of Styx.Its very poppy,but keeps a progressive edge still.You have the dramatic opening.The key of the intro changes countless times.But,then Neal Morse starts singing. which isn't really that progressive.Its the most poppiest moment in this whole album.

''The Water'' starts out with a piano then it shifts to keyboard very similar to Pink Floyd.When It Goes to Hell carries on the same Pink Floyd type fashion.Thief In The Night is actually really boring.F/U is very very brutal.It pops out of no where,it definitely is exciting though.I'm Sorry really ends the excitement of F/U.The Water(revisted) is a reprise of the beginning.Running The Race is very exciting.Reach for The Sky ends the song.Its a memorable ending.

''On The Edge'' is my favorite track.Its sung in in such power.Neal Morse's voice is stronger on this track than any other.And Alan Morse's guitar solo is very enjoyable.

Its a strong debut with a couple of weak points. So,I give it 4 stars.

Report this review (#178185)
Posted Friday, July 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
Queen By-Tor
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Forging new light for Prog

Okay, okay, okay. This album may not be loved by all, but it really was a necessary album. Spock's Beard's debut can easily be seen as one of the albums that re-lit the progressive torch at the dawn of the 90s, and would also be the first time the world heard from the (by now) esteemed composer Neal Morse. It's clear from the album that the band really wanted to make pure progressive music, and that's what they did - something not very common since the end of the 70s. The album contains only 4 songs, and only one of those falls bellow 12 minutes. This is a fairly threatening first listen for some, but the album has enough hooks and excellent parts to pull you in and submerge you into the world of the Beard for an hour and keep you there as a willing hostage.

What's incredible about this album is just how fast the band found their niche. While many bands will have debuts that can be called searching or raw, the Beard knew what they were going to do right off the start. Granted, it does have a bit of a different feel than later albums, this may be due to the fact that they only have one keyboard player on this album or that Neal Morse was still in a point of turmoil in his life, but in general there's no surprises between listening to this album and, say V. Not to say that all their material sounds the same, but their style was distinct right off the bat. A little bit of listener friendly melodies mixed with a heavy dosage of prog (if it were a drug we'd be on the verge of OD here), some hard rock elements and some excellent guitar work blended with strong synths from the Morse brothers. Dave Meros provides an excellent number of bass lines as usual and Nik is his frantic self on the skins.

We're treated right off the top with likely the finest song to ever be recorded by the band. The Light is a tour-de-force of modern prog, starting with a slow intro and blasting right into some heavy synths as the song kicks off. Some strange segments in near the end such as Senor Valasco's Mystic Voodoo Love Dance and The Return of The Horrible Catfish Man add some needed quirk to this composition and while some raise an eyebrow, these parts really do make the song with their abnormal melodies and off-beat charm.

Coming into the end we get another song which may never find it's match in the Beard catalog. On The Edge is a hard rocking, semi-short (6-minutes) and all around fun coda with a strong riff from Alan and some grumbling vocals (surprisingly) from Neal. The final scream of ''ON THE EDGE!!!'' is strong enough to resonate with the listener long after the final chords stop humming. Very well done - it's a shame they didn't do more songs like this (until much later anyways).

In the middle we have another two epic-lengthed tunes. First up is the uplifting Go The Way You Go, in it's typical Beard fashion - lots of guitar and synth interplay with uplifting lyrics, heavy and soft sections and some excellent solos from each member. Of course it's The Water which is going to gain the most attention with it's 23-minute long track listing. This is one of the few Beard songs to actually overtake 20-minutes (the others being The Healing Colors Of Sound and The Great Nothing) and like the others does so gracefully. This song also includes the infamous FU section in which Neal gets out all his angst, but quickly apologizes in the I'm Sorry section, along with some apologies in the remastered liner notes. Honestly Neal - it's okay! The people who go to Spock's Beard to hear some uplifting music will be more than happy to hear that even our muses have their moments away from the sun. Back to the section - the FU section is a surprisingly fun one since it is so heavy and cataclysmic. The beginning and end sections with the harmonized voices singing ''I-iii am the Wa-ter!'' also reach at the audience with a sort of malice which is, ironically, very enjoyable.

While the impact of this album is debatable by some it has to be said that at some point in collection prog you're going to have to listen to this album. It really is essential - 5 Lights out of 5 - a masterpiece of modern progressive music. Although if you're not one for the supposed ''retro prog'' movement this one may not be for you. Although for everyone else this is as recommended as any album can be!

Report this review (#178741)
Posted Sunday, August 3, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Beard's debut album is a difficult one to rate, and I think most of this is due to the fact that its merit is so dependent on its context. I agree with the last reviewer who argued that THE LIGHT may have helped to revitalize the progressive rock scene into the 90's. Check your prog catalogue. You'll probably notice a significant gap of quality prog throughout the hair metal 80's. Yes released their last good album in 77. Genesis fell off the table in the same year. This left symphonic proggers clinging to their Rush releases in that dark but glittery period to maintain a sense of order in their universes. But then came the Beard with THE LIGHT in 95: a loud and unrestrained response to the stagnant prog scene; a reminder that prog was not dead but had only forgotten what it had set out to do.

And THE LIGHT makes no qualms about what it sets out to do. And that is restore the complexities (and often excesses) of the giants of the 70's while introducing a modern twist that would ensure the new sound's relevance in a different time and place. Some may argue that Dream Theater had already paved the way for 90's prog with their IMAGES AND WORDS masterpiece in 92, but that release could not have done it alone. Like Spock's Beard, Dream Theater was a response to its particular context: the muddy drones of early 90's grunge needed its counterpart, and Dream Theater came at just the right time with their instrumental virtuosity, high-pitched wailings and piercing guitar and keyboard solos. In this way, Dream Theater may have set the stage for the prog renaissance, but in many ways Dream Theater was an untameable circus that needed a more grounded counterpart. The Beard would provide it.

With THE LIGHT, Spock's Beard steps onto the stage Dream Theater forged and shows that prog can be quirky and fun while still being grounded in accessible melody. This is the neo-retroism that the Beard patents with their debut. It is a nod to the compositional structuralism of 70's prog while at the same time advancing something else entirely: THE LIGHT agrees with the 70's sentiment that emotions need to be earned to be deserved, but it offers that emotions need not be few and far between and that indeed they may be ever-present through accessible melody and compositional coherence. In this way THE LIGHT rejects the 70's notions that musical emotions need be intensely subtle and that each lesser compositional section need be subordinated (even sacrificed) for the greater whole. THE LIGHT appreciates the acquired beauty of Hackett's Firth of Fifth solo in Genesis' SELLING ENGLAND BY THE POUND, but it questions whether the effect needed to be earned by the delicate flute motif followed by blazing synths that finally fall into the wonderful solo, and it wonders whether the beauty need be acquired in the first place. THE LIGHT asks whether the softer melodies of Yes' CLOSE TO THE EDGE are only made relevant by the funky or even chaotic developments that precede them.

In this way, THE LIGHT looks back to these 70's influences while offering an alternative to their characteristic elusiveness. It shows in the title track opener that each musical section can be elevated in its own right while still contributing to a greater whole, and it demonstrates with Go the Way You Go that a prog song can be coherently melodic while still offering quirky breaks and smirk-inducing transitions. In short, THE LIGHT proves that great prog music should not be afraid of putting melody on the front stage. In fact, it should do everything in its power to make sure that it does. And while THE LIGHT does not always succeed in these efforts, its fearlessness and unashamed enthusiasm make it one of the more interesting releases from a mainstream prog act of the past 15 years.

Report this review (#178874)
Posted Tuesday, August 5, 2008 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars For sure, the music represented in this album is truly symphonic. For sure, the musicians are skilled. For sure, production is fine. For sure, they weren't a lot of US bands playing this type of music in the mid- nineties.

BUT, like some other fellow countrymen, Spock's Beard do sound too much to "Yes". I have heard these guitar breaks or piano interlude so many times already. And vocals sound partially too much "Schizoid" oriented (The Light).

I have no major problem while listening to this debut album, but frankly I can't find a lot of novelty in here. "The Light" is probably the best song featured on this album. Some fifteen minutes of pleasant, yet predictable music.

With these few lines as an introduction, I guess that no one will be surprised that my opinion is not as laudatory as the majority of my (many) predecessors. If you are keen to listen to some sub-par ''Yes'' music, this might be a great experience. But I prefer the original model, sorry.

In the genre, TFK is more melodic (vocals) and more poignant (guitar work). A song as "Go The Way You Go" being so childish and far too much on the popish end to me. Only the instrumental intro saves it somehow (but the whole clocks at over twelve minutes). At mid-time, a great "Yes" parody can be heard again. Is this really necessary? I suppose that you know my answer.Fortunately, a fine final guitar solo comes at the rescue.

