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Spock's Beard - Snow CD (album) cover


Spock's Beard

Symphonic Prog

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5 stars One of the best albums I´ve ever listened to in my life. Impossible to stand out any song, it is PERFECT if talking about mellodies, compositions, musicianship, vocals (Nick is a marvellous singer too, even better than Neal), and the whole idea of the album. This review can be done in only one word: MASTERPIECE
Report this review (#11072)
Posted Wednesday, February 11, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars One of the greatest concept albums of all time. It rivals The Lamb and The Wall in the explosiveness and amazing melodic beauty of the music. This album will be remembered as a high mark in the current prog revival scene.
Report this review (#11060)
Posted Sunday, March 7, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Neal did what Peter Gabriel and Roger Waters did before they left their bands. He put his signature on his bands history. Snow, just like Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and The Wall, tells a story to anyone who listen to it. Neal told the story in a perfect way. It's a magnum opus that equals to Dream Theater's Metropolis Pt.2 Scene from the Memory. But the thing I still wonder is that he seems making way to NDV to take the lead by giving him greater role in voice section (Good job, made it!). Now let's talk about the sound. In Snow, Spock's Beard makes a great leap taking them away from their 70s style performed in The Light. Yes, they also did the same thing in Day for Night and Kindness of Strangers..and other albums I guess..Play the CD and you will find the sound Spock's Beard had created in the album is much richer than in any Spock's Beard's albums. Last but not least, I found that Dave Meros can really show his significant role in this album....
Report this review (#11061)
Posted Saturday, March 13, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars When I first heard SPOCK'S BEARD were working on a concept album I was to be honest a little concerned they might just not be a good fit for the concept thing ! Well now after having played it a million times I must tell you my apprehension was totally unwarranted. "Snow" is truly a powerful album full of grand themes, heavy musicianship and a very fitting story line. The 2 CD coverage of this story is quite successful really with what I am sure some will say is unnecessarily prolonged story unfolded onto 2 discs, but I must oppose this view. Although SB could have told the story on 1 Cd it gives them the space to really unleash some telling musicianship. The music as usual is rich and expressive with some great vocals by Neal MORSE and Co. As with all SPOCK'S BEARD albums, "Snow" is full of vocal harmonies and wild timing to keep your toes tapping. Sonically this album is pure magic with some incredible speaker separation and instrumental depth. The songs themselves are quite excellent with MORSE being the majority contributor to this collection. Musical themes run throughout the album with both soft and loud moments. The story line is bit wild with some human aboration named SNOW and the CD's tells us of his story and many ways not unlike the story line of GENESIS' "Lamb Lies Down..." or IQ's - "Subterranea".
Report this review (#11062)
Posted Saturday, March 20, 2004 | Review Permalink
2 stars This album to me is a pure POP album, and lacks the entire aggression of such a classic as lamb lies down on broadway. I love spocks beards first 2 albums which are fantastic, and I have no fault at all on them but as they go on, they become more like crowded house a mere pop outfit. And every inch of snow apart from some little ditties on disc 2 are pure pop, and far from the proggression, that i have been accustomed to from this band. It really all began when they hit V. The band became a pop outfit, just like Yes when they hit going for the one. Testimony by neal morse is a far better put together album than snow will ever be in my mind. I am sorry to dissapoint people by this review, and i do like spocks beard, but to me snow is nothing more than a pop album and no more. Since Night for Day neal as done a lot better with Transatlantic.
Report this review (#11077)
Posted Saturday, March 27, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars In the average, this pretentious work is too much emulating the ideas within "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway" by GENESIS and, unlike the vocalists from the famous English band, S.B. avail themselves of Neal MORSE alone, who is involved also with the back vocals. The songs are connected quite well, but the concept is not fluid and easy to understand. Moreover the stuff by Neal MORSE is becoming here more and more tired. Good double CD, quite prolix and not completely worth checking out, with the presence of a strange cover concerning "South Side of the Sky" by YES! However make your choice and good luck!!
Report this review (#11074)
Posted Saturday, April 3, 2004 | Review Permalink
Dick Heath
Jazz-Rock Specialist
2 stars I was lucky and got sent a reviewer's copy of "Snow "(apparently the best tracks crammed onto a single CD), and then somebody lent me the proper double with the bonuses. The following is my reaction to hearing the unedited version of Side One of "Snow": - initially I was pleased by catchy riffs, but very quickly I found myself fussing and asking myself: where that riff come from, ah here's the Yes bit, hey now the Gentle Giant chorus, goodness not heard them do that before but which bit of Deep Purple was that lifted from, oh no Genesis again. I took me about 40 minutes to realise I wasn't really listening to the music as a whole, but rather getting very cross that SB had again given the loyal but seemingly complaint fan base, another lot of derivative retro (prog) rock. But at least they play their own instruments. (And "The Kindness Of Strangers" is amongst my top 5 of 90's prog albums, where SP just about avoided the cliches heard on albums released either side of it).

I didn't do more than sample disc two and didn't tarry with nothing to hold my attention - I've got much more original music to hear. But I'll confess, I still play bits of the album in a very selective way, even on my radio show when"The Devil's Got My Throat" is announced as SP's tribute to early Deep Purple. (Is Spocks Beard is the Ocean Colour Scene of prog rock?). As a concept album, it never came anywhere near the classic concept albums of old, there is too little to hold my attention to bother with the underlying story.

In many respects I'm glad Neil Morse left SP, personally I felt he burnt his batteries out with the amount of touring and composing he was doing both for SP and Transatlantic, and it showed in many of the albums he did after "Kindness".

Report this review (#11078)
Posted Thursday, April 29, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Once there was a concept album:"SNOW" by a band called Spocks beard. Someone cried boooo!! But the real case was that this epic was supreme!! Spocks beard were really the band of the time....the progband that is... Mr.Morse sang as good as he could (and thats not bad at all) he ventured through the themes. the musicians involved, played as supreme as they were able!! Thus the sound coming out of the speakers....lo and behold... great..wonderous...daring...selfassured..... and really special.....OK OK..enough of this. Back to the review of Spocks beard :"Snow". The concept story of SNOW played/written by Spocks really a wonder. with Neal Morse at the wheel and the beard guys firmly at the back (strongly exuberant). This is by far a masterpiece!! Nevermind what your friends (reviewers?)tell you...this IS a masterpiece!! Listen to the sheer musicianship of SPOCKS BEARD!! SNOW is really one of the the masterpieces of the progcentury!! The rude song..the intelligent idea...the sheer musicianship of the beard!! Hey everyone...listen to it yourself.....please write home.... I tell you now...and you better believe..this is the last time.... S N O W is the best thing that ever happened in this world of progmusic as late !! If you want music that seems remarkably intelligent and played such as that!! Hey..." SNOW"! by SPOCKS BEARD guys..go buy!! Five Stars and thats the fu.... (sorry) thruth!! Very wonderful album!! You better believe!!

Let it snow..let it SNOW.

Report this review (#11079)
Posted Thursday, April 29, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars What a masterpiece!! In my opinion the best CD ever. Im a Spock's Beard fan, I've listened to all the S.B. CDs, and by far this is the best one. The music, shows an incredible progresion. The CD has got 25 songs, 2 hours, and you can't find any bad song, everything is excelent, the music, is too much better than the previous Cds, the lyrics inally mean something, the story is just great! The CD begins with the best Overture ever, and the Story continues, with Strangerin a Strange Land, Long Time Suffering, and so on, each song has got something great The story is abuot a guy who had a strange givt, he could see into the peoples heart. The guy moved to NYC at 17 and he found a mission, heal the people that was arround him, but an evil ego talks to his heart and kills him inside, but his friends help him to find the right way. Everything is great, just listen and you will find that you are hearing really great music!
Report this review (#11081)
Posted Saturday, September 4, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars Snow is fantastic! In view of todays music (especially) nothing stands in your mind as original and daring as the likes of 'Snow'. My personal faves on this collection by SB are I Will Go, Overture and 4th Of July. As for the so-called 'critics' giving this CD a negative rating - I have to say - Wake up you meatheads! There's plenty right with melodies weaved in and out of eclectic rythms such as these on heard on 'Snow'! What the hell are you people looking for anyway? Todays music is embarrassing! Appreciate greatness with grace! Go Spocks Beard...! Thanks for some intelligent music in todays dreary world of 'pimp and circumstance'. Yes - I mean pimp!
Report this review (#11086)
Posted Thursday, January 13, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Spock's Beard has recorded their magnum opus with Snow. If you have been longing for the sound of progressive rock in the 70s, this band is prepared to transport you back to that time in the blink of an eye. Clearly reminiscent of the group's that inspired them to become what they are such as Genesis and ELP, they produce a tight and even mixture of layered keyboards and heavy-duty guitar runs, and the gentle touch when necessary in each composition. This is their first concept album, which is about a boy that turns into a rock god. Snow is comparable to the character called "Powder" in the film of the same name.

This was a very expensive and lavish production. Getting a copy for review was even a difficult task because it was so costly. Finally, I have one in my ever-loving prog-rock mitts. This album could be the best progressive rock recording of the year, and the year is nearly over. I have heard many great projects this year, but this one has to be the most ambitious and accessible recording yet. It is chock full of defining moments. As with many groups in the genre, this band sports a superstar at every position in the band, much like Dream Theater or The Flower Kings.

"Devil's Got My Throat" is rousing number that I would consider the apex of the entire recording. Neal Morse growls his way through the song and it surges with power and energy from start to finish. In actuality the entire scope and breadth of the 26 tracks has an impact that will linger with you long after you have given it an initial listen. This group is widely considered the best at producing their style of music over the last 10 years, which is a mouthful to digest considering the company that they keep. It may or may not be true dependent on your own personal tastes or perception. In any event, Spock's Beard is no doubt one of the premier prog-rock bands in the world today. I think with the advent of this recording it should put them in the same category as their influences. They do indeed have many other groups that are the wind at their backs; they just are not strong enough to knock them of their perch high atop the world music giants yet.

Report this review (#11087)
Posted Wednesday, January 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
Jim Garten
Retired Admin & Razor Guru
3 stars The parallels between this and Genesis's 'Lamb Lies Down' are obvious - increasingly popular progressive rock band releases double concept album dealing with life's choices, set in New York just before lead vocalist / band "leader" leaves group.

That to one side, Spocks Beard have never been ones to hide their influences, rather they prefer to wear them on their sleeves for all to see - this is due in no small part to the hugely talented Ryo Okumoto's finely crafted, yet shamelessly derivative keyboard lines (still, it's nice to hear the combination of Hammond B3 and Mellotron played this well on a 21st century album).

'Made Alive/Overture' opens proceedings, and bodes well for what is to come, yet 'Stranger In A Strange Land' reminded me (in its opening) of Bon Jovi (a combination of Morse's voice, and the slide acoustic guitar, I guess). From here on, the album gathers pace, garnering influences from bands as far diverse as Gentle Giant to of all people, Alice Cooper - I kid you not - listen to the chorus of The Devil's Got My Throat next to Alice's late '80s albums, and you'll see what I mean. I'll not go into a deep analysis of each track, as to be honest, it isn't a particularly deep concept - country boy goes to New York, has a few ups & downs, finds redemption, huzzah!

Notwithstanding the above, the playing (as you would expect with SB) is high quality throughout, but the shallowness of the concept itself is unlikely to keep you completely riveted for long.

In short, a good prog rock album for the car - entertaining, but not challenging, and you can even sing along in places.