And I'm afraid that it is not the epic "The Water" which is going to propel this album into the masterpiece ones. Somewhat jazzy, far too long, not convincing (me at least): fine parts are scarce and again, only the finale is splendid. But that's rather short to fill a twenty-three minutes song.

Crafted music, long compositions, lack of personality, excellent musicianship, average song writing and déjŕ vu feeling are a difficult mix to handle. The music ranges from average to good (five out of ten). I will upgrade it to three stars. No sight of a masterpiece IMHHO.

Report this review (#181594)
Posted Tuesday, September 2, 2008 | Review Permalink
J-Man
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Here it is... where Spock's Beard began, and let me tell you, they got off to a good start. The album starts out with the epic The Light (and I saw live at 3rp '08 and it awesome!!!). The song is a masterpeice, a great way to kick off an album. The skill of Neal Morse particulary shines here, but the rest of the musicians are great too. Next comes the 12-minute masterpeice Go The Way You Go. The song has Gentle Giant influences and has a great message and melody. Next comes The Water, which is a bit of a problem. The melody and songwriting is not Neal's best, but is still pretty good. However, the FU section is completely unneeded. I realize that it goes with the story of the song, but there had to be other ways to do that section than dropping the f bomb 25 times. Concluding the album is On the Edge, which is really kind of a throwaway. It's just mediocre stuff that was needed to complete the album. The Light and Go the Way You Go are great songs, but the rest of the album is just okay. Not a perfect example of Spock's best work, and it shouldn't be the first album you buy from them, but for people who already like Neal Morse's work, this is a must own.
Report this review (#190196)
Posted Saturday, November 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
MovingPictures07
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars A very disjointed debut where some promise of potential manages to shine through occasionally in the mass wreckage. The range of bad and good material on this album is extremely radical.

1. The Light- The musicianship is good, but this song could have been so much better with a more coherent structure. Some parts are really good (like the main guitar riff at 5:00 or so), but they are sporadically illustrated throughout many other parts that just. aren't. The first 4 minutes are not that good, and the disjointed feel really kills the impact of this song. 4/10

2. Go the Way You Go- Here we go! This is a masterpiece composition from Morse and the crew. The instrumentation is great and the structure is MUCH better than the previous song. This is so enjoyable and is fun to sing too. Catchy, complex, always interesting piece of modern Symphonic Prog. Flawless. 10+/10

3. The Water- Uh oh. Okay, many good ideas here, but this is overall a disaster. This is the definition of disjointed. Many of the themes are not expanded upon well and the whole song simply does not connect well. Man, this one was disappointing. The good instrumentation and some interesting parts scattered throughout make it better than an absolute failure. It still is one of their worst compositions ever. 2/10

4. On the Edge- An average closer that doesn't excite me near as much as I know they are capable of. Nonetheless, this is easily the 2nd best song on the album and the instrumentation is fantastic (the singing is good too). The keyboards are of note. It definitely has its flaws in form, but overall it's a pretty decent composition by the Beard. It is still WAY better than the Water. 7/10

Okay. This has to be one of the most uneven albums I've ever heard, if not the most. They had better compositions and albums to come, fortunately.

I cannot rate this any lower than 3 stars because of Go the Way You Go, so that is what it's getting. Too bad there's no version of this album without the Water and with a revised version of the Light. Still, this messy debut shows promise.

Report this review (#192217)
Posted Sunday, December 7, 2008 | Review Permalink
Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars The music on Spock's Beard's debut is strong overall, but nowhere near what they will achieve as they mature together as musicians. Like many great progressive rock bands, this first album merely intimates what greatness will follow. Still, the first two tracks, which are as lengthy as they are enjoyable, make this album well worth having.

"The Light" Beginning with piano and Neal Morse's clear vocals, Spock's Beard's debut soon gives way to their trademark sound, which consists of Dave Meros's punchy bass underneath layers of wild keyboards. The guitars are gritty throughout the introduction. Neal Morse uses granular distortion on his voice, similar to what will be applied on his vocals in "The Water." The song evolves through several segments, giving us a rough idea of what Spock's Beard will sound like on later albums. Sometimes the segments flow together well, and sometimes they don't, but overall the piece is enjoyable. Some parts are a bit wacky (like the "so they had a party" bit or the singing with a bad Mexican accent that follows), which occasionally makes it hard to take them seriously, but even on later releases, which are much stronger, they retain this bit of silliness, refining it so that it's no longer laughable (like on parts of "The Great Nothing" from V). There's a lot of Mellotron, organ and electric guitar throughout, and the piece as a whole shows a great deal of energy. I absolutely love the way the soft piano that begins and ends the piece, and how the lyrics change slightly the second time. For some reason, I cannot help but interpret them through the lens of Neal Morse's later conversion to Christianity.

"Go the Way You Go" The finest track of the album, "Go the Way You Go" opens up with a loud descending riff, Mellotron, and some growling bass. A second main theme plays, which is one of the best parts of the song, just before a jovial little section that gives way to heavier section. Three minutes in, the music ceases, and Morse comes in, singing over a single acoustic guitar. He has a pleasing voice, even if it one could readily accuse him of lacking an original sound. The vocal harmonies are exceptional, however, as is the music throughout. At one point, there's a guitar part that leads into a completely different section, which includes an audience applauding (like Rush used on "The Spirit of Radio"). After this, Dave Meros demonstrates just what kind of capable bassist he is, as Neal Morse shows off his skills on the piano. Some variations on the introduction bring the song back to the vocal section, which is sung over full instrumentation. The final moments consist of the second main theme providing the background music for some rather good guitar work.

"The Water" Quite frankly this is the weirdest song on the album. The cello and the piano are good at first, but soon give way to raucous music similar to what came before, only it's crazier. The intermittent vocals are laden with effects that sometimes just don't sound right. During the second part, the band employs some Pink Floyd-like feminine backup vocalists, perhaps in an attempt to add to what sounds like a band attempting Pink Floyd. The flashing string sections aren't fooling anyone, however. Mellotron takes the listener through the next section, which carries on the pseudo-Pink Floyd sound, especially with the female vocalists, but the rest of the music sounds so melodramatic it's goofy. The next section is the worst, and not because of the language of the section- it just lacks any artistry whatsoever. It's honky-tonk piano and Neal Morse trying to be mellow-dramatic. Throwing around profanities could be effective, but not here. It sounds ridiculous. "Everyone sounds so pathetic," you say Neal? No, just you here. Also, the way the craziness moves into the apology is also musically absurd, but might have a stake in being conceptually correct, since an apology can happen so soon after a terrible fight. What comes after is more like a song from Alabama. The pieces are stop-start, and don't really flow together like good progressive rock should. What's most unfortunate is that the seemingly strongest jab into the belly of progressive rock is just a collection of unrelated pieces that range from vulgar and insipid to just insipid. The piano section doesn't really flow into the next section well at all. The last part is enjoyable, but seems to bear no relation on anything that came before it.

"On the Edge" With piano and Mellotron, the opening few notes sound like "The Carpet Crawlers," but quickly do not. Soon an electric guitar comes in, as do Morse's vocals, crazy guitar work, and innovative bass playing from Meros. Morse's voice goes from one speaker to the other, then to the middle. Overall, the music isn't bad- it's a step ahead over the previous track, but is lackluster really, save for some great bass. The keyboard solo is top notch, as it runs right into the guitar solo. Better progressive rock songs have been heard.

Report this review (#192750)
Posted Friday, December 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
Sinusoid
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars I'm afraid this one won't stand up, at least for me.

It sounds to me that Spock's Beard had a ton of ambition going into making this record. But ambition alone a great record does not make, and THE LIGHT might be the prime example of that.

Spock's Beard sound relatively inexperienced here. And as the fans get their tomatoes ready, let me explain what I mean; if we use the big epic ''The Water'' as an example, it suffers from several pitfalls. While it looks like a multipart epic, I see it as nothing more than seven different ideas that have nothing to do with each other smooshed together by an obscure lyrical theme that I'll never be able to grasp. It jumps from marching piano to a Yes-like thing to boring padding to screaming rock to acoustic rock to subpar jazz fusion to ''The Great Gig in the Sky'' in its 23 minutes. Having a broad range of influences is fine, but I don't like eighty-one different styles all played in cliche mannerisms.

The pieces as a whole can get small lift-off from something I like, but get grounded by something that sounds ''out of place''. The title track jumps too many styles way too quickly and come and go in a manner which leaves me confused. There are even a few sections in songs like ''FU/I'm Sorry'' and the ''Senor Valasco'' thing that just don't serve any kind of purpose at all, and I'm readily confused as to why they exist. I find ''Go the Way You Go'' avoids the previous pitfalls I've already describe, but I find the ending to be so expected that I hate it, not to mention the whole piece sounds like Kansas on a creative dry spell with tinges of live Rush.

I think KINDNESS OF STRANGERS represents a Spock's Beard that is a bit more mature and more restrained. THE LIGHT sounds like Spock's Beard wanting to do too much to appease prog fans. This version of Spock's Beard doesn't work for me as the epics do nothing more than leave question marks over my head.

Report this review (#246109)
Posted Saturday, October 24, 2009 | Review Permalink
Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
2 stars I still don't understand how this early Spock's Beard line-up managed to make an album that starts off so well but eventually fails so miserably.

Although the sound-quality of The Light leaves much to be desired of it can be overcome as long as there are enough interesting compositions to to balance things out. It really starts off on a promising note with the wonderful album-titled track. I really love this performance from the begining to the very end and can listen to it non-stop. The whole performance of this piece feels so well balanced and there is just no weak spots to even talk about.

This is unfortunately the only great instance that this album offers its audience since the rest of the release doesn't even come close to the first excellent 15 minutes. Go The Way You Go and On The Edge feel like chewing gum and once the tracks end you basically spit them out and forget they even existed. This is something that unluckily can't be said about the 23 minute multi-suite simply titled The Water. This composition is probably one of the worst long composition that I've ever heard. It's long, boring and extremely pretentious. I seriously can't think of one good thing to say about it and instead just have to ask Neal Morse how he managed to go for the excellent album title-track to this monstrous disaster.

Luckily the band's sound would improve over the next few releases until the band would finally perfect and master the long track format on their fifth album simply titled V. The Light will remain a novelty record for the fans of Spock's Beard and Neal Morse who are interested in hearing how much the two have actually developed over the years.

***** star songs: The Light (15:33)

*** star songs: Go The Way You Go (12:03) On The Edge (6:11)

** star songs: The Water (23:14)

Total Rating: 3,14

Report this review (#254390)
Posted Saturday, December 5, 2009 | Review Permalink
fuxi
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Boy, how I wish I'd known about this album when it came out! In 1995, when it appeared, I'd been enjoying progressive rock for twenty years (I particularly liked symphonic prog, Canterbury Scene and jazz-rock), so I spent most of the 1980s/1990s throwing up my hands in despair at the sorry state of the genre. I found myself clutching at straws: CREST OF A KNAVE was one of them (the only noteworthy Jethro Tull album to emerge in the period I'm referring to) but why, oh why weren't there any younger bands which tried to emulate the ambition, the energy, the colourful variety of classic prog?

If I'd discovered THE LIGHT when it was released, I'm sure I would have been delighted, since Spock's Beard were doing something revolutionary, which myriads of bands have tried to repeat in the years since (The Tangent, Beardfish and Karmakanic are just a few that spring to mind): create lively and varied 15+ minute "epics" in the styles of Yes and Genesis, full of sudden tempo changes, rumbustious guitar solos and pseudo-orchestral climaxes. (At least that was the ideal.) Why, Dave Meros's Squire-inspired bass playing alone would have had me in ecstasy.

As it turned out, I actually bought my first Spock's Beard album early in the new millennium, and its name was "V". I was well pleased with it, but meanwhile I just can't call THE LIGHT a genuine masterpiece. The title track is a revelation, it's true, but after that, whenever I play this album, I soon get fed up with Neal Morse's hectoring moods, whether he's dishing up existential doubt or cursing the universe in his best Lennonesque voice, his Springsteenian voice or whatever... To make things worse, the inner sleeve picture of him lying naked in his bathtub totally grosses me out. One of the main problems with the early Beard was that Morse never had anything remarkable to say. Nor did he devise interesting ways of saying it.

But as a historical document, a token of symphonic prog's rebirth, THE LIGHT has its importance.

Report this review (#258774)
Posted Friday, January 1, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Spock's Beard enters the scene with a progressive proposal to have a modern sound with one foot in the gold standard of style, and in the future please fans of Dream Theater and related products, consider a median band, but if we can bring all of their albums can be drawn 2 "the best of" this is perhaps the best album of the group. The first track, which names the disc comes with a piano intro that will pursue any career of his singer in its early solo synth mixed with the complex technical drummer Nick, touches of mellotron and a loud music from start to finish. The second track follows the mellotron with suspense as it enters the calm of the piano and feel and we're listening to a soundtrack, acoustic guitar, touches of PLA (see the body) and an entry in the jazz piano requires the ability of the whole band. The third full eplore beautiful piano lines with suspense and influence of classical music as well as heavy bodies, another highlight is the sound of the bass. Finally, "On The Edge" manages to pack a powerful bass, swing and of course, elements of Neo-prog and Dream Theater (nothing to take its beauty). In my opinion, the departure of Neal Morse was best for vocal group and did not affect either the instrumentality, but it is recognized that any album by Neal Morse (apart from the "Worship")beats any album of the group. 4 stars, beautiful debut.
Report this review (#260270)
Posted Sunday, January 10, 2010 | Review Permalink
The Quiet One
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars New Wave of Symphonic Prog sees the Light in the 90's!

Back in the 70's and 60's, a debut album generally meant a bunch of pretty amateurs not knowing what direction to go thus either experimenting a lot or playing plain simple music, though it was only a matter of time until these amateurs would get proficient and write quality music. In the 90's however this changed for the Progressive Rock scene with bands like The Flower Kings, Anglagard, Echolyn and Anektoden, to name but a few, right from the beginning they sounded like proffessional Prog bands with clearly top-notch musicians and knowing well how to compose. Well, Spock's Beard is no exception with their debut entitled The Light.

Already with their debut Spock's Beard shows us their well-known style of Prog which is a mix of straight- forward 70's(esque) Symphonic Prog plus some ocassional jazzy or agressive or even light-hearted bits. However, unlike the band's and Neal's later known classics, this fortunately doesn't have the samey epic song-writing from Neal Morse which at first sounds incredible but after listening to it in another 5 epic suites makes you wanna seek for copyright infringements in Neal's own catalogue!

Anyways back to The Light. Obviously it's not flawless, that's pretty hard to find in a debut, but still the writing and musicianship sounds very professional and mature, specially on the title track and Go the Way You Go; both are one of Spock's Beard finest compositions, repleted with mellotron, piano, synths and organ played solely by Neal as well as full-filled with catchy melodies with Neal's up-lifting attitude. Also the various twists and turns ala classic Symphonic Prog are to be expected.

Then when it comes to the bigger epic, The Water, this one clearly shows that it's a debut that we're talking about in which the band tends to experiment and adventure a bit further than it should, so do expect some flaws in it, yet most of it is pretty brilliant full of Squire-esque bass, pretty agressive parts with Neal shouting ''so [%*!#] you!'', haha, so yeah it's still pretty awesome.

Finally the last track, On the Edge is a very concise ''short'' Symphonic Prog song which is by no means filler: it makes up a very up-lifting ending to this splendid album.

Like a stated in the introductory paragraph, these debuts from these relatively ''new'' Prog bands are really incredible from almost any point of view, and The Light to me, besides being one of Spock's Beard finest, is probably one of the best debuts from that bunch.

5 stars: A masterpiece by Spock's Beard which I recommend to anyone who is seeking for brilliant modern Symphonic Prog and still hasn't checked Spock's Beard neither their 'relatives', The Flower Kings, Karmakanic, Echolyn, IQ, The Tangent, Transatlantic and all of that kind.

Report this review (#260297)
Posted Monday, January 11, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Ok, this is going to seem quite biased because these guys are like my favourite band on the planet, but I will tell you why I believe them to be so magical.

This band just are the best band on the world, and act very therapeautically to me.

Any time I'm in a bad mood or annoyed, I'll just put on a Spock's Beard song (the longer the better in my opinion), and for some reason, their accupuncture instrumental stabs jab in to my psyche and just make me better.

This is also one of the bands that if I'm ever walking listening to one of their songs, I'll play it again, because it was so good (very rarely do I do that).

This being their first is really an achievement, because I believe it to be the greatest debut album ever made and maybe one of the best albums ever made.

This album is quite different to their others, in that it is quite raw and has a very raw and quite hard sound, making it even more enjoyable.

These guys alot of criticism because they have a very proggy sound, alot like Genesis, but I disagree, they have one of the uniquest sounds I have ever heard.

I also love the cover artwork. It just looks really weird.

I have also decided to give each song a score, because my brother does the same in his reviews, and it works really well (FarBeyondProg is his user name, check em out, God I'm such a pimp).