Report this review (#11088)
Posted Monday, February 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars Quite boring double concept album really. Spocks beard seems to once again throw around boring melodies and the melodies that is interesting i am pretty sure i have heard something quite similar thousand times before. Spocks beard seems to love to mix a bit of boring accoustic pop songs that sometimes reminds me of westlife. The more heavy and proggish parts has some cool melodies but they are too few and to far between. The story about this alibino guy that guys to new york to preach to people about god is very cliched and not very interesting either. Makes this album a double seems not be a very wise decision as the first cd is the only one that is listenable, the seconds cd seems to be a 1 hour filler disk recirculating old ideas. If they made a single 70 min album this could have been much better, but instead they make it a 2 hour little interesting pop cd with certain elements of prog wich has some of the most incredible boring choruses i have ever heard
Report this review (#11093)
Posted Wednesday, May 25, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This CD is full of great songs! It's a great concept album, in that you can totally forget what's going on around you and absorb yourself in the story and music. It tells the story of John (Snow) from birth all the way to the end of the 2nd disc, where he comes to a point of acceptance and contentment with his life and who he is. For me, it creates solid imagery in my mind, as I listen to the lyrics and stories contained within the music. And purists forgive me, but I like catchy melodies and don't require every song be in 7/8. I think progressive music is not only about odd time signatures and spacey lyrics, but just not being confined by any particular format or rules and displaying intelligence and great creativity, along with great musicianship. And that's exactly what Spock's Beard does here with SNOW. I believe I'll be enjoying this great album for many years to come.
Report this review (#11094)
Posted Friday, May 27, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars During the last weeks I'd listen to all TransAtlantic CDs very often, I also traced a lot of web sites about the members of TA. That's the way I got the first interest on SB. After reading a lot of reviews I chosed Snow to be my first SB album. Yesterday I received, among with some other Prog-CDs, Snow. After listen to it 3 times, I think it's a good album, yep, but nothin' more, no really chance comparing it with Genesis' Lamb or IQ's Subterranea. In some (rare) cases it reminds me on Lamb, but IMHO it seems to be a more Prog/Rock/Pop with some harder guitar stuff. May be, I expected a little too much after listening to TA many times and the reviews talking about Snow as SB's masterpiece. If it is really their masterpiece there is no need to buy another SB, sorry to say that.
Report this review (#11096)
Posted Tuesday, May 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars I love their first three albums. But this one I find just awful. An overlong, derivative and very forced concept album, the concept itself is completely derivative and uninspiring as is the bulk of the lyrics. When Neal shuts up, and lets the instrumentalists stretch out, it gets good...and there are only like two songs where that happens in the whole two hour affair, the Overture and Ryo's solo (both of which are awesome classic Beard). There are some really, truly awful lyrics to be found here, in fact both discs are chock-full of them. Freak Boy is a good example of the cheesiness. Then again, there are a few good songs. I liked Open Wide the Floodgates quite a bit. But for the most part, the only "Long Time Suffering" is me listening to this whole thing. Really, really bad.
Report this review (#38473)
Posted Monday, July 4, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is one hell of a record. Compared by many has the new "Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" but to me this is even better. Great story with one of the most underrated composers of our time Mr. Neal Morse.This guy writes great songs(Check out is solo albuns too "One" and "Testimony ").The music is progressive and very enjoyable.This is a record made by a band in the verge of losing is singer like they did and it is their best record. A magnificent masterpiece in the progressive rock genre.Wind at my back,Carrie,Loooking for answers,I will go, Devil got my throat and many others songs make this a truly essencial record.
Report this review (#47463)
Posted Tuesday, September 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I love this album. It came to me at a very low time in my young twenty-something existence. The music on this set lifted me up over a period of weeks, and I have never forgotten the feeling. In fact, every Spock's Beard album has given me positive vibes and smiles over the years. I well up inside at many moments on this recording. Say what you want about the group - they're too pop, they're a three trick pony, etc., but you can NOT deny the gift that Neal Morse posesses. It is truly God-given. I've turned several of my friends who have NO interest in prog on to prog with Spock's Beard and Transatlantic. Give Neal his due - he is without a doubt one of the best in the genre and one of modern music's great underground heroes.

Solitary Soul -> Wind at My Back is wonderful, as is 4th of July. Everything is strong, so don't worry. The aforementioned tracks are just my off the top-of-the-head favorites. Give Snow a good listen with a glass of merlot or two in ya.

Strongly reccommended for Beard fans and proggers. And to the prog purists who don't really like this - a pox on your houses!

The Beard is out there.

Report this review (#48721)
Posted Tuesday, September 27, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars A fantastic conceptual album about the story of Snow, a man touched by the breath's God. The first disc is a completed ouvre, full of melody, power, breaks and changes (Mr. Meros and Mr. D'Virgilio, good work guys!!). Mr. Morse did the first step to the Christianity highway. I would to stand up the three first tracks (Made Alive / Overture, Stranger In A Strange Land, and Long Time Suffering) and the latest four of the first cd (Open Wide The Flood Gates, Open The Gates Part 2, Solitary Soul, and Wind At My Back). About the second cd, only we have to listen the wonderful song called Reflection to justify the whole side, besides Looking For Answers, Freak Boy, and All Is Vanity, for example. We could to compare this album with the next Morse's soloist masterpiece, Testimony.
Report this review (#59953)
Posted Friday, December 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars The clutching lamb lies down on the wall

"Snow" was the final album Neal Morse recorded with Spock's Beard. He then left with what appeared to be indecent haste before they could promote it properly. It has been compared to "The lamb lies down on Broadway" (Genesis) and "Clutching at straws" (Marillion) in terms of the circumstances of its recording, i.e. the band "leader" dominates his "project", prior to departing.

The album title has nothing to do with weather conditions, but reflects the name of a young man with a slightly albino appearance who moves to New York from the mid-West of the USA, where he discovers he has a special gift which he uses in a positive way.

The concept only came about after a number of the songs had been written, and was used to "tie them together". Further songs were then composed to develop the story resulting in sufficient material for a double album. Lyrically therefore, the album is a mixture of tracks clearly written to tell the story, and stand alone numbers which are superfluous to the tale, but tend to be the stronger ones musically.

It all makes for what should have been a great product, but sadly the most important aspect, the quality of the music, is where this album falls short. Neil Morse is just too dominant here, his decidedly average vocals seemingly being ever present, with far too little in the way of instrumental development. (The "Lamb lies down.." parallels therefore continue!). What instrumental breaks there are, such as the opening track on album 2 ("2nd Overture") are disjointed and haphazard.

At the risk of labouring the point, other "Lamb.." references which struck me were the "Back in NYC" sound of "Welcome to NYC" (coincidence?), which also has Slippermen like vocals, and the "In the cage" like synth solo on "Open Wide The Flood Gates". Was Snow perhaps really drawn to New York to help Rael save his brother John?!

There are of course many pleasing moments on the album, including ELP and Tony Banks like keyboards, soft ballads, and more commercially orientated straight forward rock ("Devil's got my throat"). If the melodies had generally been stronger though, this would have been a far better album, there's simply too much padding. The jazz influences which drift in an out of Spock's Beard's music tend to be stronger than usual in "Snow", which perhaps explains why for me it is slightly disappointing.

In all an enjoyable but rather overblown effort, with wonderful packaging but a shortage of top quality music.

The limited edition, expanded version has a third disc which includes work in progress, studio chat, and demo versions of some of the tracks. It is however worthy of note for the cover of Yes' "South side of the sky", complete with "Perpetual change" introduction.

Report this review (#62249)
Posted Thursday, December 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars The final double-album with Neal Morse as a member of Spock's Beard is an effort that should more than please fans.

Snow is the final album of Spock's Beard featuring Neal Morse as a member of the band. Morse's career turned to his solo project and for awhile, to the joint project with The Flower King's Mastermind Roine Stolt, Transatlantic. Snow was a great effort for Morse.

The first disc of Snow introduces us to the albino character Snow who moves to New York City. The songs are just as strong individually as they are togethor. Tracks like Solitary Soul and the duo of Open Wide the Flood gates are works to be hold.

Morse's voice makes another quality appearance. The vocal range of Morse is a limited one, but the variation he uses makes him an interesting and addictive listen throughout the album.

The gentle melodies traded between keyboardist Ryo Okumoto and guitarist Allan Morse are the musical focal point of the album. Tasteful bass playing by Dave Meros in addition to detailed rythym work by Nick d' Virgilio rounds out the rythym section.

The album is a very easy listen for a double album. The melodies never stop coming, and the band has the ability to throw many moods and styles at the listener ranging from the straight ahead rock tones of Welcome to NYC and Devil's Got My Throat to the Prog Rock masterpiece of Made Alive Again keep the listener interested.

Report this review (#62253)
Posted Thursday, December 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars A Great, but not perfect album be the Beard. This is not as proggy as V or the Light, but it's not too poppy to be non-progressive. Many of the songs are catchy with choruses and such, some are not.

The concept is not very original and the whole album is SB's version of Genesis's the Lamb, but there are several moments that make this album worthwhile. Honestly I think the Light was SB's most original and best album of Neal's era of the albums I've heard, but this is second. This was actually my first symphonic prog album.

One of the things I thought was funny about Genesis and SB was the similarites. Here we have two Progressive Rock bands, one fronted by Morse, the other Gabriel, both responsible for penning the lyrics and being the frontman. Genesis makes ther Lamb and Gabriel then leaves. SB makes Snow and Morse leaves. Drummer Phil Collins takes over lead vocals. Drummer Nick D'Virgilio takes over lead vocals. Both bands continue makeing progressive albums, but a little more poppy. If Alan Morse leaves soon it will be just scary...

Anyway, this is a great album and a great closing to the morse album.

Report this review (#71020)
Posted Friday, March 3, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Ah the wonderful double concept album of SNOW by the one of the pioneers of 90s prog rock SPOCK'S BEARD. This album has had so many characteristics with another popular album by Genesis called THE LAMB LIES DOWN ON BROADWAY. First off, this was both bands sixth album of which they were a double disc concept album to which the lead singer of boths bands leave after this album which worries fans all over the world. But then both band's drummers decides to step it up and take the lead vocals spot and totally change the entire sound of the band. Now i dunno if Nick D'Virigillio is willing to turn SB pop like COLLINS did in Genesis but lets hope for the best. Still i kinda wish Neal Morse didn't leave the band after this album (even though his solo albums rock my face off) because this in my opinion is Spock's Beard like you've never heard them before. Here we have about an hour and halves's worth of music like you've never heard before. not to mention that this is SB's first concept album talking about a man with supernatural powers trying to find his way in life to where he would end becoming the most happiest person in the whole world. Anyway SB really turned it up a notch by setting each song with a different style because of the mood of the story by getting really melodic with acoustic passages and awesome GENTLE GIANT inspired vocals. Plus there are also two tracks featuring Nick D'Virgillio on lead vocals in which he did an amazing job with as well. Their are also some darker passage in the story to where the band even sounds well hard rock with a mix of metal at times. HOWEVER no matter how dark or happy the songs get their is always that great signature beard sound that the quintet always bring out to make their CDs unforgetable. Either way this cd has it all great musicianship from every member, an awesome story line, and a fantastic ending as well. definitely worth of a spock's beard collection. 5 STARS!!!!!
Report this review (#71134)
Posted Saturday, March 4, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars (13th written review.) I had read some very promising things about SB - comparisons to Gentle Giant etc - before I found "V" from my library some years ago. I was deeply disappointed and didn't even care to have a good second listen as the voice and the hard rocking style was far from how I prefer my prog. If there's complexity, that helps nothing if the overall feeling is not 'right' for you. Three years later I borrowed "Snow". Maybe the concept form and longevity would give me more, I thought.

Well, yes and no. Many tracks were No Thanks within seconds. And the concept didn't really impress me. Comparing it to the LAMB is quite overblown, as the story of an albino man called Snow seems to be quite realistic in comparison. However, I found several tracks quite OK and taped a 20-minute edition from the 2CD album. (I know many proggers think that's very stupid, so what.) Softer pieces like 'Love Beyond Words' - it makes me think of 'Gemini' by Alan Parsons Project - and 'Solitary Soul' even slightly touched me emotionally. Songs like 'Open Wide the Flood Gates' and 'Wind at My Back' gave some spine to my miniversion of Snow, though I found many of them too extended with their repeated choruses. That cassette has remained almost unlistened, but to my surprise my mini-Snow sounded quite nice lately and instead it was among the early 70's stuff by bands like Babe Ruth and Affinity that I didn't like enough on that cassette.

A poor 'review', I know, but this is my relation to SNOW: rejected as a whole, slightly enjoyed of its most accessible, soft-poppish parts. Mr Morse's voice is no longer an issue for me, but what I've heard from the net radio, Spock's Beard - just like Transatlantic or Flower Kings - won't enter my short list of contemporary prog bands up to my taste.

Report this review (#73501)
Posted Thursday, March 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars A double concept CD? The laws of prog says this must be good, well actually it is! Although the story is heavily based on "Tommy" (man with "affliction" (albinoism, hence the name) becomes quasi-religious icon), the music is strong enough and different enough to avoid accusations of plagiarism.

The musicianship is very strong here as you'd expect but more important is the quality of the music itself. This was my introduction to Spock's Beard and they still haven't bettered it in my opinion. There is a commercial touch to the songs and a number of them could surely have been hit singles - "Stranger in a strange land", "Long time suffering", "Devil's got my throat", "Carie", "Looking for answers" and "Freak Boy". These are all very strong songs with excellent hooks and choruses, showing almost "pop" sensibilities which are not always found in prog.

The overtures at the beginning of each CD also show that the Beard can still do the tricky stuff well. It all builds up nicely until the climax, the last song where the opening track "Made Alive" is reprised and then leads us back into the song that ended the first CD ("Wind at my back"). This time it builds up gently and slowly adds more harmonies. This also reminds me of "Tommy" (the "listening to you" climax) and for me this is one of the most dramatic songs in modern, or indeed any, prog music. The song builds up with Neal adding vocal ad libs over the stunning harmonies until the song ends with a typical "live" song ending, before there is silence and a quiet reprise of the song fades in and out. Definitely one of the great endings, right up there with "Supper's Ready" in the goosebump chart.

I cannot recommend this CD highly enough - one of the greats of modern prog without a doubt. There is also a special edition with a third CD of outtakes and covers (including Yes' "South Side of the Sky").

Report this review (#78325)
Posted Tuesday, May 16, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars Collectors/Fans only.

I do not understand the hype of this album, but I will not write this review to lower the rating nor anything like that. I will give my honest opinion on the enjoyment I experience while spinning this gigantic and epic album that never seems to end.

Spock's Beard has never been a band that amazed me. However, their AOR elements blending with progressive rock ones is very interesting and may be one of the main reasons why Spock's Beard is one of the leading Symphonic Rock bands in these last years. In their first four albums, they explored pop/prog and symphonic prog rock with decent to excellent results. They have reached their peak with "V" and instead of doing another V- wanna-be, they released a concept album.