1. The Light - One of the greatest prog rock songs ever made. The piano intro is one of my favoruite things to play on the...em...piano. Amazing instrumental work with a wide range of influences (the flameco on Senior Valseco, the pure popiness of the vocal harmonies). I also can sing this song word for word. Oh yea, the catfish parts are very mental, but soooo good. 10/10

2. Go The Way You Go - Love the intro. The instrumental work in this song really is phenomanal. Amazing vocals present from the whole band. This song is quite underlooked in my opinion. 10/10

3. The Water - The epic. Yes this song is very epic. The amazing organ riffs that would have Keith Emerson eating his...em...keyboard. Yes, phenomenal song. The FU section is amazing and suprisingly angry. The first time I heard this song was when I was hoovering, and I was shocked but amazed. This song drags on a wee bit, but meh, it is classic. 9/10

4. On The Edge - An amazing nice and catchy way to end the album. Amazing chorus and just overall a great way to end the album. 9/10

CONCLUSION: If you don't have this album, then I have only one question...Why? You are missing out on one of the greatest albums ever made, buy it now, and then buy a second one, you know, because you should.

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Posted Sunday, June 6, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars I think this is a phenomenal modern prog album. What I like most about the album is its energy. The whole time it seems to say "Yeah we're a modern band making prog rock. We're gonna sing about catfish men and write 20 min. songs. F**** you." The album is complex and creative enough to compliment humor and energy involved, but it never over steps its bounds. Although made mostly of epics, the album doesn't feel like it wants to be mysterious or pretentious at all. As has been said, there are many similarities between Spock's Beard and Gentle Giant in style and music. While Neal may not have an incredible vocal range, the passion and the characters he develops with his singing work very well. This is my first album from Spock's Beard (though I am a Morse and Transatlantic fan), and I found it an excellent introduction to their music.

Rating: 9/10

Report this review (#295189)
Posted Wednesday, August 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars DEBUT ALBUM OF SPOCK'S BEARD IS ONE OF THE BEST IN RECENT TIMES

This has been one of my favorite bands of progressive rock of the past times.Led by creative genius Neal Morse, its retro-prog (but modern) can be easily identified in his debut album, the inimitable "The Light. "

The title track, which opens the album, is definitely one of my favorites not only of the band, as all times.Since the first I heard this song on the dvd "Testimony Live Neal Morse, she entered the my heart.

"Go the way to go" was the first track I heard the album, and is still large, especially in its final moments.

"The water" is the big problem for mim.Năo me wrong, it is a good song, but does not have the force of "The Light" is very irregularly-section of the f ** k you is terrible (I think Neal Morse, now a converted Christian, should be ashamed of this).

And "On the edge" is the album's pop song.I not pay much attention to it, unfortunately.

Despite the last two tracks do not have the potential of the first, this is a great album, worthy of 4 stars.

Report this review (#356359)
Posted Saturday, December 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Prog Specialist
2 stars Some days ago a guy from my Parish knocked the door to ask for used books, clothes and albums for the poor kids (I believe they use the clothes and sell the rest), so decided to help and give them like 100 original CD's that I don't listen or bought God knows why, albums that only use space I need in the house.

Among the CD's I took from the box were all the ones by SPOCK'S BEARD, a band that not being bad, has never caught my attention, but before giving them, decided to try again, so started with "The Light".

The album begins with the self titled song, a track that is an example of what I call light Prog, because despite pomp and brilliance of some sections it seems too derivative and mainstream oriented. Yes, the performance is good, but the music says nothing to me, specially the annoying vocals

"Go the Way on You" starts promising, with elaborate and contradictory passages, the soft melodic sound of the previous track are dissonant and interesting, with Dave Mero's playing a killed bass, but as soon as Morse enters, the song looses all this achievements to turn into some sort of dull Neo Prog (Not that Neo Prog is dull, there's a lot of exiting music in this genre, but there's also dull Neo as in this case), with Alan Morse trying without success to demonstrate his skills in the guitar and Neal playing a decent but average keyboard.

"The Water" is a long song (for me the term epic implies more than just length) and starts exiting with an excellent demonstration of Neal Morse's keys and Nick D'Virgilio drums, but soon is clear the song lacks of coherence, with a terrible guitar performance that simply destroys the good initial impression, as usual happens with SPOCK'S BEARD, I can't find head or feet and bores me to the point that I normally press the skip button.

If everything was boring and unimpressive up to this point, with "On the Edge" things got even worst, the vocals are specially annoying and the music turns from average to simply bad, hardly heard a song so bad from a band so well considerate by Progheads.

The album ends (at last) with "The Light (Home Demo)" and as I imagined, even less impressive than the final version except for the good acoustic guitar section.

Still haven't decided what to do with the album, probably the people from the Parish won't be able to get money for it, so if some friend wants to buy it from me, I'll sell it without remorse and give the money for charity.

Even when "The Light" is in my opinion one of the worst albums I ever heard, will go with 2 stars instead of 1, being that most of the band members are good musicians, and this is worth at least an extra star.

Report this review (#418345)
Posted Saturday, March 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
Andy Webb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Retired Admin
4 stars All of this in one man

With debut albums, it seems to always be a hit or miss success. Sadly, many of the great bands in prog history have sadly mediocre debut albums. Whether it is poor compositions, amateur instrumentation, or the real killer, poor production quality, too many debuts go down in history as rather poor. Occasionally, however, some bands are able to present a fantastic introduction to their music. Spock's Beard, one of the early bands in the modern symphonic movement, can easily lay claim to this honor. The Light contains four tracks (five in the re-issue) of pure prog greatness, with countless dynamics and quickly shifting parts and movements of the two lengthy epics. Even early on, Spock's Beard is able to display their fantastic sound, their promising potential, and their obvious destiny of going down as one of the modern greats.

The Light opens the album with a mellow (and a bit cheesy-sounding) piano/vocal piece, titled "The Dream," with some really nice atmospheres made by Morse's keyboard work, as well as some great melodies. The song quickly shifts into "One Man," a rocking symphonic prog masterpiece, with some fantastic harmonies between each of the instruments and some extremely memorable lines of vocal melody, lyrics, and instrumental grace. The eerie "Garden People" comes next, with some mellow melodic passages transitioning in and out of rocking sections, making for another fantastic movement of this track. "Looking Straight Into the Light" is the final movement of the song, which is comprised of various sections. The instrumental section of this part is really the best feature of the whole song, with some sublime pieces of music given by these guys. Within thee is a much more mellow passage, as well as some nice transitions into rocking section before transitioning into "Seńor Valasco's Mystic Voodoo Love Dance," a fantastic new dynamic for the band, bringing some Latin fusion into the music, as well as some really great lyrics. The song closes with "The Return of the Horrible Catfish Man" and a reprise of "The Dream," which ties up this stupendous track fantastically. Overall, this debut track of this debut album is spectacular. It really shows the whole sound of Spock's Beard in one song, making it a beautiful addition to this album.

Go The Way You Go continues the theme of great dynamic symphonic prog music, with some really cool riffing and harmonies between the parts even in the heavy intro. The song takes no trouble in swiftly transitioning into a jovial melodic piece, before then again transitioning into a heavy distorted amalgam of incredible prog rock. Once the vocal melodies start, you can see how obviously diverse this music truly is. The song shows its true self as an overall rather happy song, with some really pleasant vocals and sincere instrumentation. The track, although not as movement-centric as The Light still contains numerous themes to contend with, as well as some really fantastic moments. Overall, the track contributes another tasty 12 minutes to this album, and continues to show the band's amazing compositional prowess.

The Water is the massive 23-minuter of the album. Opening with some really great contrast between Morse's mellow piano work and More's crunching guitar riffs, it soon transitions into a swiftly rocking symphonic prog masterpiece. Again split into multiple movements, the song contains countless theme changes and incredible progressive dynamics and transitions. With howling guitar solos and growling rhythmic backings, the song has some of the album's better instrumental moments, as well as some rather interesting lyrics, including the rather expletive-riddled movement "F**k You" and the odd (and somewhat detractingly cheesy) comeback of "I'm Sorry." Overall, however, the song is easily my favorite on the album. It is filled with some of the better Beard moments, although moments on V and other albums still trump it, it is certainly quite the achievement to have so many memorable moments even on the debut album. In the end, the track is spectacular, and an obvious necessity in any Beard collection.

After the three spectacular tracks preceding this track, On the Edge seems almost arbitrary to be included. A scant six minutes in comparison to the rest of the album, the band is still to shove another 6 minutes of incredible music into this album. A suitable closer for the album, the lyrics could easily symbolize the risks the band took in producing a debut prog album all by themselves with no help by a label in an attempt to succeed in a music business that seemed to be dying ? and yet they succeeded. Musically, the song contains some really fantastic moments, riffs, and other tidbits, making a fourth incredible track on this album?and closing the album with a motivating and uplifting feel.

ALBUM OVERALL: For a debut, this album is near perfection. There still remain the very minor flaws of amateur production, some slightly cheesy synth voices, and other extremely minor defects to this album, but overall this album is damn good. The four compositions are incredible, showing the band's new twist on the symphonic sound and their ambitious foray into the world of progressive music. Spock's Beard is now a well-established powerhouse in the world of prog, and this album no doubt helped this status album. 4+ stars.

Report this review (#434616)
Posted Saturday, April 16, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars I imagine this was quite a joy when it first came out. The 90's Prog revival was just getting started, and no one had heard the patented Neal Morse Prog formula yet. So I could see how this was loved by starving proggers at the time.

For myself, my first encounter with this was probably around 1999 or so, and while I liked it, it never really made much of an impact on me.

The first track is one of their best songs ever, and really lays out the Neal Morse formula quite well. It has all the Neal trademarks; the symphonic crescendos, the catchy choruses, the hard rockin' odd time signature instrumental sections, the pseudo flamenco section, and the soft piano balladry. All in one tight 15 minute piece. Sure, it's not as cohesive as some later pieces, but it sure does move along nicely. Anyway, the best song on the album for sure.

Second track, Go The Way You Go, is similar in construction and features some quite good instrumental sections. Though the melodies are not as strong as the first track, this one still appeals to me, though not as much as the title track.

Third track, The Water, is a disjointed affair that just never really seems to get going. While it promises to be the most "epic" song, at over 23 minutes, it just seems like a bunch of separate, and not all particularly good, pieces strung together. I happen to like the FU part, especially the transition into the So Sorry section. The music of these two is the most interesting I think, aside from the main theme (that we only hear twice in the whole 23 minutes). All in all, a failed attempt at an Epic, with some truly tedious sections.

Final track, Out On The Edge, seems underdeveloped with poor lyrics and seems to go nowhere. The shortest song, and not awful, but really not a particularly good track. My copy finishes with the acoustic improv from a live rendition of The Doorway from the previous album. Not bad, but seems out of place without the surrounding song and not really worth adding to the album.

So basically, an album that was probably stunning at the time of it's release, but now just seems a bit cliche in retrospect. Still, a couple good track make it worth a listen. A solid 3 stars.

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Posted Friday, May 6, 2011 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars Spock's Beard's debut album remains one of the best by the band before Neal Morse was ordered by his jealous savior to leave the band.

The album begins softly, sounding much like an early Genesis album. The band soon joins in fully, and the album proves to be a roller coaster ride of different prog styles. The Beard pays homage to some of the classic great bands, especially Genesis and Yes, but there are some Pink Floyd references as well. Most of the time this group demonstrates it's own original style as well. Morse's vocals, often falling somewhere between John Lennon and Tom Petty, is usually the weakest point on a Spock's Beard album, but here he sings so forcefully that he rarely pulls the music down.

The best songs are the two epics, The Light and The Water. On these, Morse and company seamlessly blend different styles of music into some great prog classics. The musicianship by all four members (Ryo Okumoto had not joined the group at this point) is superb, and keeps these pieces exciting from start to finish.

The other two pieces are more Genesis styled than anything else, although Go The Way You Go veers away from this at times. On The Edge is the weakest track, sounding like a mixture of ideas borrowed from The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway.

A fine start for a modern giant of prog.

Report this review (#448518)
Posted Monday, May 16, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Not only is "The Light" one of Spock's Beard's Greatest Albums, but also one of the best CD's from the 90's for progressive rock. Unfortunately, I can't rate this album any higher than 4 though, Spock's Beard's albums have never been perfect, there is always atleast one flaw in all there albums unfortunately, I think "V," was the closest, they ever got to perfection, But I find something in all there albums that make the flaws barely noticable, which is something great about them.

1. The Light, 10/10 There is a reason why they play this song at almost all their shows, this song is just stacked with breathtaking moments, that will stop anything your doing, and drag your attention to the song. One time I put this song while eating my lunch, and it was a 20 minute lunch, because I was so drawn to the song, some people have stated that the song suffers with disconnected sections, and incoherence, and I will have to agree, but the song is so enjoyable, that you really don't care in the end. This was the first song I heard from the Beard, and Will remain in my heart, and will live on to be one of their greatest songs.

2. Go The Way You Go, 7.5/10 A little bit of a step down from the last song, But still remains great. This one's a little bit more melodic, almost neo-prog, but not quite. I don't really like the songs intro, (note that I mean the first 2 minutes or so, which is why I mentioned,) but the rest of the song picks up in a stylish manner.

3. The Water, 7.5/10 This one is both a step up, and a step down from the last song, Spock's Beard has always had a little bit of trouble with long tracks unfortunately, until "V" that is of course. This is the darkest song on the album I think, if this song wasn't melodic, I think it would be an eclectic prog song, maybe along the lines of Beardfish. Many people say that this song suffers from Heavy influences, that are almost copy's, I honestly can't find anything, the only thing I found, was the lady's singing, similar to "Time" by Pink Floyd, other than that, maybe a few influences, most notably probably from King Crimson. This song is probably the less melodic on the album, and does drag a little bit in some sections, (especially near the end I think,) This is probably one of their least accessible songs in their archive. But I find very enjoyable, and far from bad.

4. On The Edge, 8.5/10 A great rocker to end with, along with some of the best bass and guitar playing on the album, Neal's voice on this is great, in fact, I think they all do great on this song, just a solid rocker from them, and an awesome closer that makes you want more.

5. The Light (Home Demo), 9/10 This song was only available if you purchased the special addition, I don't think adding this song made much of a difference, so don't worry anyone who didn't get it, however whenever I listen to this CD, I always listen to this song, it's simply an old version or attempt, that the band did of the song, untill they refined it into the classic it is. But the sections are very different, with many different sounds, and instruments, tempo differences, it is really another version of the song, and is awesome to listen to everytime, if you liked the original song, you will love this song guaranteed.

Spock's beard is one of the best prog rock bands from the 90's for a reason, this album started off Neals career with a bang, and opened many different roads for everyone in the band as well, it took all the prog rock from the 70's, and modernized it into an original, rock, classic. Although the album is flawed, and not quite a 5 star album, I think it's still a must listen, and an excellent addition to any prog rock collection. :)

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Posted Friday, December 30, 2011 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Errors and Omissions Team
4 stars This was one of the first Prog albums I've heard by purpose, once I started my Prog journey in 2008. Not sure why "The Light", why this particular album, but it still holds special place in my heart. Here is where Neal started to put his visions in form of Symph music, epic lengths and grand visions. Indeed, entire Go the Way You Go is basically study of one motif (from all points of view), various aspects of it. All of which while remaining interesting. Of course, when dealing with work where Neal Morse left his signature, there is always an issue of cheesiness. You can't help it, these two goes together. The Water is different, more experimental (but still accessible, it is after all still Neal Morse). The wonder continues. What they are able to do with such minimalistic tones is simply magic. Oh, but the best song here, the most epic (too many epics, but I like them anyway) is The Light, one of my all-time favourite prog songs. Such a weird a variable lyrics (exploring various parts of what being crazy means) and also many genres and styles, moods and flavours. The song simply has everything, melodic, dissonant, weird and plain-forward parts, uplifting and slow ones. This all while liking Neal's voice a lot can result in the only thing:

4(+), but only if you can overcome a bit less-than-your-usual masterpiece sound.

Report this review (#607881)
Posted Thursday, January 12, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars The Light self-describes not only a way of prog, but also a path of prog. It stands on its own as a piece unbarred by overflowing influences and by pure inspiration and desire to shine. As stated by Morse, the band took a long while to get this album out there; it is pretty evident by song length and style that the album is fairly polished. The album can be tedious to listen to with its only 4 tracks, but it is manageable and a memorable 60 minutes. Morse is real driving force in the atmosphere of the album in his singing and piano/synth skills, while his brother wails some pretty mean guitar. It also is before the band gets any of that later heavy use of Mellotron and weird synth sound, though there is some dabbling in it on this album. D'Virgilio is a not yet a tour- de-force, but shows that he can become one and is very lenient in throwing in some complex drumming. Meros keeps the backing, but doesn't get much to work with except for On The Edge and some solo lines with D'Virgilio.

The version I have is the 2004 remaster, and I will state the mastering is pretty good, but if you're an audiophile, you will detect a bunch patches throughout the album where there's dynamic range distortion (This is only a small quip and doesn't really matter unless you're listening through headphones). It's not perfect, but the sound quality is definitely good.