I love concept albums, but this one is very disappointing. The main problem with it is that it doesn't hold my interest and the songwriting is mostly mediocre, making this album dull. Also, it sounds very cliched and derivative.

The strengths on this album are numerous. Neal Morse is singing decently and the flow of the album is good enough to make it a story. Also, the guys know how to make references to themes they used in the previous songs of the album. Finally, there are quite a few songs that are quite good (but not great). For example, the album opens with a song that holds an interesting theme and amazing rocking time with a simplistic guitar riff that works. Welcome to NYC is my favourite tune of the album; they managed to compose an exciting hard rock song. Devil's Got My Throat has some neat parts in it's long durations, and the acapella is good (until it gets too complex and random). Open the gates pt1/2 have good musicianship while Wing at My Back carry a good musical theme that is well-developed. I'm The Guy has an interesting dark tone I've never heard from the band before. After many bad songs, All is Vanity's blazing instrumental section saves the album and I'm Dying continues a good quality. The next songs are inoffensive and average in quaility until an unusual and out of place live song with Ryo playing the keyboards and synths. IT is extremely cheesy, wild, random, and goofy, but for some reason I find it fun to listen to it.

But sometimes songs absolutely do nothing for me. For example, the song that follows the overture is an overlong and uninteresting pop song. Love Beyond Words is a very dull ballad that fortunately has a piano solo. The 39th Street Blues is just pedestrian rocking with no hooks. 4th of July has a great riff at the beginning but man: the song is extremely bland. the reflection-Carie-Looking For Answers trio is dull and it's when it usually makes me bored of the album. Freak Boy is even worse, it is a terrible rocker that I just can't stand. Snow's Night Out is a bit out of place musically and is very cheesy. The conclusion of the album is very disappointing: Wind At My Back is played again and delevops into a loud overdone rock&roll that just leaves me cold. To make things worse, the song comes back again after it finishes dimly. It is an 8 1/2 minute long song with the same theme: very repetitive.

I do not know, maybe being a fan of Spock's Beard is what is needed, but I'll rather stick with the concept albums that Neal made after leaving the band. Testomony makes this album seem like a terrible experiment that needed to be mastered. This album, while having good musicianship, is overall boring, has no surprises, and sounds unoriginal.

Highlights: Made Alive/Overture, Welcome to NYC, I'm The Guy,All is Vanity

Let Downs: Love Beyond Words, The 39th Street Blues, 4th of July, Reflection, Looking For answers, Freak Boy, Snow's Night Out, Made Alive Again/Wind At My Back

My Grade: D

Report this review (#81518)
Posted Monday, June 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Ok, this album doesn't really deserve a 5 star rating, but it surely deserves great attention. I would give it 4.25, and seeing that the actual score is around 4, I gave it 5 stars. Sorry for messing with the system...It's NOT a masterpiece.

About the album... some real progressive beauties in there, but a lot of weak tracks also. If you're looking for a great concept album, well this isn't it!! I just find the concept of snow personalised as a boy real boring, and what Morse tried to drain out of this idea really didn't get to me... Still, music wise, this double has some excellent tracks, specially on the first CD, the overture is amazing, and the whole CD's got a smooth 'homogeneous' taste, that makes you listen to it from A to Z. Second CD is more of a track by track listen, with some nice riffs, but a lot of weak moments. I would say, the total time could have been well reduced, a double album wasn't really necessary here.

Still worth a buy, Spock's Classic.

In general, nice orchestrations, some nice lyrics

Report this review (#81533)
Posted Tuesday, June 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars As a Christian, and as a fan of Spock's Beard, I was delighted to hear about Neal Morse's new-found faith. This concept album is one of his early attempts to express aspects of that faith in a relatively unobtrusive way, being full of Biblical allusions and themes. The trouble is that it doesn't work well. Morse's solo material, which is more explicitly Christian so you know where he is coming from and can take it or leave it, is much better.

The story which is told through the cd is unconvincing, weird and at times simply silly. Having said that, the music is superb, including some of SB's best work. It ranges from prog-metal through AOR to pop, and contains some regular SB features; catchy riffs, beautiful melodies which appear in different guises, wild Hammond organ solos from Ryo. Neal's vocals are excellent and varied, and there are some excitng instrumental passages.

The bonus cd in some editions contains a superb cover of Yes' 'South Side of the Sky'. The double cd is a failure as a concept album, but the sheer quality of the music renders it worthy of 4 stars.

Report this review (#81556)
Posted Tuesday, June 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars I love it when someone writes a review of an album you don't see mentioned all that much and then there are a bunch of follow-up reviews. Well, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to chime in and give my two cents on what I believe is one of the very best prog albums of this century.

I am a sucker for two-disk concept albums. And even though the Snow concept is a bit weak, I enjoy it nonetheless. It lacks the eerieness of The Lamb, but it does have a certain haunting aspect to it. Ultimately, it comes down to the music, which Spock's Beard delivers in heaping quantities and which given time, will soak right into your brain.

The initial overture gently grabs your hand and pulls you in to witness the birth of Snow and the world which ostracizes him because of his unique appearance. While some may complain of the opening songs (Stranger in a Strange Land and Long Time Suffering) being more AOR than prog, there is no denying the emotionally charged lyrics and catchy hooks which are present in these songs. Neal Morse gives a passionate turn at lead vocals in this passage and presents the listener with the anguish that Snow lives with in his formative years.

New York is the setting (which does annoy me a bit as it seems too much like The Lamb) where Snow hopes to rise above the bigotry and bring hope to others who have been rejected by society. Love Beyond Words a short ballad sandwhiched in between the hardest music that exists on the album. When I say "hard", I mean metal. Welcome to NYC, The 39th Street Blues and Devil's Got My Throat are melodic, but hard and I'm not sure I've heard Neal Morse sing like this before. The effect is at first startling and then very gratifying, in my humble opinion.

The next portion is one of the best sections of the album with the songs Open Wide the Flood Gates and Open the Gates Part 2. Great melodies and musical shifts take place in this passage which flows into the haunting ballad, Solitary Soul. The first disc ends with the outstanding tune, Wind at my Back. While this song does have AOR tendencies, the catchy tune and beautiful lyrics make this a stand-out track regardless of what genre label you want to attach to it.

Disc 2 begins with the second overture which is a great progressive tune with lots of edge to it. Morse adds some crunchy vocals on the next two tunes, 4th of July and I'm the Guy. Morse then gives the mic to Nick D'Virgilio for the next two songs, Carie and Looking for Answers. D'Virgilio does a great job and shows that he has the vocal chops to get the job done (and will soon pull a Phil Collins in response to Morse pulling a Peter Gabriel). Freak Boy, All is Vanity and I'm Dying are outstanding tracks which don't seem to add much to the concept, but are great songs in their own right.

Just like The Lamb, the second half of Disc 2 meanders a little bit before it gets back on course with the final two songs being I Will Go and the second version of Wind at my Back. Since I liked Wind at my Back so much on Disc 1, I was delighted to hear this again, with even more emotion and build-up as the album reaches its climax at the end. I just love listening to this album.

By the way, the artwork and disc booklet gets a huge THUMBS UP as well. I apologize for all the Lamb/Genesis references, but in this case it was unavoidable. This is by far my favorite Spock's Beard album (just like The Lamb is my favorite Genesis recording), so I will not hesitate in giving this the highest recommendation possible.

Report this review (#81582)
Posted Tuesday, June 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Hard not to compare this album to Genesis's 'Lamb Lies Down On Broadway', it tells the story of one man, (an albino alien?) and his quest (ends up in New York City) for enlightenment. Yet, it's told simply. When I bought this back in 2002, I was underwhelmed. Musically, it's comparible to their previous album 'V', many poppish songs ala 80's Kansas sprinkled with some proggy numbers and an epic or two. It wasn't until I pulled this out and played a week straight not too long ago. I can tell you that many, many of the songs stuck in my head and stayed there for awhile, and I'm not just talking about the poppish numbers. I can honestly say that this album is their best to date. Neil never sung with so much emotion, (listen to 'I Will Go' and 'Made Alive Again/Wind At My Back', they gave me goose bumps!) and the prog moments are their best, ('Ladie's And Gentlemen....' and 'Snow's Night Out'). Sure, it's not the most progressive/symphonic album out there. I really don't think Spock's Beard should be listed as symph, more Art Rock to these ears. But for my money, Neil and company wrote there masterpiece here. Not 5 stars, but damn close.
Report this review (#84197)
Posted Wednesday, July 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is SB's best album ever. It's all killer and no filler. There is absolutely no problem with this album. Even the "poppy" songs like "Carrie" or "Looking for Answers" are excellent tracks to get people into SB's music. This is the most important SB album ever put out. The themes throughout the entire piece are wonderful. For instance, the theme to "Devil's got my Throat" is awesome, but more importantly the theme to "Long Time Suffering." SB was on top of their game here. I totally think that this is the best wa for Neal to leave the band, with a bang!
Report this review (#84342)
Posted Thursday, July 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars 2.5 stars really

Well, this is not my least favorite Spock's Beard album, as that is reserved for the Kindness Of Strangers album. However, I can't say I like it that much either. It does have it's moments, but perhaps the formula is wearing thin at this point (though I don't like the albums without Morse at all, I do commend them for breaking out of the formla......not hard to do since the formula was Neals). When I first heard this album, I probably would have given it one star. I admit, I was drawn in by the hype, Mike Portnoy comparing it to Tommy and The Lamb. I figured it wasn't THAT good, but considering their last album was the best I'd heard from them, I was expecting great things. Man, was I dissapointed. After giving the album more chances, I decided that it wasn't really a bad album after all. Overstretched, weak melodies being dragged out over two CD's, certainly. But on the whole some parts come off very well. The concept, lyrically, is pretty well done, and certainly foreshadows the subject matter of Morse's future solo career. But I just don't think there is enough good material to warrant two CDs. And even then, I think what is good is some of the weakest material Morse has ever come up with. On the other hand, some of the vocal melodies and harmonies are qutie good. But what's missing is much of the prog bombast and grandness that was present on the previous album.

Still, it's not a terrible album, but one I simply can't give more than two and a half stars to. If you are a fan, you probably have it, and if not you should probably get it. If you are just starting to check the band out, start with "V" or "Beware Of Darkness".

Report this review (#84385)
Posted Friday, July 21, 2006 | Review Permalink
Cygnus X-2
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A lot of bands at certain points in their career will release a double album of sorts, most of them live albums, but a good portion of them are concept albums. Now, concept albums are usually a mixed bag. Some of the concepts presented work well and are easy to understand (albums like Scenes from a Memory from Dream Theater and The Who's Quadrophenia) and some are just downright dense and most of all contrived (Pain of Salvation's BE comes to mind first, and IQ's Subterranea has a pretty cryptic subject as well). This album, Spock's Beard's last album to feature Neal Morse, lies gently between the two categories. While the concept is easy to understand, the story is just a bit too prolonged and could have been a single disc affair, instead we are dragged through nearly two hours of a story about an albino man who gains notoriety as a prophet of sorts. Still, though, there are plenty of good moments on the album and some moments of pure brilliance to back them up. I guess it all comes down to if you're a fan of two things: Spock's Beard and concept albums.

The first disc is where the best songs are played. Most of the songs on the first disc are very well conceived and they give the story the necessary pushes to progress the overall idea. There are some really coherent riffs and motifs is generally every piece on the album as well as some easy to understand and not too out there lyrics. If this album was just the first disc, I would almost rate it a masterpiece, but since it is not and the second disc goes on way too long I can't give it that rating. Standout tracks on the first disc include the opening Made Alive/Overture (which brings in the first recurring theme of the album), beginning with gentle acoustic guitars and some somber french horn lines to give the feel of the piece an epic boost. The music of the overture is also fantastic with descending riffs and watery organ lines taking up most of the foray. Welcome to NYC begins with a fantastic organ motif (that makes nice use of the lower register organ notes) and some fun riffing from the rest of the group. The lyrics and vocals are also very fun and don't feel anything but magnificent. Devil's Got My Throat is an interesting piece musically (arguably one of the best on the album) but the lyrics during the chorus is a bit contrived if you ask me. Solitary Soul/Wind at My Back concludes the first disc with fantastic multi-harmonic vocals from the group as well as a fantastic acoustic feel. Wind At My Back is the second recurring theme of the album with the chorus repeated over and over again (and it may be one of the catchiest things Spcock's Beard has done yet).

The second disc opens with magnificent Second Overture which is another magnificent instrumental piece from the group. But from there it really goes downhill. There isn't really a piece that captivates me like the pieces off of the first disc did. And come on, a piece titled Ladies and Gentleman, Mister Ryo Okumoto on the Keyboards (I guess within the context of the story Snow goes to a Spock's Beard concert)? Besides the first piece and some interesting musical parts interspersed throughout the rest of the second disc, the only song I can really recommend off of it is the finale Made Alive Again/Wind at my Back. This piece brings back both themes from the first disc, and like The Who did with the, "Listening to you" section off of the song We're Not Gonna Take It (the final song on their first concept piece Tommy), the song ends in a magnificent and epic reprisal of that chorus. It actually makes up around 6 minutes of the piece, and I can't think of a more fitting and better ending that the album could have had. If I were to rate each disc individually, I'd rate the first a 4.5/5 and the second a 2.5/5, which averages to around a 3.5/5.