The Light/Title track has to be one of the greatest songs in prog history, not for just the musicianship, but the style in which it's executed. This is also debatable on each person's perception of prog, but every listener should hear what this song has to say. The light piano introduction tugs the listener in to the forthcoming epic. Morse passionately sings about the Dream and its potential, then we sail onto a journey to make another/ change one. The opening instrumental sports a nice distorted solo from Alan, and the succeeding section One Man is probably the best point of the song (and its reprise). We get Morse singing a bout of solipsism, along with a nice chorus of counterpoint. Truly pleasing to listen to, then Garden People, which is the only piece of this song I can cite influence from Genesis; the kind of interludes they used. There is some weird singing here. More piano soloing with Looking Into The Light and an over-the-top blasting in the end of the section. The Man In the Mountain reprises the previous section and is a calm piano only piece, until they find "The Light" and throw a silly party. The song fully swings towards a Latin sound for Seńor Valasco, and more reprising; the whole section is a nice detour due to the humor of it. Then we have The Return of the Catfish Man, a reprise of One Man, but much more aggressive; the Dream reprises as well and Morse finally discovers that the one we went on was okay. The reason this song is so good because it is a mix of lyrics that are only linked by song composition; and it works so well.

Go The Way You Go is hard to put my finger on, but follows the same pattern of The Light; it constantly changes composition. The only difference is that it returns to the main chorus frequently. It opens with mostly instrumental before sinking into a tranquil and low verse, and a chorus of "Go The Way You Go". The song is mostly centered around this verse and chorus, but does delve into a spat of righteousness and a groove piece that sounds live. I would have to say that, in my opinion that this is not a pleasurable song to listen by its depressiveness. Though considering it was composed well, it should be counted as a good composition and fits well with the whole of the album (which had many depressing points)

The Water is a masterful epic, though kind of pretentious to put out on a debut album. The opening theme is a long lead into a long and exhausting journey of a track. Some overpowering leads and Alan ripping some solos leads into When It All Goes To Hell. Morse uses some vocal encoding on top, which is recreated later on the same track. This section is rather slow, spacious and contains some unneeded amounts of noodling, but the point Morse tries to get in this story of "The Water" comes across clean. While this section is a little more brighter than the next section, A Thief In the Night, the two sections share similar tones and lyrics. A Thief in the Night contains the first instance only influence I could find on this album. Pink Floyd. The use of gospel singers is a nice touch, but they used them much more in this song than Pink Floyd did for any song. This sort of hymn is a good showcase of Morse's singing power. FU/I'm Sorry has to be one of those sections that comes out of the blue and you least expect it, it's what makes this stuff prog. I really happen to like this section for its wailing guitar, Morse's screaming, and the the sound cacophony that leads into the corny I'm Sorry section. I'm Sorry plays some acoustic guitar; and it is sort of an indicator of Morse's earlier tastes in music. The Water (Reprise) is just a much more beaty rephrasing of the opening lyric, with churning bass and drums. Running The Race is a reprise of When It All Goes To Hell, but ten times more groovy, pulling from the city jazz genre of the 40's - 50's. It's fun to sing along to and has some quips here and there that are bound to make the ear want more. There's all this vibrant energy while the main character realizes life more that he did before. Then the collapses into a 6 minute ballad, Reach For The Sky. More gospel singers and Morse's powerful singing. The last two minutes are truly unique in the song compared to the rest of the album, as the song climaxes and all the energy is slowly released. A very unique kind of epic, the qualities of prog, and creating a sound collage from different pieces.

After the brooding power of The Water, hopefully if you didn't fall asleep yet from the carrying on, comes a rocker called On The Edge. It opens with some quick piano triplets and soon reels into madness. D'Virgilio and Meros are the power duo on this song, where D'Virgilio shows his drum prowess and Meros plows the beat with his bass. Morse again has his unique voice with yelling and shouting the song out. Alan also puts out a really good, Van Halen-inspired solo. It gets your blood moving after listening to over six minutes of slow music. And one scream and a chord end the album on a high-note.

From the remaster: The Light (Home Demo) is not all different from the final product except for the glazed over production the album version was. A real gem about this one is that not only are the solos slightly different, but also the lyrics/ singing are vastly different in some places. Especially in sections of One Man, Garden People, etc. It is helpful as it plots the evolution of the song.

This album is a cornerstone of progressive rock in its nature, as it tries to resurrect the Symphonic Prog genre in a different way (their contemporaries like Dream Theater and Marillion were in different mindsets). Overall, it is a definite must-have for any of those that have listened to Genesis (and maybe Yes, not sure). BUT be wary, as many of the succeeding albums pale in comparison in terms of sound and format (except for maybe V); not really in a bad way though. It's enough to make you believe in the beard forever.

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Posted Friday, February 10, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars I, like I'm sure many people, heard of Spock's Beard through listening to Transatlantic where Neal Morse was of course a member. Based on the brilliance of those three albums I decided to check out what the Beard had going for them. Let's just say they have become one of my top five favorite bands.

The Light is where I started, and what a fantastic debut album it is. The best way to describe this album and Spock's Beard in general is simply Gentle Giant mixed with Genesis and Yes with a spoonful of pop on top. They are not afraid of showing their influences, especially Gentle Giant, which dominates their earlier albums including this one.

Neal Morse is the main songwriter, but I like the input everyone has in their own sound. The bass is deep and aggressive, the guitar is in your face and distorted, and the piano is pristine and pretty. I must also praise Neal Morse, who remains my second favorite vocalist behind Paul McCartney.

The album opens with the fantastic title song 'The Light.' (10/10) A lot is going on in this song. It opens with a beautiful melody played on piano and quickly evolves to an in your face explosion of prog with every instrument doing their thing. Vocals alternate with instrumentals as the melodies flow non-stop. Eventually there is a Spanish-styled guitar driven section 11 minutes in and you can tell these guys don't take themselves seriously. The music on this song is exciting, energetic, and fun.

'Go the Way You Go' (10/10) begins with a flurry of synth sounds before unleashing the main melody which is found later in the song. The bass has a life of its own as Neal plays a playful melody on keys. By 2:30 there is what I call a "Spock's Beard Breakdown" where all the instruments compete to make as much noise as possible. But this is contrasted by the softer acoustic section and singing of the chorus by the whole band. The melodies keep coming and coming. My personal favorite of the song is the one at 7:30 which is led by the driving bass. The song is an overall perfect example of Spock's Beard at their finest.

'The Water' (8/10) probably gives people mixed feelings as I know it does me. It's the Spock's first 20+ minute epic and is chocked full with great ideas. Yet it seems to lack cohesion and these ideas just seem to wander. There are plenty of good melodies in the song, and I absolutely love what Alan Morse does with his guitar starting at 4:10. The bass is amazing in this section as well. The mellotron-led 'Thief In the Night' section is nice, as is the FU section. But this song just falls short of their other epics like At the End of the Day and The Great Nothing.

'On the Edge' (7/10) is just a decent Spock's Beard at best. But then again, even a decent Beard tune is amazing.

Though the Light is not my favorite Spock's album, it remains one their best and is an amazing debut for this amazing band.

9/10

Report this review (#771407)
Posted Friday, June 15, 2012 | Review Permalink
Neu!mann
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars How strange, to already feel a twinge of nostalgia for those heady days of the mid-1990s, when Progressive Rock enjoyed a resurgence of interest fueled by the rise of the world-wide web, and by the usual 20-year loop of cultural recycling.

The newly-formed Spock's Beard was one of the ensembles driving that bandwagon, and recycling was very much their MO: not creating a new musical vocabulary, but reviving an older language gone dormant. In other words, Prog but not Progressive, and I write that with all due respect and affection. There weren't many bands at the time so willing to embrace the musical and lyrical pretensions of the symphonic rock 1970s. And even fewer able to do so with such energy, ambition, and ostentatious old-school musical chops.

But here it was: a glutton's feast for starving Progheads, right down to the enigmatic, amateur cover art. This is a band that flaunted its role models (primarily YES, GENESIS and GENTLE GIANT) with outspoken immodesty, naming one chapter of the eight-part title track "The Return of the Horrible Catfish Man" (instead of "the Giant Hogweed"), and calling another song "On the Edge", in ironic contrast to the 1972 Yes epic, which only came close.

But they certainly weren't STARCASTLE copycats. And I don't fully understand the KANSAS comparisons either (if only because, unlike SB, the music of Kansas makes me retch). Neal Morse always had a knack for writing catchy, uncomplicated musical hooks, although the infamous "FU" section of "The Water" took me completely by surprise. Was this really the same, soon-to-be bible-toting ambassador of Bronze-Age superstition, dropping more F-bombs per minute than Johnny Rotten? It's all in the context of the song's larger narrative, of course, but hats off to you, Neal, for letting your doppelgänger off its leash, something Peter Gabriel and Jon Anderson never could do.

"The Water" is actually one of the lazier 23-minute multi-section suites in the Prog music library. Individually each part shows a lot of promise, but in total it follows a tendency that would dog Morse throughout his prolific career: stringing unconnected ideas together into a single Frankenstein opus. When the track finally segues into the afterthought of "On the Edge" (the only cut off the album shorter than twelve minutes, by the way) it's easy to mistake the new song for just another sub-section of the earlier saga.

Spock's Beard would almost immediately fall into a counter-clockwise rut. But their debut shouldn't be criticized just because subsequent albums didn't vary the formula much. At the time, they were a fresh, invigorating new voice in a not very crowded retro-prog choir, knocking the conventional wisdom of the early '90s on its myopic, grunge-based head.

Report this review (#884311)
Posted Saturday, December 29, 2012 | Review Permalink
octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl & Neo Teams
3 stars Recovering from the poorness of the 80s was not an easy thing. I, too , have actually abandoned the prog to follow newage and other music genres in search of something able to give me the sensations of the classics and I ended up to discover the 90s prog around 2005, when a colleague introdeuced me to Spock's Beard, Ayreon and mainly, to Progarchives.

This debut album hasn't been my first approach to the band's music so I can't avoid making comparisons with their further releases.

Effectively, listening to the album my first impression is of a little pretentious band. Neal Morse hasn't found yet his characteristic singing style, but the embryo of what the band will becomne up to his leaving is already present.

Probably, if I had discovered them when the album was released I could have thought to a neo-prog masterpiece: a 23 minutes long song, two other above 10 minutes and just one below. (I don't consider the bonus track).

As somebody else has written, the long tracks are patchworks of shorter songs which apparently don't have the structure of the typical prog epic. Probably this wasn't effectively in the band's intentions. The various parts in which "The Light" and "The Water" are divided are born as songs tied together. Let's say that the transitions are very well "engineered" so that they flow seamlessly as a single suite.

Not a bad album at all, very promising from a band made of very good talents (other than Morse's quite huge discography check also Ryo Okumoto's solo albums). Still immature under certain aspects, but it's a debut.

It's good enough to be not only for Spock's Beard's completionists and fans. Good and non-essential, can of course be of interest for who already knows the band. My favorite part is "Reach Of The Sky", the last section of The Waters, that's also the most "Neal Morse's standard"

Not an album to die for but nothing to be ashamed of.

3 stars

Report this review (#904062)
Posted Friday, February 1, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Are they right? YEEEEAAAAHHHH!!!!

"The Light" is an incredibly strange album, and in my opinion, it is also quite an important album. The 90s marked the reincarnation of progressive music, and Spock's Beard seems to have sparked a sound that the progressive scene so needed. Their sound is epic, symphonic, subtle, funky, and very tight musically. Despite what any reviewer has to say, this for me is one of the most unique sounding albums I have ever heard in my life. This is coming from a fan of all different genres of music. The sound is epic, yet it contains a subtlety that many prog records seem to lack. There is so much to be taken in that just a few listens won't even break the surface.

The album begins with "The Light", which is a summary of all that I love in 90s prog. The song begins with a slightly 'musical theatre' vocal intro, which suddenly breaks into a funky prog jam. By 2 minutes in, the sound that we love from Spock's Beard kicks in and we have Alan Morse's incredible guitar work. The song seems to make no sense at all, but paints a brilliant musical picture.

"Go The Way You Go" is a beautiful track. Some hints of Rush are here, but the sound is still original.

"The Water". What an incredibly weird track. I don't think I have heard such a weird prog epic in my life. The song is a bitter stroke of genius, and the main influence here is evidently Roger Waters. The "F**k You" section is incredibly strange and for someone who is unfamiliar with the album, quite disturbing.

"Out On The Edge" has a very Santana melody, mixed with all the feelings and motifs previously visited in the album.

I highly recommend this album. I have an emotional connection to this album and I hope that you can all experience this album in the same way.

A flawed masterpiece.

Peace!

Report this review (#917967)
Posted Saturday, February 23, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Music from the USA don't use to be my cup of tea. I find English music much more accessible. I do not like Neal Morse's voice very much , I find it bland, I'm sorry, and Spock's Beard has some form of lack of originality. Still, I I could not be anything but amazed of this record. They do it very well.

"The ligth" came to us in the year of 1995 when Spock's Beard made up by the brothers Neal and Alan Morse, Dave Meros and Nick D'Virgilio. This is the symphonic sound of the 90s, it has gone some years since then but the band is still active.

This disc is even. No track is bad, everyone i worth listening to but in my opinion the two longest tracks have the most of intreresting here. "The light" shows great skills, a nice melody and much power in many layers. "The Water" is very long but never of less interest. It is smartly structured and is full of emotions. The closer "On the edge" has also a great melody.

Well it's hard for me to enjoy the vocals but I am though so impressed I have to give it four stars. I have just heard it once. "V" grew for me so this will perhaps do it too. It could also be easier for Americans to appreciate this than for me. A great debut with music I will listen to again!

Report this review (#976490)
Posted Wednesday, June 12, 2013 | Review Permalink
Wicket
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Seeing as I've been curiously playing Neal Morse's "Momentum" on repeat over and over again, I felt it necessary to revisit his back catalog of music, starting, unsurprisingly, at Genesis, "The Light".

I still find it odd to this day that this was a record released in 1995. The opening track shows little evidence of its age. Perhaps the studio quality could've been a lot finer. Neal's voice at the 2:30 mark feels a bit muddled. Then again, I'm sure that was the point, but I still feel the quality could've been improved. A lot of synth stylings here also definitely hint at a bit of an 80's sound. That's not necessarily a bad thing, merely an observation.

Still, despite the obvious age of this 15 minute goliath, it's still a very enjoyable track. The melodies laid down by Alan are absolutely unique unto themselves. The way this outfit just picks up and moves into a different direction instantly is baffling to me. If you weren't paying attention half the time, you'd figure you were listening to about 5 different songs, when in reality, the song never changed. Honestly, the song goes through so many changes, it's nigh impossible to state them all. In short, this may be the first song of Spock's first album, but it's a doozy, and one of my absolute favorites.

"Go The Way You Go" is a bit of a misfit to me. Even in the intro, the song snakes back and forth between chaotic chords and playful little melodies. Right from the get-go, though, the quality sounds much better here. Right up to the moment where the entire band cuts out to go to Neal and the guitar melody. It feels a bit, I don't know, cut-and-pasted together. That said, the chorus is catchy and enjoyable. It's not a bad song, but the main reason why it's not one of my favorites is because Neal seemed to take a lot of liberties with the vocal line, and as such, the transitions seem to be abrupt and not totally smooth, same with the rest of the band. It doesn't feel as smooth connected as "The Light". The licks just don't flow smoothly into the next phrase, the key signatures just don't match up half the time.

And, I'm sorry, I'm all for the crowd noises. But that sample just sounded way too cheesy.

Still, the jams in the middle were nice. And that's always nice.

Still, in terms of length, neither of these two tracks can stand up to the 23-minute length that is "The Water". Again, from the intro, I hear no real quality issues. You'd never be able to tell how old it was if you didn't know when it was released. Until the 2 minute mark. The bell chords are decidedly 80's-ish. Still, Neal's harsh tone of voice pulls it back into 1995, while the guitar licks sound eerily 70's Pink Floyd-ish (a mash of generational sounds here). Even the female chorus sounds like it came straight out of Pink Floyd's repertoire.

Not like that's a problem though. This is, quite simply, an epic track. It's one of those you just can't listen to everyday. You have to make an occasion for it, put some time off to just encompass those 23 minutes. The songwriting is epic, you can just tell these guys worked their tails off to put this piece together. The transition (unlike the ones from "Go The Way You Go") from the bluesy ballad to Neal's "f*ck you" rant is seamless. The whole song, really, is just expertly put together, a memorable song and one of the prog greats.

"On The Edge" feels like a misfit as well. The shortest track (at ONLY 6 minutes), it's not a really great intro. There's a sense that it was quickly cobbled together to form a quick B-side track, if you will. This song definitely feels its age here. Yes, the chorus is catchy, but it definitely feels like a dated track today, and as such, it's just a bit cheesy. No fault of the Morse brothers and the rest of Spock, though. This was the sound of 90's prog, as the new age of prog was still in its infancy.