In the end, Snow is a concept album wrought will the problem of over ambition and excessive length. It's an interesting concept and it comes off better than most concept albums I've heard (with a few exceptions of course). If you like Spock's Beard than this will probably be of interest, but you won't find any pieces about catfish men and none that exceed 10 minutes so if you're not used to that from Spock's Beard you'll be in for a surprise. For me? I'm in the middle, this album certainly has some great moments but there are certainly some monotonous and prolonged sections that should have been cut out during the editing process (in my opinion of course). 3.5/5.

Report this review (#86274)
Posted Wednesday, August 9, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars This it is the concept but great which development the Neal genius MORSE in whom exbanda is his, conceived in a concept that to compared with the one of GENESIS and its "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway", in this concept of speech of a central personage who to the being different from most of the people, but with a conscience adapted and matured towards the time decides to make one travels like most of its town, but before that it discovers an ability that keeps privily for if, in its trip to the city New York, in where it knows and it lives events that finish falling in love with one woman, the ability of is to touch to the people and with that knowledge like it is its life, to know its interior, thing that when it knows the woman which falls in love wishes to know and to use, but when finally the headress discovers its own perdición, but the history does not finish there if not that this the balance in the end finds that is only of everything and the cycle of something inevitable the death, speaking of music it is a disc that is enjoyed and it is absorbed with evident facility, but we do not fall in the error to think that this means that it is badly a disc, is one very well obtained production, has dose of good passages and very elaborated instrumentations, many say that it is the work summit of this band, but for that I will have to listen to the other works of the band to say this, but at least this it is a very good work that it would recommend to him that outside.
Report this review (#88663)
Posted Friday, September 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Being a sucker for rock-prog concept albums this one should fit me as a glove one would think. And in a way it does. The all but too obvious religious theme doesn't bother me at all. Many of the songs are beautifully written an well performed. The story is interesting.

So whats the downside?

It's too long! It's as simple as that, the album is just too long. For me this album belongs in the same group as Marillion's "brave" and Dreamtheater's "Scene of a memory". both being really good albums, neither being double cd-s.

It's a 4 star album. Sadly I'm sure it would have been a crystal clear fivestar had they reduced it onto one cd.

Report this review (#89080)
Posted Wednesday, September 6, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Stunning album, 120 minutes of melodic, magical , tender , aggressive and complex musicˇˇˇ

This is one of the best concept albums in the rock history, why?: because explore all the humans emotions (illusion,deception,sadness,happiness,false love, real love,tragedy,victory...etc) with complex (but simple at the same time) music, like the opera.

I really don't understand why this album is not in the 100 albums of prog archieves; maybe is because much people don't know this masterpiece, but my conclusion is this:

buy this album, and listen the 2 disc like five times to really appreciate and understand this work of art.

Report this review (#94825)
Posted Tuesday, October 17, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars One thing I've learnt in 40-odd years of listening to music is that it is all personal opinion. Nobody is right and nobody is wrong. You like what you like. Spock's Beard's epic "Snow" album being a case in point that seems to polarise opinion into the "all time great" camp or the "also ran" camp with relatively few people in between.

Where do I stand? I think this is arguably the finest album by anybody ever - that's where I stand. More than 2 years since I first heard it and many plays later the album still extracts an emotional response from me quite unlike any other album.

This is the last album made by Spock's Beard before Neal Morse, their singer, song writer and general driving force left to pursue a solo career. His arrangements may often have you thinking that it reminds you of this or that other band, and he doesn't hide the fact that he draws inspiration from the likes of Genesis, Yes, Gentle Giant to name but a few. This aspect of his work stops me from calling him a true genius but nevertheless much of his work has originality and I consider him to be an immensely gifted talent as a songwriter, composer and musical arranger.

It is not that the individual tracks are so wonderful (although some are), but this album tells a story from beginning to end and each track is just so perfect for its part in the plot. The band demonstrates consummate ability to play so many different styles from simple voice and acoustic guitar to hard rock. Most tracks are fairly short but many run into each other, or are linked by a short recurrent theme, to amplify the "single work" feel. This is definitely a "concept" album and you really should try to listen to the complete album every time if possible because this really is a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

The story is of an albino freak, known as "Snow", with a gift for seeing inside people's minds and wanting to help the needy, a bit of a messiah. He rises from obscurity to great popularity until he forgets the needy people to pursue his own ambitions but, spurned by the girl he loves, it all goes wrong and he ends up "on the street" himself and sees the error of his ways. I use the word "messiah" deliberately as there is no doubt that there are strong religious undertones to this work but it is not "in your face" as in Neal Morse's recent solo work.

The album opens with voice/acoustic guitar "Made Alive" then quickly slips into a loud, rocky instrumental "Overture" which is quite clever - it is nothing more than a collection of excerpts of instrumental riffs from various tracks across the album but blended together very skilfully.

Subsequent tracks almost alternate between the quiet, melodic to the loud, heavy, rocky - from the wonderful classical sounding piano solo at the end of "Love beyond words" to "Devil's got my throat", an excellent rocky track.

From track 8 to the end of CD1 is just pure brilliance even as individual tracks. "Open Wide the floodgates" is an all time masterpiece, it contains a guitar solo that is only about 10 seconds long but is so perfect it has me squirming with delight! And then when the singing returns they have a wailing woman behind the vocals ( a bit Floyd "Great gig in the sky-ish?") that just cracks me up. This is followed by "Open the Gates Part 2" which ends unexpectedly and brilliantly with beautiful vocal harmonies which will return as the album climaxes towards the end of CD2.

Then the mood switches to the sombreness of "Solitary Soul". A beautiful melancholy track that ends with a superb guitar solo which I wish was longer. Nevertheless it merges seamlessly into another masterpiece - "Wind at my back". If you listen to the lyrics, this track is the one that lets you know the writer is into God. It is also, in my humble opinion, probably the most beautiful simple, shortish song (i.e. as opposed to the more elaborate longer stuff I'm more usually into) I have ever heard.

CD2 Starts with a second overture, and then the subsequent tracks are, taken in isolation, probably the weakest on the album but they are all ideal for their purpose in the story. Actually track 8 "All is vanity" is particularly good and is mostly a marvellous keyboard solo that starts as the lovely piano solo from CD1 again but this time on the synth.

The story reaches its climax, by way of short reprises of some previous tracks, as Snow's life collapses - finishing with a Ryo Okumoto keyboard solo that is very reminiscent of Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

After this crescendo a big chord stops it all and we're back to acoustic guitar and voice with the beautiful "I will go" as order is restored to Snow's life. This builds things up again with wonderful harmonies (the same ones introduced in "Open the gates part 2") and then moves into the finale.

This is "Made Alive again/Wind at my back" which is the opening track repeated but instead of rapidly switching to "Overture" as in track 1, it blends into a reprise of "Wind at my back". This time they just build this and build it until I almost cannot bear it, it is just SO good. Right at the very end Morse goes over the top a bit, well that's an English viewpoint, it'll be normal for Americans - you'll recognise what I mean. It is the one cringy bit of it all.

From my list of candidates for greatest album of all time this is the only one that is not from the UK late 1960s/1970s prog rock scene and it probably IS my no.1. I urge you to give it a try, I can't begin to understand why anyone should not be knocked out by this album but as I said at the start - music is all opinion and nobody is going to make me change mine.

Report this review (#95271)
Posted Friday, October 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
1 stars I am sorry to say, this is where the Spocks Beard rot set in. I bought this when it first came out, played it right through once and never again, its just sheer plagirism!

Its like "A Lamb Lies Down On Broadway's Docile Younger Son". It is just AOR!! I love their albums before this, but after this.. They lost a fan, who defected to The Flower Kings!

Please avoid this album if you havent heard Spocks Beard before, and go out and buy "V" instead.

Report this review (#98710)
Posted Tuesday, November 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars For me with V a masterpiece, SP has reached their peak of great music. Snow is an incredible album but not compare to V. In my opinion it has 4.5 stars.I love SP's melancholic way to do music with sweetest music and changing styles in a Genesis way.I must admit that in Cd 1 i would chosen a better combination of songs, not too much melody-songs like Stranger in a strange land or Long time suffering, that are a repetition of Overture strucrure, but a new melody.It's boring to the listeners!Cd2 it's a little bit better i love Ryo Okumoto keyboards!In Japan there's a new generation of great keyboardist, that want to imitate Tom Banks.Good
Report this review (#99183)
Posted Friday, November 17, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars The problem with this band is that you are always looking for influences. It is a good record, with good songs, a passable storyline, but to tell you the truth It reminds me a lot to TLLDOB by Genesis on the structure of the story, on the setting in New York son no originality arises from here. The songs are filled with references. "Welcome to NYC" has a Gentle Giant intro and an Emerson piano in It. "Love Beyond" has Joe Walsh on guitar (sounds like him). "All is Vanity" and "Stranger in a Strange Land" sport more Tony Banks keybords that a Genesis Record, so I was not comfortable tracing the the influences and not enjoying the record. "The Devil´s got my Throat" is an excellent song by the way. (Reminds me of Deep Purple).

Report this review (#115521)
Posted Sunday, March 18, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars For me "Snow" is the tale of two separate albums. Disc 1 is kind of slow-moving and uninteresting, with the exception of "Devil's Got My Throat". As I listen to Disc 1 I keep trying to find reasons to convince myself to listen to the next song or simply shut it off.

Disc 2 is an entirely different story. And outsanding disc from beginning to end. So much so that it makes me wonder why they bothered including the songs from Disc 1 at all. I realize shortening the album affects the "story" but the story itself is not all that original or riveting anyway.

I give it 3 stars. If the whole album consisted only of Disc 2, this would be a 4.5 rating. Disc 1 is what brings it down.

Report this review (#121487)
Posted Thursday, May 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars if anyone asks me ... are you a Spock's Beard fan ... nah not me

And yet, it would almost be churlish to pick at this magnificent album.

i do not like this safe american rock genre. i don't like british safe rock (ELO). so why does this album sell my prejudices a dummy? it doesn't have the seedy gravelly feel of Marillion's Clutching at Straws or Tux On, but this album demands that you listen.

Whether you like it or not Snow grabs you and takes you along for the ride. It's a rock opera which I find hard to listen to without imagining a huge stage show/rock film.

I've listened to this album countless dozens of times. Sometimes, it's been on the ipod in the car ... press the wrong button, on it comes, I'm not in the mood but blow me if i always end up listening to the whole thing even if it demands pulling over at a cafe and taking an extra 10 minutes out.

it's not just a 5 star ... this is a desert island disc.

But if anyone asks me ... are you a Spock's Beard fan ... nah not me

denial is an odd thing??

Report this review (#123587)
Posted Sunday, May 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars I started to dig into Spock Beard's music and all in the line of Neal Morse's connections less than a year ago. Until now, my wife (hates progressive rock in general) started to enjoy what Mr Morse and co could produce.

In the same fashion as Tommy and the Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Snow tells a story of an outcast in a journey to discover himself. Lyrically, the plot is moving, albeit not at all original. As everyone knows, the two discs are influenced and stuffed with religious messages. But that doesn't fend me off, although I'm not a Christian (Buddhism is my religion).

Anyway, let's get back to Snow. Although many seem to think Snow is generally too poppy or 'safe', I think it's one of the best progressive/symphonic rock albums in its year. It's got everything one could look for musically, and exceptionally great song-writing. Sadly later Spock's Beard never comes close to this momentous landmark. Although Neal Morse moves on, he also revisits some melodic elements featured in this album, e.g. some vocal notes for Long Time Suffering appear in Sola Scriptura.

The only flaw, if you can call it a flaw, is to have a song called "Ladies And Gentleman Mr. Ryo Okumoto" in a concept album. If you read the sleeves when you listen, it kinda ruins the concept and the build-up a bit to have a real band member appearing in the story of Snow, the albino. However, to listen without reading, this is a very good track.

This perfect album should score somewhere from 92 - 95 out of a hundred. Therefore I have to give it a five-star.

Report this review (#124339)
Posted Saturday, June 2, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars I'm not much of a Spock's Beard fan by any means, but since this was acclaimed so highly by so many I decided to pick it up. When an album is called the modern The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway that is (at least to me) a very, very high acclaim. So the first thing that set me off was that this is nothing like The Lamb musically. I see where the comparisons come with concept and more so the circumstances under which it was developed. I would like to stress the point that it's similar to The Lamb much more in inception than in its music. Sure there are parts throughout the album that are plucked from Genesis. However, they're no more common than the various parts you'll hear plucked from Yes, Kansas, and Gentle Giant. Usually this itself would be a large area of complaint for me, but what if that were all the album consisted of I would probably enjoy it more. Besides what's lifted from previous prog bands I see no prog here. Instead I hear a lot of poppy hard rock riffs with some Hammond organ thrown over them. There's such a strong AOR/Hard Rock/Pop element on this album that I can't help but be turned off. When these elements are spliced into the prog it's not so bad, but more often than not they stand by themselves. The strength of the pop element really surprised me. I'd heard The Light before this and while I didn't enjoy it, I wasn't annoyed by lengthy poppy sections. I can't say the same about Snow.