VERDICT: "The Light" and "The Water" just don't feel dated, though. They just feel better, like all those melodies and phrases were just made to be together, like puzzle pieces, and as such, you should buy this album for those two alone. Granted, the two best tracks are also the two longest ones, but that's not to say the other two are bad. They're just not in the same sentence as the former two. And, of course, throughout the record there are a few reminders that this was an album made in the 90's, where hints of the wretched 80's-pop war machine are still present. All aside, though, this is a must for any Spock fan, and a great album for anyone looking for past classics of melodic prog.

Report this review (#979930)
Posted Monday, June 17, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars A good and logical place to start with Neal Morse.

When I tried out this album years ago, my ears that were finely tuned to only explorative works that were entirely "against the norm" (I was 16) wouldn't allow me to appreciate the poppy- feeling "One Man" section of the title track, so I stopped the album right there. And boy, was I naďve! Lemme get into my breakdown of the tracks.

"The Light" (8.5-9.0 / 10) - I'm hooked just from the tonic and dominant chords sounding simultaneously at the beginning. The "Dream" section is beautiful and moving, then more of the madness begins. Spock's Beard had a great sense of noise. Alan Morse on this track is wonderful at enforcing the grit and helping move the song through all the chaos that ensues. There are many contrasting moods and styles covered, many utterances of the lyric "I am" this, "I am" that. I do believe this song is about a man (or people) finding their identity in the Light, whatever that may be to certain people. Morse had his cool guy rocker sound back in the day to combat with the classical, hard rock, and Spanish (?good lord, I need a word for whatever I'm thinking), and sort of heavy metal sounds and moods covered. The song has beautiful sections, no doubt, but it is chaotic and jumps all over the place, reflecting the lyrics well. Now many of us won't be impressed by all of the lyrical content by and means ("I am Senior Velasco; I drink my milk with tobasco!" "I am the Catfish Man! I can't hear you!"), but the sounds of this track and early period for the band is what's truly captivating. This is a fantastic track. Great musicianship.

"Go the Way You Go" (7.0-7.5 / 10) - This song is about path, purpose, and taking chances. The song is largely laid back with some pleasant melodies. With some interesting chord movements, I'd say this band does experiment well harmonically. The song has awkward transitions, with the song suddenly picking up pace for a more driving instrumental. It's a sort of moving song, but the highlights will be some of the melodies. It's a decent Prog tune. Not all the strength and flare that could've been demanded, but it's a decent listen.

"The Water" (6.5-7.0 / 10) - Still many utterances of "I am". A song about identity, one may jump to such an assumption. Lyrics are rather weak at times, especially the FU section. I usually don't mind transitions for the sake of making a tune a little longer as long as they're not too awkward of transitions or all ideas in the song are fairly strong. "The Water" is a little weak in transitions. The content, lyrically and musically, just isn't very strong either. Some of the musical moments are exciting. The band does sound great at moments, particularly in the first minute or two and reoccurrences of the "When It All Goes to Hell" segments.

"On the Edge" (7.0-7.5 / 10) - In this relatively short (to the rest of the album) jam, Spock's Beard showcases their talent and virtuosity. It's a good reinforcement of the talent this group has. The bass has a standout role early on. Most instruments play 16th patterns at some point. It's a more exciting tune than the previous two songs if you ask me. It's this Spock's Beard sound which reminds me of "All of the Above". I'd almost describe it as a premature version of the song, but it stands alone well, being distinguished as a Spock's Beard tune and not Transatlantic. Again, it's a pretty good, reinforcing jam to finish out the album.

I feel this album is around a 3.5/5 stars, but I must round down. I feel the only truly strong track is "The Light", but it's strength is not enough to pull my rating up.

Report this review (#1158569)
Posted Monday, April 7, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars There is a lot of energy here - almost too much. Throughout the tracks there are a lot of musical ideas making up each track and coherency is at risk although the musical ideas in themselves are strong. The music making up the album is playful rather than serious and I think that to enjoy this album one has to approach it from that direction. If you are looking for a musical playground then this album is possibly a good one. If you are looking for a serious approach to music then this album may grate the ears. Neal Morse is not my favorite vocalist although he is not terrible. At first his nasal style is a little grating but after a while listening to him I can accept him as a lead vocalist. The musicianship throughout is strong. For me this is a kind of 10 CC does Yes offering - makes little sense but it does work to an extent. The music borders on the corny, coherency and idea wise. Many ideas are toyed with throughout but none of those ideas are given room to breathe on their own.

This isn't an album that I would rush to put in my urgent to listen to again pile and if I listen to it again it will be in a couple of months time. It is playful and therefore a pleasant trip around the monkey bars now and then but it is nothing that I feel bound to seriously get into. Three and a half stars from me, pulled down to three for its inability to draw me in.

Report this review (#1579581)
Posted Friday, June 17, 2016 | Review Permalink
FragileKings
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars It's not always easy to write a fair review of a debut album when you are hearing it 21 years after its release and you already own other later albums by the same band. Already owning "V" and "Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep", I recently decided to check out Spock's Beard's 1995 debut because someone mentioned the album's significance in the 1990's prog revival. I noticed a few reviewers pointed out similarities to classic Kansas, but I had already committed myself to getting the album.

I can imagine in 1995 this must have made quite an impression. Very much in the vein of The Flower Kings, this album and band sounded yet another trumpet that it was safe for prog to go back in the water. I personally don't hear Kansas as much in there as I hear, well, Neil Morse era Spock's Beard. Though there are obvious differences between "The Light" and "V", it's very apparent that this is the same band, except that they added Ryo Okamoto on keyboards shortly after this album was released. In fact, I can't help but being reminded of "The Great Nothing" from "V" as I listen to "The Light's" opening title track.

Though this album doesn't include vocal counterpoint and harmony tracks like "Thoughts (Part II)" or "Afterthoughts", the music and songwriting is still very much Spock's Beard and it's quite clear that this band knew where they were going right from the beginning. There is a certain rawness to the guitar sound in particular that was cleaned up later. My image of the music on this album is that of a pair of sneakers that are a little worn and tattered while by "V" they have new shoes which are not only snazzy-looking but a little more expensive too. Some of the song part stitching sounds a little inexperienced once or twice. There are a number of enjoyable parts throughout, but nothing can top the title track as a well-written and performed song. I like the longer track "Water" mostly but the final song from the original album, "On the Edge", slips past my attention namely because I'm not keen on it.

As my second Neil Morse Spock's Beard album, I am not really surprised by anything. It's a fine piece of work for the most part. The vocals are treated a bit roughly in the mix, though I believe this is intended, and not everything is genius, but certainly a worthy album of having in my collection. Also, it has inspired me to consider looking into Spock's Beard more in the coming year. It seems some reviewers have a pretty low opinion of this album. I guess that's partly because the band gets better later. Almost four stars but not quite.

Report this review (#1632929)
Posted Tuesday, October 18, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars Second-Best of the Morse Era.

Here I will review some of the Morse-era SB albums (SB can be broken into three eras, the Neil Morse era, the Nick D'Virgilio era, and the current Ted Leonard era). It is easy to see why SB's debut was so popular. Very tight, interesting complex arrangements, virtuoso playing, yet not at all cold like it could have been, but instead warm and emotional. I think this is the second-best of the Morse era (my favourite of that era is V). Among other things, this album is notable for having every track here listenable, unlike virtually every SB album that would follow (including V), although there are a few sections within each song that are a bit hard to take (such as the FU section of 'The Water'). This album comes before Neil Morse would be born again, and so the lyrics are not nearly as preachy as would come later, although this being Morse, some of the singing is downright sappy, or in the case of the FU section of 'the Water', overly self-indulgent and self-pitying. The best track by far, and still to this day up there among the best SB compositions, is the opening track, 'The Light'. This combines the best of the talents and strengths of SB, but with less emphasis on the weaknesses. 'Go the Way You Go', the second track, doesn't fare quite so well, as half the song borders on skip, but the good parts are enough to sustain it and keep it in the track list. 'The Water' is another great track, although I had to make a tape for the car without the FU section, both because I can hardly stand that section (Morse yelling FU at his parents!), and also/even more because I wanted my kids to like SB (and their parents)! The closer, 'On the Edge' is very decent, a nice end to the album. While this is a bit more raw than subsequent SB albums (which I have to say, is a plus for me), and the sound quality is not as good as later releases (they apparently recorded the whole thing in three days or something), it stands as one of their best. If you don't like Morse's later preaching, you might also prefer the lyrics here. Saying this, it is not a masterpiece. I give this album 7.9 out of 10, which is the minimum needed to garner a 4 PA star rating on my 10-point scale.

Report this review (#1743970)
Posted Sunday, July 16, 2017 | Review Permalink

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