Asides from Neal's vocals which I find monotonous and dry, I notice a significant improvement in the playing of the band members from their beginning. Alan has found a tone which I can enjoy and when playing prog I find him enjoyable. The drumming is solid and the various keyboards are by far the most enjoyable aspect on the music, excluding the times they go off the deep end. If all the non-prog fat of the album was trimmed and this condensed into a single album I could see myself really enjoying its instrumental excursions despite the influences on the sleeve playing. However, as it stands I wouldn't recommend this to prog-fans.

I don't want to be misconstrued as having some personal vendetta against Spock's Beard, or leading a crusade to lower their ratings. I just want to warn prog-fans about to buy this expecting unadulterated prog which this certainly isn't. Even in it's proggiest moments I see very little originality. I own this album because of an absence of reviews enumerating this fact; I hope to change that so it doesn't happen to others. For those who don't mind this style and can put up with a bad vocalist Snow will be worth your money, even if you have to utilize the skip button on your cd player a few times.

Report this review (#128032)
Posted Tuesday, July 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Snow was the first review I ever did upon joining PA. I think it's time to freshen it up a little. Based on what I wrote before in my first review, I should probably have given a three rather than a four. I guess at the time I couldn't make up my mind and erred for higher rather than lower. Almost three years on, and probably four or five now since I first bought the album, my opinion remains undiminished. In fact I would say it's likely improved. Whether I or not I was vacillating then on three stars or four, I can safely say Snow is at least a four and may even be flirting with a five. In a few more years maybe I'll look back on it again and push it all the way. For now it stays four.

I hadn't been listening to much Spock's Beard lately. They were one of the first bands I got into when I hopped on this progressive rock band wagon thing. As a result early on I listened to them way too much and kind of killed it a little. After a healthy break, I'm back and enjoying them more than ever.

One of the most important things to occur during that hiatus was the broadening of my tastes and collection simultaneously. I've now heard much more from bands like Genesis and Gentle Giant, which SB allegedly rips off. I think that while they wear their influences on their sleeve, however they are a band all their own. They are considerably more approachable then Genesis and they are not as erratic as Gentle Giant and aren't as afraid to use those gorgeous vocal harmonies. They are a little closer to the Crossover Prog genre, especially on Snow than either of those two.

The best thing about Snow isn't musical at all, it's the concept. Spock's Beard takes a topic, the rise, fall and redemption of an American albino prophet and healer, that in other hands might have ended up being totally impenetrable and instead weaves a compelling and easily understood epic.

And epic it is! Snow inhabits two full albums clocking in just shy of Yes' monster Tales. Those of us looking for a lot of content or perhaps just something to listen to for two hours will undoubtedly be thrilled by this album. I maintain the same criticism as before, perhaps without the same fervour, Snow will drag at times. Near the mid to late portion of disk one after The Devil's Got my Throat, and again at the early to middle portion of disk two around Carrie and so forth. In my initial review I suggested the band could have done without these portions, but now I feel that would have really upset the narrative and had a deleterious effect on the rest of the album.

Musically, Spock's Beard hits a groove early and stays consistently good throughout. Even if I do find a few tracks a bit boring at times, the band never plays poorly. The highlight of Snow is the latter half of disk two from the Devil's Got my Throat reprise on to the stunning finale. The best tracks are Mr. Ryo Okumoto, a great showcase for a musician who should be put in charge a little more often and of course Made Alive Again/Wind At my Back. As many of you know Neal Morse became a born again Christian (and apparently went off to make some great albums that are on my to do list). That Christian influence is heaviest on Wind at my Back. The synthesis of simple yet encouraging lyrics, smooth vocals and a slow rising tide rock make can make anyone a believer, even if it's for just eight and a half minutes or so.

Snow is a journey, there will be parts you like, parts you are indifferent to or even hate, but I can guarantee there'll be parts you love. Snow is a very diverse album and the Spock's Beard quintet is one of the best kept secrets in rock'n'roll. They so talented, it's a shame they are no longer with us. I think it's worth anyone's time to go check them out on their fantastic swan song. Snow is a four for five... for now.

Below is the original review. I couldn't bring myself to delete my first one ever. Be kind, hahaha.


In general what I would say about Snow is that it is a mixed effort it has its share of great and at the same time mediocre. My opinion how ever is that the good really out weighs the bad. Here is what I thought was good and what I thought was bad about it, I'll start with the bad just to get it out of the way.

The Bad. It really was quite a lengthy album. I am not one to shy away from a long album but if it isn't consistent it can become tiresome. The repetition was also a rather tiresome aspect. Some songs on disk two and just parts of songs on disk one. My biggest beef with the album is however is its tendency to at times wholly abandon the notion of progressive rock wallow in what I would call unimaginative and monotonous soft rock.

The Good. I really enjoyed the way that one song would flow fluidly into the next. I also felt that the story was well told and fairly easy to understand. Then again I am the type to read along in the inside cover with the music. Another part of the album I like is Ryo Okumoto on the keyboard, especially during the overtures and towards the end of disk two. My favourite parts of this album, and the parts that make it entirely worthwhile in my opinion are the first half of the first disk, (- love beyond all words, +the devil's got my throat) the very beginning of the second disk and the last half or so the second disk. If these had been one album it would have been great but it would have lost the good story telling aspect.

On the whole if you are wary about checking out Snow by Spock's beard I would say don't be. It can be boring at times and not overly so but at other times you'll find yourself repeating tracks over and over again. In closing given the two parts I would take disk two over disk one. Hope this helps, enjoy the prog.

Report this review (#128289)
Posted Friday, July 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars I got into Spock's Beard through the excellent V. I couldn't believe I'd never heard such a great band and I picked this up since many called Snow SB's magnum opus. I got off of iTunes and gave it a spin and...I didn't like it. Undeterred, I gave it a few more spins, but still nothing. Snow is a farfetched concept album about an albino who leaves home and a series of bizarre events unfold. There are many overt parallels to The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, from the setting (NYC) to the overall sound. Perhaps this is why why I don't enjoy this album as much as others, since I never did like Lamb.

Neal can't pull off the multiple voices of Gabriel, but he doesn't sound too bad. The instrumentation is good, but nothing special. Only Ryo's keyboards and Nick's drums do anything for me. Lyrically, this is a murky and indecipherable as Lamb, but it is more believable than Gabriel's double LP.Occasionally, the album has a good song, but nothing is even remotely unique. In the end, this is music too long and fails to excite me, but fans of Lamb Lies Down will probably enjoy this.

Grade: D+

Report this review (#130300)
Posted Thursday, July 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
Tristan Mulders
4 stars Spock's Beard - Snow

This one had to grow on me. I mean, a double album of this length offers quite a bit of variety and can be quite a lot to take in. I can remember very well that I wasn't too impressed with the majority of the songs on the first cd, but that I instantly liked the more rock orientated suite (Freak Boy, I'm dying etc..) on the second disc!

"Snow" tells us a conceptual story about a man called, how surprising, "Snow". I have still not felt too bothered with reading between the lines to discover the message behind this concept album, but I know it's about a person who's an outcast of society. Now, that's that.

In time, the whole of "Snow" grew on me and despite not liking the Neal Morse era of the band, I now have taken quite a liking for this disc and even found myself bothered with listening to, and purchasing (!!), the two follow-up releases to this album!

Seeing that I also bothered listening to the earlier output of this group of musicians, I can also say that this album features fewer of those widdly-widdly (gotta love that term), pointless, extended instrumental breaks that put me of liking most of the earlier output of these guys. Most tracks here are actually true songs and not even proggy experiments by far! That definitely put a big smile upon my face!

I think this was a nice farewell album from former front man Neal Morse and I'm glad that 'new' Spock's Beard headed into more rock orientated regions, which could already be noticed with the more than excellent second disc of this double album!

Report this review (#133385)
Posted Thursday, August 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars After five consecutive masterpiece-level studio albums, Spock's Beard intended to take it one step further for Neal Morse's farewell by creating a two-CD concept album, much in the same league as The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, The Wall, or Quadrophenia. Unfortunately for the Beard, and I applaud them for their effort, this album just does not quite come up to the quality of their previous five albums and that's mostly because concept albums of this length are typically over-complicated and chock full of filler pieces used mainly to progress the storyline. Snow is as guilty of this as other lengthy concept albums.

Summarizing the storyline, it appears to be about an albino nicknamed Snow, in search of enlightenment, who moves to New York City and lives through a number of ups and downs. Now the concept is much more than that. In fact, Neal Morse took the time to write a few paragraphs about what this album was about in one of the inserts (at least this is so in the 3-CD special edition of Snow). It's just that if I had to analyze this album to that detail, I would end up writing a 20 page technical report on it. If musical adventures for you require this kind of in-depth thought, you'll probably really enjoy Snow.

Musically, Snow consists of 26 or so short-to-medium-length tracks, each one flowing into the other like a long musical story. Again, this is typical of most of these types of concept albums. The closest thing to a multi-part suite are tracks 7 to 13 on the second CD as the connection between them is much more cohesive than on the other tracks. It is similar in some ways to their The Healing Colors of Sound from Day for Night. Because most of the tracks are shorter, there is a lesser effort on Snow for interesting instrumental sections. The overall effect is a much more vocal album. That's not to say that Spock's Beard doesn't display their instrumental prowess, it's just that the material is more AOR in style and structure.

There are some really great numbers on this album, notably Devil's Got My Throat, 2nd Overture, 4th of July, I'm the Guy, and the Freak Boy medley (tracks 7-13 on disc 2). Many of the remaining songs are quite good, but alas, the size of this album means that a number of these tracks are skippable filler (something not known on earlier Spock's Beard albums). Still, it's quite a nice job and is better than most lengthy concept works. Enough so, that I'm willing to give it four stars, but I'm disappointed that it did not live up to expectations that had been built up in me from the five amazing studio albums the band did from 1995 to 2000. Nonetheless, an excellent addition to a prog rock collection.

On a side note, the special 3-CD version of Snow, has a powerful cover of Yes' South Side of the Sky on the third CD, which mostly contains outtakes from the Snow recording sessions. Also, Nick D'Virgilio makes his lead vocal singing debut, for reasons that became apparent later when Neal Morse announced his departure from Spock's Beard.

Report this review (#151114)
Posted Friday, November 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Neal's last, but his best with Spock's Beard!

Snow is just one of those albums that I have to purposely not overdo it; however, if the truth be told, I could listen to this about once a week. Recorded around the same time when Neal Morse was born again, one can hear how his lyrics changed from previous Spock's albums to Snow. Loosely based upon a young man whose a societal outcast, but has a direct connection with God that follows his rise and fall.

Arguments have been raised on whether or not this would've worked as a single rather than a double. That remains to be seen, but my feelings are that Snow remains (almost) perfect as is. Neal really poured out his convictions with V, and it carried over immensely with Snow. No more is this evident than on the chorus on I'm Dying from disc 2--the hairs literally stood up on the back of my neck this morning as I'm driving in to work while listening to this track. It also moved me to get here and write this review. Extremely powerful album.

Highlights are throughout Snow--primarily on Long Time Suffering and the final moments on disc one (Open Wide The Flood Gates to Wind At My Back). Disc 2 is equally impressive, plus we get to hear Nick singing lead on the tender ballad Carie, and the AOR rocker Looking For Answers. My singular problem is the misplaced and highly unwelcomed Ladies And Gentleman Mr. Ryo Okumoto. I like the quirkiness of Spock's Beard (especially on The Light), but this is very out-of-place and messes up the album's momentum. This is a filler of Flower King proportions, I'm afraid.

Aside from this, Snow is Spock's Beard's Hemispheres, Wish You Were Here, Lamb Lied Down On Broadway, Close To The Edge, etc. etc. It's amazing to me that the Beard have gone on with the success they've had without their heart and soul. I applaud them on enduring, but there is a void left by Mr. Morse that cannot be replaced. He left on a high and very sweet note, though.

Report this review (#160132)
Posted Tuesday, January 29, 2008 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
5 stars I had some reservations giving Snow 5 stars-- it's staggering length, overtly Xtian finale, and lulls in a few of the later songs do erk me somewhat-- but I do not exaggerate when saying that this album has the ability to send powerful imagery and emotions to this listener with each spin, and that the songwriting and playing utterly blows away the band's peers; no one comes close.

To start, let me say that the concept is cliché to the point of bordering on insipid-- it's like a cross between Lambs Lie Down and that move Powder (neither of which were very good in my opinion); however, the Beard presents its material through various points of views and narrative styles, making the story almost secondary to the music and themes-- which is where the goods really lay. The band simply plays more exciting, creatively and expressively here than ever before. Morse's singing and lyrics soar with emotion; Morse's guitar-work is unstoppable; Okumoto's organs add textures and tones seemingly left out on previous albums; and the rhythm section lays an impressive foundation of light/dark contrasts throughout (Meros cooling things down a bit helping a lot!)-- D'Virgilio adding some nice vocal moments as well. The various characters of the story bring with them memorable, catchy, and dynamic melodies, adding more variety to this extended piece of music than any of the band's other albums.

The finished product is simply outstanding songs which elicits uplifting and gloomy emotions. Solitary Soul's crushing tenderness, Devil's Got My Throat's" roar, I'm the Guy's" sinister brooding, and Wind at My Back's" ability to lift one of their feet with felicity.

The God stuff is thankfully pushed into the realm of the allegorical (except for a single explicit reference in I Will Go), and although the you in Wind in Back is almost certainly God, the lyrics are just ambiguous enough not to come off as preachy.


Songwriting: 4 Instrumental Performances: 5 Lyrics/Vocals: 4 Style/Emotion/Replay: 5

Report this review (#161707)
Posted Wednesday, February 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
The Pessimist
3 stars This is a very interesting album indeed! You can tell from first listen that it is very influenced by Genesis's master work, The Lamb Lies Down, but I think it goes deeper than that. Unlike it's predecessor, Snow is made up entirely of short songs that get to the point, unlike previous efforts. It opens with the fantastic Made Alive/Overture, which is a brilliant paradoxical effort, starting off with a sweet acoustic minute and suddenly breaking out into some hardcore progressive music, with some really great 13/8 riffage. The rest up until Devil's Got My Throat is pretty lame if you want my honest opinion, and it's merely another flashback into Neal's poppier mainstream side. The trilogy of the next 3 songs however make the album worth listening to. Devil's Got My Throat is one of my favourite Spock songs ever, and it is a prog rock journey to be reckoned with! Starting out with some hard rocking riffs, a gllorious middle section and an ending that is reminiscent of Gentle Giant, I love it. Open Wide The Flood Gates Parts 1 and 2 are very chilled out compared to the heavier side of the album, and has some very nice jazz influenced electric piano in the middle jam sections. The following two songs are nothing special however, which is a real shame.

Side 2 is quite disappointing. 2nd Overture is as a brilliant opener, typical Spock's Beard style prog, similar to 1st Overture. I love the time signature changes in this one, and the bass is especially worth noting. 4th of July is a very good track, repeating the musical themes of the album. Once again, however, there is the big 3 song gap that drags the album down. All is replenished however with the stunning prog-pop song Looking For Answers and the rocker Freak Boy. I especially like the chorus in Looking For Answers, a little too catchy maybe! From here on though, it starts to get ugly. Nothing interesting about the next bit, apart from the fact of What the hell is the 13th track all about???. OK, Ryo is impressive on the keyboards, but this song is very out of place.

So overall, the verdict is not good, because of the repeated crap between decent songs. This is the start of Spock's descent into the garbage dump with their self-titled album. 3stars, only because I'm loyal to the band.

Report this review (#165888)
Posted Sunday, April 6, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Neal Morse concocted Spock's Beard's masterpiece just before he left. As I have said before, it seems like when Transatlantic formed, Neal became a masterpiece machine. Nearly everything he has released since SMPTe has approached perfection. While you can see several parallels between Snow and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway outside of the music, the content of this release bears few, if any, direct comparisons to Genesis' classic. While many obstinate 70s prog fans will be quick to find fault with this album, you must take those comments with a grain of salt. Their insular views will ruin your opportunity to enjoy such wonderful music if you don't! If you are one of those folks who reject Spock's Beard for sometimes wearing their influences on their sleeves, you probably shouldn't bother with this album either, despite that the writing is the most matured writing I've heard from the band, and there are few spots where the influence is that obvious (it's never too obvious to be enjoyed either).

This album sticks to shorter songs, but they are packed with quality material, all intertwined with well- placed recurring themes. The first disc starts with one of those themes and then moves into a classic Spock's Beard overture, moves into some melodic rock tracks Stranger in a Strange Land, and Long Time Suffering. The rest of the disc moves you between some heavier pieces and a couple of lighter tracks (only one ballad, and it is concise and beautiful) until you get to what I would say is the most powerful Spock's Beard song ever: Solitary Soul. That lead riff is simple, but it's killer! After a happy love song, we move to the second disc. It opens with another great overture, and, as the first disc, moves through a very balanced set of songs and ends on a closing track that combines the opener and closer of disc one. Disc one can surely stand on it's own, but disc two mostly functions as a compliment to disc one. It's really only slightly weaker, but most of the album's highlights are on disc one. As a whole, this is all great music, and Snow makes for a great swan song for Neal. Soon after, Spock's Beard would sink to mediocrity and Neal would make some of the best music of his career.

Report this review (#165910)
Posted Sunday, April 6, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album is cheesy. The concept is kind of dorky. There is probably a good bit more musical material than necessary. There is a lot of instrumental noodling and so forth. Some of the songs are aimless, others unfortunately short.

All I can say is that Snow is full of some of the most upbeat, interesting, exciting, and creative sounds and songs that Spock's Beard have ever come up with. Not far into the Overture, the music is bouncing and exploding and causing all sorts of chaos, yet it works. It flows. The entirety of this two hour musical experience holds as one cohesive piece, despite being all over the place. A few highlights, to help clear up some of what works on this album:

The Made Alive / Overture opener, for one. Overtures are certainly quite overused, and are quite often pointless, but the Beard created in this song an overture that doesn't just rehash (prehash?) what is going to come with the rest of the album, but it's completely different in sound. Very cleverly composed, and with some fierce, fierce drumming.

Welcome to NYC is also great fun. Clearly something of an homage to Genesis and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, this song nevertheless borrows nothing from anything Genesis. Spectacular and disturbing vocals from Neal mark this sarcastic piece of condescension and disdain. The keyboards are quite nice, too.

Open Wide the Flood Gates and the second part are split up for who knows what reason, but either way, they both fit together, and they both rock. The first part is much softer, mellower, but culminates in probably the best solo I've ever heard from Alan. A bit of a rehash of the main theme in between segues into the second part's vocal rounds. It all sounds grand, and it all is exciting.

I'm the Guy might be more of a personal favorite, but it still has such a unique flavor to it. Not quite like anything else the band has done before, the vocals and the guitar just work here.

Looking for Answers features Nick on the vocals, and holy cow! can that man sing. Little did we know. It's something of another straightforward rock tune, but the feel and the flow of it are perfect. If there ever was a rock band that wrote songs like this, I'd buy that CD in an instant. As it is, this track is, as far as I can tell, completely one of a kind also. And this song is also especially notable, since right after it, the music turns to the climax suite, as I think of it.

This climax suite starts with Freak Boy and powers all the way through Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Ryo Okumoto on the Keyboards. Most of these songs are abbreviated, coming rapid fire and building in intensity. The organ soloing in All Is Vanity is a thing unbelievably raw and rather tasty, I think. I'm Dying slows things down a bit, with a rather dismal track, but it sure sounds nice. Freak Boy Part 2, Devil's Got My Throat Reprise, Snow's Night Out, and then Ladies and Gentlemen run about two or three minutes each. Each seems to get faster and more exciting, with the last two featuring no vocals. I find it a testament to the Beard's self-effacing humor and ability to not feel obligated to take themselves too seriously that they suddenly branch off of the emotional and adrenal climax of the album to insert a random keyboard solo, but to be honest, by that point, it doesn't matter what they're playing, just that they're playing something crazy and fast.

The conclusion with Wind at My Back is another emotional piece. Repetition building power creates a stunning outro to the album, and one that must be heard.

I don't care how some think this album sags in the middle. It does. But still, you should definitely check this one out. It's not perfect music, it's not incredibly proggy, it's not terribly deep--but it is so very much fun.

Report this review (#169220)
Posted Wednesday, April 30, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Having recently picked up Spock's Beard's V, I was more than curious and decided to locate some more of their material and delve further into their catalogue. Spock's Beard is a controversial band at best-they are a group you either love or hate. They had captured my interest and I decided to purchase Snow, SB's a considerably high-rated album from them and their last to feature Neal Morse as a member.

With any band, the idea of a multiple-disc concept album is always met with raised eyebrows, low expectations, and comparisons to a certain The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Structurally I suppose Snow is similar. The story of an albino man with the power to see the future and his exploits (or at least that's what I've taken from it-it's not particularly nebulous) makes for an interesting basis for what is essentially a rock opera. Clocking in at about 1 hour and 45 minutes in length, I did my best to listen to this album all the way through, as I feel there is no other acceptable way to appraise a concept album such as this. This, like others similar to it, is an example of the trees looking better than the forest. Most songs are much better in context than on their own.

A concept album like Snow always runs the risk of overstaying its welcome. That being said, disc one and disc two are clearly separated with individual overtures for each-two distinct acts, if you will. There are fewer musical themes than you'd expect in such a lengthy musical endeavor but they are utilized well to give the album a roundabout cohesiveness without becoming too repetitive. There are some positively beautiful songs such as Made Alive, Love Beyond Words, and Wind at my Back, all of which are very memorable. There are also some great rockers, such as Long Time Suffering, Devil's Got My Throat, and All is Vanity. In between there is some interesting musical ground covered-the gospel like refrain of Open Wide the Flood Gates, for example. Much of the better material is on the first disc (as is common with 2-disc concept albums). By the end of the second disk things do get a bit laborious to listen to but there is music worth staying around for, especially keyboardist Ryo Okumoto's organ showcase. Honestly though I was a bit disappointed with the very end of the album, as the band resorted to a very clangorous, crash-cymbal-and-organ-glissando-filled smashfest, rather than something a little more technical. However, that's a bit of a matter of taste, and I definitely enjoyed the ride.

Snow is rife with memorable melodies and a lot of excellent music. While the premise might be a tad pretentious, Spock's Beard pull it off admirably. After all, they are not a band identified by virtuosic soloing and progressive rock pyrotechnics-they simply play good, interesting music that is neither inaccessible nor impenetrable. 4/5 stars.

Report this review (#172363)
Posted Tuesday, May 27, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars [Review 2] Spock's Beard – Snow

As I'm sure many other reviews have already stated, [i]Snow[/i] is a story about an albino boy who grows up to become a famous Christian preacher. As an atheist and someone who abhors being preached to, I don't find this album offensive in the least (except for one or two songs). Based on what I have seen in Christian rock infomercials, this album blows any of that tripe out of the water for two reasons:

1.Instead of praising Jesus or the Lord, the album focuses on a specific character's life which happens to revolve around Christianity 2.The music, while not breaking any new ground in the prog rock world, is far more interesting and complex than what I perceive as the usual Christian pop/rock

I think the album deserves a lot of praise just for these two things. However, since this is a prog rock site, the album has to be judged on other merits. The concept is fairly interesting, albeit not all that new or complex. I do enjoy the characters Neal Morse plays (reminiscent of Peter Gabriel in “Get 'Em Out by Friday” or “Harold the Barrel,” but nowhere near as well done) though; during your listen, I am willing to bet you grow to like at least a few of them, especially Snow. However, as with most double concept albums, there are some definite filler tracks, but thankfully they do not last too long.

The music is what I would call progressive pop because it takes influences most clearly from Genesis and Gentle Giant (some of the vocal arrangements), but also takes influence from the modern pop/rock scene. The contradiction of the statement can be argued elsewhere, but my main point is that [i]Snow[/ i] is definitely an album that can be enjoyed by anyone, even non-prog fans. The song structures are relatively simple, it is easy to sing along to, and overall just doesn't really challenge the listener in any way. “Looking for Answers” is the most clear example. The keyboards are the most interesting part of the music; the other instruments not really doing much.

Because of these, Snow isn't a masterpiece and I also can't justify giving it 4 stars. It is a good album, just non-essential. If you like Spock's Beard, you will probably like the album. If you enjoy Christian stories and overtones, I think this album offers something of interest to you since such subject matter is not ever really explored in the prog scene. Also, if you know anyone who listens to just pop or Christian pop/rock, definitely have them check this album out. Who knows, perhaps it will be a gateway to other prog bands!

Highlights: The Devil's Got My Throat

Report this review (#176005)
Posted Thursday, July 3, 2008 | Review Permalink
Queen By-Tor
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars What's a prog band without a concept album?

After the success of V The Beard decided they finally needed a concept double album under their belt. And why not? The band were in top form having released a series of albums now deemed ''their classic era'' by fans and with each member seemingly better than ever it really was time. The concept itself may not be the most original tale ever, seemingly borrowing from Tommy, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, The Wall and the movie Powder as an albino child with mind reading powers goes to New York city and is worshiped as a messiah. Of course we also have the love interest who turns him down and the near death experience that makes him see the light once more. Really this can be seen as Neal's own realization of his faith and Christianity, but when its put into metaphor as it is here it becomes rather enjoyable. Besides, this is an album, not a movie, so why be so concerned about storyline? All it means really is that the songs are going to flow together and recurring themes will be used throughout the album, and well used they are.

There really aren't any mammoth songs on the album (length wise) being that it might overpower the rest of the songs, really they all work in tandem with one another. Each of the songs segue into one another giving the impression that they could be conjoined into one massive epic, but having the pieces form the whole is really just as good. The quality of the songs throughout the album also stays pretty steady with no real let downs to speak of. Sure, there's a couple of tunes that stand out above the rest, but it's not like you're just waiting for other songs to end just to get to those ones. Of course, coming into the end of the album the songs start to become amazingly full of energy, but being a concept album it's expected that the climax of the album be the most powerful.

As for style we're still looking at Spock's Beard and they're still doing what they do well. The songs range between hard prog-rockers and some more AOR-oriented material (without becoming annoying), but this really is what we're used to from the band anyways. Some of the tunes like Overture feature heavy riffs from Alan Morse while others such as the excellent The Devil's Got My Throat feature mean keys and some screaming sections from a passionate Neal Morse. Throughout the album we're treated to a number of very catchy hooks in the forms of riffs of vocal passages such as the menacing riff behind Long Time Suffering, the uplifting pace of Open The Gates (Part 2) or the chorus that drives Looking For Answers. If there's one thing the Beard does even better here that they've sometimes tripped on in the past is the use of quiet sections. While on previous albums there's points where you get right into the segments and then BAM - it's slow, breaking the momentum. Here that doesn't happen, as the way the songs are organized makes the audience ready for the softer or harder parts so that you never felt it could have been done a different way.

While the first disc is likely the stronger of the two, the second still has some excellent moments. The main ideas for the album are very strong in the first half, while the second isn't completely exhausted it certainly is different. No problems with that really, some of the tunes here are still very strong, especially coming into the end. The two part Freak Boy is a nicely brooding section that adds to a malevolent atmosphere while The Devil's Got My Throat Revisited makes for a quick and dirty rocker. On the whole this half is less uplifting and more evil sounding, but it makes a good contrast. Really it's the ending instrumentals that really help to make the album. Snow's Night Out and Ladies and Gentlemen... are a great (if far too short) pair of songs that help make the ending climax of the album well deserved.

In the end this album really is great. Being that it's a double album and quite long (some have argued too long) it's a bit difficult to ingest and is not for the Spock's Beard newcomer, but seasoned fans will be able to appreciate this one greatly. This would be Neal's last album with the band, as he would leave to pursue his solo career afterwards - making many believe the band was finished (not true fortunately). This is the last chance to enjoy Neal's work on an SB album and it's quite worth it if you know what you're getting into. 4 freak boys out of 5! An excellent addition to any prog music collection.

Report this review (#177589)
Posted Monday, July 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars It seems like SPOCK'S BEARD can't do anything halfway, so when they decide to do a concept album they make it a double album ! Man it took me some time to get into this one, I mean i'm not big on concept records or double albums. Yet they won me over, which considering how much I like their music maybe shouldn't be too surprising. Still this isn't 4 stars for me, more like 3.5 stars. I like what King By-Tor says about this concept, that it's really a metaphor of Neal's own life and conversion. In fact Neal would give his story of getting saved on his "Testimony" double album. Of course the lyrics are more meaningful on that one, but the music on this one is not only better, but even more emotional than "Testimony".

So many highlights to pick out. I like the opening track "Made Alive / Overture". The first part is mellow with reserved vocals and strummed guitar. I like the drumming in the second section after 4 minutes and the heaviness that follows. Killer bass ! The jazzy section 2 minutes in on "Welcome To NYC" is nice treat. "The 39th Street Blues" has some good guitar and sax in it. "Devil's Got My Throat" is fantastic ! This song has attitude ! The organ rocks and check out the guitar 4 minutes in. "Open Wide The Flood Gates" is a laid back but uplifting tune. The instrumental work 4 1/2 minutes in is such a highlight. "Wind At My Back" is the final song on disc one and it's so uplifting and emotional. The lyrics are very meaningful.

Disc two opens with "Second Overture" and it's like getting kicked in the face right away. A nice heavy sound with some chunky bass follows 1 1/2 minutes in. Check out the drumming too. Guitar starts to chew up the soundscape 2 minutes in as horns join in. "Reflection" is a moving song with Neal and his piano mostly. Some drums and mellotron too. "Carie" continues with the piano.The vocals are so yearning, delivered by future SPOCK'S BEARD vocalist Nick D'Virgilio. Beautiful song. "Freak Boy" opens with riffs as organ comes in screaming. Vocals are fantastic as well. "I'm Dying" has this chorus that just seems to be transported above the rest of the song. "Freak Boy Part 2" is really good. Grinding guitar with chunky bass as vocals come in. "Devil's Got My Throat Revisited" is a killer track with passionate vocals. Check out the organ on this one. You can hear the cheering on "Ladies And Gentleman Mr. Ryo Okumoto On The Keyboards" which is part of the theme of the previous song "Snow's Night Out". In other words this is part of what Snow did on his night out on the town (see Ryo Okumoto play live). It works for me. "I Will Go" has these desperate vocals crying for help.This song becomes an uplifting one, but it will be surpassed by "Made Alive Again / Wind At My Back". Neal sings this like i've never heard him sing on previous albums. It's really a celebration that all heaven seems to take part in. "And my soul has been kissed, just because you exist, you're the gold that is free, you're the groom on one knee".

Favourite Neal Morse era SPOCK'S BEARD albums are: 1- "V" 2- "Beware Of Darkness" 3- "The Light" 4- "The Kindness Of Strangers" 5- "Snow" 6- "Day For Night". That's all folks.

Report this review (#181782)
Posted Friday, September 5, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars What Steely Dan is to jazz rock/fusion, the Neal Morse-era Spock's Beard is to symphonic prog rock. Say what? Allow me to explain. Both brought an accessible, proletarian mentality to their respective genres that emphasized the noble art of songwriting over long, extended instrumental passages. For some that means they veered too close to pop. I can understand that view but I'm one who considers the talent to create memorable, melodic tunes out of thin air to be the apex of musical genius. Virtuosity can be acquired through diligent practice and lifelong dedication to mastering an instrument but composing is something one is born with. You've either got the knack or you don't. That's why I judge this double album to be an amazing achievement.

But hold the I-phone. This ambitious undertaking has a downside. I consider myself a bit of a wordsmith so story lines and lyrical content are very important to me. "Snow" has a deficiency in that area. If a band is going to deliver a rock opera to the world they must prepare for comparisons to titans like "Tommy" and "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway." In the case of the former the plot flows like a classic novel and the latter is a brilliant avant garde work chock full of surrealistic images and phantasmagoria that boggle the brain. Not that the literate side of this project is pitiful, it just doesn't measure up. The basic tale is weak. Judge for yourself: A very white boy with spiritual powers goes to Gotham, displays his gift for psychological healing, becomes an icon with all its trappings, gets his heart smushed flat by a girl, descends into a serious funk and hits rock bottom before he is redeemed by the love of the folks he saved along the way. There's just not a lot of imagination involved in that saga and perhaps it's a product of Neal dividing his time and energies between Spock's Beard and Transatlantic amidst its conception. If the music wasn't so incredible it might have been a disaster. But it's far from that. Recording tracks this tight, this expansive, this varied is hard and only experienced, able musicians can do it right. The end result is nothing short of extraordinary.

Acoustic guitar and vocal start you on your journey with the simple "Made Alive" before Alan Morse's twangy axe barges in for the "Overture." Bassist Dave Meros employs a more suitable, less-trebly tone this time around and drummer Nick D'Virgilio proves that he deserves to be ranked in the elite corps of prog percussionists. They are the unshakable rock this project sits securely on. Horns are an added bonus in this rousing instrumental. Things re-settle into an acoustic mode for "Stranger in a Strange Land," where Alan's subtle slide work shines. The song builds to the 3-part harmony of the chorus before they seamlessly segue into the sizzling 6/4 opening for "Long Time Suffering." Resolving into a straight 4/4 beat, this screaming rocker will make your day. Snow, fresh off the farm, is confronted with the despair of the streets thriving all around him and the myriad of musical ideas that convey his shock are wondrous. One of the group's trademark interlaced vocal breaks occurs before they return to the verse/chorus and end it with chiming guitar. A funky Rhodes piano starts "Welcome to New York City" where they show off dynamic arrangement skills by occasionally slipping down some sinister alleyways. Neal turns in a cool jazz piano solo that leads to the pivotal moment when Snow touches the seedy hustler, The Knight.

A grand piano and acoustic guitar lend a tender grace to the stacked vocal lines of "Love Beyond Words" where The Knight is transformed into Snow's apostle. Huge guitars dominate the hard- driving "39th Street Blues (I'm Sick)" in which a prostitute shares her pain with the duo. Next comes a drug addict's story in "Devil's Got My Throat" wherein keyboard man Ryo Okumoto steers things in a different direction without losing a drop of momentum. Neal's synthesizer runs cut like a knife and Ryo's roaring Hammond organ delights. Once again their aptitude for combining multiple themes into a cohesive whole is on display. Snow's reputation spreads and he delivers his message of love to a curious throng in the uncomplicated ballad, "Open Wide the Floodgates." I like how they allow the tune to drift into a casual jam session briefly before returning to the chorus. "Part 2" is more up-tempo and you're treated to Nick and Alan's singing for a change as they volley back and forth. Ryo's Mellotron flutes are great but when they expand into a gargantuan symphonic prog section I get goose bumps. A homeless chap relates his sad tale on "Solitary Soul," a somber tune where it's easy to overlook the astounding Mellotron in the background if you're not paying attention. In the stirring "Wind At My Back" the poor soul expresses his devotion to his new-found savior as the band pulls out all the stops, constructing a full-spectrum wall of sound complete with plunging synthesizer notes that will test your speakers.

Neal wrote most of the songs but the first two cuts on disc #2 are group creations that show they weren't idle while their leader was away. The metal motif of "Second Overture" indicates that Neal brought back a taste for Mike Portnoy's intensity and D'Virgilio more than meets the challenge on the tubs. Dual synthesizer lines and the horns from Hell precede a spoken-word update on the spiritual phenomenon known as Snow. But in "4th of July" our tabloid star is smelling himself and the music offers a contrast between dirge-like heaviness with stark accents and smooth, Beatle-like harmonies with slide guitar. Snow's inflated ego emerges in the industrial groove of "I'm the Guy" where Neal's menacing delivery, Nick's gated drums, Alan's demonic guitar effects and above-average lyrics make this tune a highlight. "Reflection" is serene at the outset, then the band introduces a jazzy lilt and Ryo's Mellotron strings as Snow's overwhelming infatuation with his first crush is revealed. Piano and acoustic guitar combine in a beautiful lead-in etude for the love song, "Carie." D'Virgilio can croon and he demonstrates it here. This song and his sincere performance is flat out heavenly.

A strong southern rock atmosphere colors Nick's "Looking for Answers." His voice reminds me of Tommy Shaw of Styx but it's just an okay tune that goes on about a minute too long. It seems since Snow fell for this lady he's thinking she's his personal deliverer but his fantasy is shattered on "Freak Boy," a heavy metal ditty that features fat, layered guitars. Carie says in no uncertain terms that she wouldn't touch him with a 50-footer and splits. Snow's world crumbles in "All Is Vanity," a multi-leveled piece populated by sprightly synthesizers, riff reprisals, a fiery Hammond solo slathered over a ferocious band track and towering symphonic prog segments. "I'm Dying" introduces yet another in a string of catchy guitar patterns and Neal's desperate vocal tugs at your heartstrings. The chorus and the later section are both enormous in scope and the short spasm of weirdness they indulge in at the end is a respectful nod to "The Lamb." Drums, bass and a creeping guitar riff create tragic scenery for "Freak Boy (Part 2)," a depiction of Snow's self-loathing, then a revisit to the brash, noisy rocker "Devil's Got My Throat" adds to the drama of his degrading downfall.

Two instrumentals follow and they're both killers. "Snow's Night Out" is very involved mayhem as Dave & Nick dazzle in their tightness and the self-explanatory "Ladies and Gentlemen, Mister Ryo Okumoto on the Keyboards" is a fine showcase for this talented musician. He makes his Hammond growl like a Grizzly and he gives Keith Emerson a run for his money when it comes to coercing rude screams from the organ. Then BOOM! Snow crashes. "I Will Go" is a heartbreaker that uses a Mellotron chorale to set the mood. After some tense piano chords the group starts to climb back up. The thick depth of field joined with the background vocals answering Neal's signifies our hero's reconstitution as his caring friends surround him. They briefly reprise "Made Alive Again" before moving into "Wind At My Back" where D'Virgilio takes it up a notch and they commit to the song without reservation. This may be the longest ride on the wave of pure emotion I've ever heard as the harmonies get higher and higher with every round and Neal submerges himself in "the spirit" unconditionally. For some it may be too much but for me it's a total release. And kudos for the classy shout-out to their fans and followers just before the colossal, concert-styled finale.

After noticing widely-varying opinions in the reviews of this album I honestly didn't know what to expect. "V" was amazingly well put together and it seemed far-fetched to think that they screwed the pooch on their follow-up. They didn't. If you disliked Spock's Beard ere to "Snow" then I doubt this will change your mind. If you love their "Americanized" take on symphonic prog as much as I do, then you'll be ecstatic with this double CD set because it's more of the same excellent music and an ocean of it to swim in. If they'd spent more time on the overall story and the lyrical content this would've been their finest hour and a bonafide masterpiece. But that's just my take. As it is, I'll be enjoying "Snow" from time to time for the rest of my days. 4.4 stars.

Report this review (#182364)
Posted Saturday, September 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars In 2002, Neal Morse was touched by grace and became a devoted Christian (after that a miracle took place in his personal life). This album has plenty of religious references. Either you can make abstraction of this aspect or not. I belong to the later category but I respect each one's point of view.

About the music now. This album has all the usual suspected roots ("Yes", "Genesis", "Gentle Giant" etc.) but tops it by the addition of a harder ("Welcome To NYC"!) or even heavier atmosphere like "The 39th Street Blues" or "Devil's Got My Throat" which is severely Purple oriented in terms of music (good organ break) but is mixed with some typical GG vocals. Not too bad actually.

I've read here and there some comparisons between "Snow" and "The Lamb". Sorry guys, if you would exclude the fact that both stories take place in New-York, and that the Beard borrowed some sounds and words from this excellent original, there aren't many other points of comparison. This one falls really shy in terms of musical ideas, lyrics and concept. And I am not even referencing the average vocal lines from Neal.

Bearing all of this in mind, I guess that it is difficult to consider this release as a masterpiece.

Soft rock is also present ("Love Beyond Words", "Open Wide the Flood Gates"), probably to cool down between harder tracks. During these moments; the Beard reminds me of some Marillion Mark II clone: uninspired and dull.

The drama of "The Lamb" is also skipped or non-existing, even if "Solitary Soul" is quite desperate but when I've heard such poor lyrics as: "I've been like half a man but I could be whole. Won't you befriend this solitary soul" I can hardly be impressed. The mellowish to death mood is not helping either. To be complete, I have to say that the last minute of this song features a brilliant and poignant guitar moment. But the whole song last for over seven minutes.

In terms of poor lyrics, they culminate during the closing song of disc one (gosh, there is a second disc to listen to!): "And my soul has been kissed. Just because you exist. You're the dream that's a fact. You're the wind at my back". And there are twelve of these nice paragraphs. What a programme!

I was really afraid to listen to disc two, since as with most double concept album, the second leg falls mostly down.

What is for sure is that the vocals don't improve. Neal even attempts to resemble to Lennon ("Fourth Of July", "I'm The Guy") while he was singing during the "Twist & Shout" cover. He is switching to Gabriel during the soft "Reflection". Nothing truly personal here, right? As it is with most of their production actually.

Since the timing is not specified in the track list on PA, just let me tell you that when you will embark the "Snow" boat, the journey will almost last for two hours. Unless you have decided to wear your life jacket and jump out of the boat. If you do so, it would prevent you to listen to the rather childish lyrics and music from Carie. Press next.

If you like AOR, then "Looking For Answers" and "I'm Dying" are meant for you. If you don't, just press next again (unless you have jumped already). As expected, the second part of this work won't save the album. It is not worse than the first one either. Just average.

One has the pleasure to listen to some Banks oriented synthesizers when "All Is Vanity" is played. The second part is more Lord / Hensley oriented. Good references, but these guys were acting over forty years prior to this release.Still; it is one of my fave together with "Devil's Got My Throat" (not the revisited one).

This album is flooded with sub-par lyrics. Instrumental breaks are not many during "Snow". Once the band has decided to integrate one, it is an upbeat and jazzy part lasting for two minutes and full of trumpet and sax (Snow's Night Out). Press next.

Since we are heading the finale of this album, I guess that inspiration (?) was short and there is another instrumental "Ladies & Gentlemen" which features an excellent job from Ryo on the keys. Wild and powerful, but not really in line with the album.

The last couple of songs are on the mellow side again. And the loop is looped with "Made Alive Again". At this time, I can't recommend you to press next because you would be led to the first song again. I guess that you wouldn't do that, would you? But since you have jumped for a long time already, you are now heading the shores I guess...

Two stars.

Report this review (#183020)
Posted Sunday, September 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars OK, a concept album it is then...

I bought this album when it was released due to a recommondation from Amazon. I did not like it so Amazon sunk to the bottom of the sea in my estimation. It took me some years to listen to it again. I even put it up for sale on Ebay. Thankfully, nobody bought it.

Snow is a two hours long concept album, released as double cd and digi-pack. A progressive rock’s smorgasbord, no less. This concept album has all the ills and all the good things a two hours concept album has. From the bombastic and over the top noisy music to harmonious and poetic tunes. This album has it all...... and more. I cannot fail to notice the clear THE BEATLES references here. The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway also looms large in the foreground. This album is also more THE BEATLES than RICHARD WAGNER and that is a bit unusual for a concept album from a symphonic prog act. I am surprised how little references there are to classic music on this album. Not to mention ELP. That's maybe why I did not like it in the beginning. But after some hours of listening; it grew more and more on me. Some of the songs are brilliant. Others not so brilliant.

Snow is quite an ambitious project and Spock's Beard has pulled it off......... just. I like to listen to this album as one two hours long symphony instead of picking out single songs. That's why I want to leave it like that. This is not an easy album to like...... but I like it.

4.25 stars.

Report this review (#201011)
Posted Thursday, January 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Spock's Beard bears the brunt of many criticisms of borrowing from the 70's progressive giants, some of which are deserved, most notably the Gentle Giant vocal imitations, but on this album there is none of the borrowing to be had. Snow is their last album with Neal Morse, and he most certainly went out on a high note: this album is the culmination of everything they have done up to this point: the Genesis aspirations that have been evident from the beginning, the epics, the more classic rock oriented manner of the middle of the last album V, and Neal Morse's own conversion to christianity. Every band member is putting out fantastic playing on every level, from the solo-heavy Devil's got my Throat to the delicate Solitary Soul. Neal postures many different characters in the story very well, despite his vocal limitations, and the combined keyboard work from the two also weaves well into the soaring guitar work from Alan Morse and the athletic and powerful rhythm section from Dave Meros and Nick D'Virgilio. Moreover, what makes this album so timeless is the seamless fusion of classic rock-ish songs with the Beard's innate progressive sensibilities. Never does the progressive rock side get out of control like it did on The Great Nothing from their previous album. The Beard manages to keep my interest for the whole 2 hours by transitioning from menacing rockers like Welcome to NYC to ballads like Love Beyond Words. Not only that, but Morse delivers incredible vocal performances on I'm the Guy and Devil's got my Throat. He shows his critics that he truly can let loose with rage and anger. He balances the excesses of those songs with the simple beauty of Reflection and Carie, bringing childlike tears to the listeners eyes. Looking for Answers is a classic love-rock song, straight out of the classic rock radio, but then Freak Boy throws us for a twist with a riff so heavy and angular it belongs on a King Crimson record. The more soul-searching ballardy of Solitary Soul, Wind at my Back, I'm Dying, and I Will Go hint at Morse's religious intentions while staying true to the story and the band's standard of epicness. The prog die hards can indulge in the two overtures, Devil's got my Throat, All is Vanity, Snow's Night Out, Ladies and Gentleman, and Long Time Suffering for the typical guitar and keyboard pyrotechnics from the Morse Brothers and Ryo, along with some spectacular drumming from Nick D'Virgilio. None of this mentions the storyline, a very spiritual affair about an albino boy who can read peoples minds, find whats wrong with them, and help them come to grips with their problems. He goes to New York and meets some punks that he helps and they turn into followers. He begins a movement called The regeneration and gets a lot of press for it. However, it all falls apart when he falls in love with a girl named Carie, and she rejects him. He secludes himself and becomes depressed and disheveled, causing his followers to lose faith. He eventually comes to peace with himself after indulging in the new gang of local punks, and reminisces about the days when his followers would pledge their undying loyalty to him. At least, thats the way I see it. The story can be interpreted many ways, much like the lamb of too many comparisons, and Morse and company provide a wonderful background for it. All in all, this is the album where the Beard take all their tricks, talents and gifts and go completely overboard with everything, and the result is the best Neal Morse-led album.
Report this review (#201065)
Posted Thursday, January 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
James Lee
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars There are great bands that passed their peak a while back, and you keep listening with a sort of desperately loyal hope that they'll find that spark again. On the other hand, there are promising bands that show glimpses of greatness, so you keep listening with the hope that they'll finally put all the pieces together.

Spock's Beard is neither of these. They're always more or less as good as they're going to get; perfectly adequate for filling in the space between more exciting bands and more talented bands. The only time you'll be disappointed is when you foolishly expect them to be great.

There was very little that was surprising about Morse's Christian Rock career move. After all, most of the time Spock's Beard shares so many elements with "inspirational" music: over-produced, derivative, unoriginal, dated, bland....but thoroughly competent, and ideally suited for genre fans. Even the name sounds like an obvious joke from many years ago, and one that was only sort of funny the first time.

"Snow", the band's 'magnum opus' and 'culmination of their career', is actually a little less enjoyable in many ways than previous albums. There's very little hint of the somewhat cheeky wit that always failed to spice up the lyrics, and not enough of the tasty-but-unimpressive musicianship that always failed to spice up the arrangements. Morse is obviously starting to take himself a little too seriously (another solid recommendation for a Christian recording artist).

Still, like every other Spock's Beard album ever recorded, it's almost impossible to dislike it completely. There's nothing really objectionable about it, except for the time it takes to listen to the whole thing. Whereas Echolyn's "MEI" was a ragged, heartfelt gamble of a concept album, "Snow" seems to hedge every single bet. You can't fault the performances, or the concept...the parts are slightly above average, and they come together to make a slightly above average whole.

Metaphors abound. It's like eating at a decent chain restaurant; the food is as good as you expected but not one iota better. You leave relatively satisfied and forget about the meal almost immediately. As Olive Garden is to an Italian ristorante, so is "Snow" to "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" (uh, scratch that..."Lamb" wasn't all that great, either. But it was distinctive and memorable, even if you didn't care for it).

Or how about this: if Neil Morse was a horror author, he wouldn't be H. P. Lovecraft, he wouldn't be Clive Barker, he wouldn't even be Stephen King. For that matter, he wouldn't even be Poppy Z. Brite. He'd be good old Dean Koontz. It's all been done before, several times and many years ago, but it's nicely polished and attractively presented. You just keep buying and reading because it's the kind of thing you like, and he just keeps cranking it out for you. A lovely symbiotic relationship that has absolutely nothing to do with originality or excitement.

But as prog fans, we're well used to giving up a little originality for the sake of a particular type of quality...and there's nothing really wrong with that. Just like there's nothing really wrong with "Snow": it's a completely agreeable culmination to a discography full of solid passing grades.

Report this review (#215790)
Posted Thursday, May 14, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars If you look at my Last FM charts (at the time of this review) you'd notice that Snow by Spock's Beard has 1615 listens, or I've listened to 1615 songs from this album. If you take a straight average, that translates to listening to all 26 songs on the album 64 or so times each. Yeah, I'm giving it five stars.

Much like Genesis, I discovered Spock's Beard long after their original lead singer had left. Much like Genesis, the last album with the previously mentioned lead singer was a double concept album. Much like Genesis, the concept album is absolutely fantastic.

Neal's last effort with the Beardites showed leanings towards his faith, though it certainly isn't the 'over the top, beat you about the head until you're in a stupor' brand of Christianity that I find detracting.

Snow details the story of an albino kid who can read minds. He travels to New York City and becomes a cult leader. I won't give too much more of the story away but there are parallels to the movie Powder. I always found the choice of the lead character to be an albino to be curious; someone had to have told them of the 'Powder' connection. It wouldn't have detracted from the story to drop that aspect, but I digress.

Musically, the album is fantastic. Made Alive / Overature starts the album out with an indication of what is to come. Stranger in a Strange Land is good but Long Time Suffering is one of the great bits on the album. The chorus sticks with you like the smell of McDonalds fries; the Gentle Giant-esque vocal run is superb. Welcome to NYC is a great little bit of funk followed by the forgettable Love Without Words. Devil's Got My Throat is my personal favorite on this album, all the way from the Deep Purple like opening organ to the second four part a cappella bit of the album, this song rocks.

The album cools off with a trio of mellow tunes that gives the listener a chance to breathe. Wind at my Back is a terribly uplifting song, though the lyrics can be a bit hokey and repetitive, the sentiment and music is very upbeat and energetic.

Disc 2 starts with the appropriately named Second Overture which again, gives a portent of what's to come. 4th of July and I'm the Guy are dark scene setters that match the story. Reflections is a jazzy little number but Carrie is just plain awful, though, it's necessary for the story. Looking for Answers is forgettable as well.

From Freak Boy on, the CD shines with a series of hard hitting, well crafted tunes that wrap up the album beautifully. Freak Boy is in your face soul searching that every one of us goes through; All is Vanity features a great Ryo solo, I'm Dying features another catchy Neal Morse chorus. Freak 2 and Devil's 2 both revisit earlier themes and continue down the roller coaster ride as the album gains more and more momentum. Snow's Night Out is the first of a pair of instrumental bits showcasing the band and continuing the avalanche. Ladies and Gentlemen . . . is Ryo's time to truly shine as the ride increases until. . .

Everything crashes at I Will Go. The bottom of the ride, the emotion and the story as well. I don't mean to say that the song is bad, it's just where the out of control coaster of the previous seven songs finally lets up. The song itself features some great harmonies and is a perfect segue to Made Alive Again / Wind at my Back. The closer of the album revisits two of the earlier uplifting themes and brings the album to a gratifying finale.

When I was first getting into newer prog, I was tooling around iTunes and found a review for Snow in which someone posted that this was the album to start with for Spock's Beard. I'm glad I took their advice because this album renewed my interest in prog with vigor.

Highly recommended.

Report this review (#223685)
Posted Sunday, June 28, 2009 | Review Permalink
The Crow
4 stars "Snow" could have been the Spock's Beard's masterpiece... But it sadly isn't!

Primarily because a mediocre second album, clearly under the level of the magnificient first one... The style of "Snow" remembers me a bit to "Day for Night", but surpassing it clearly. The short tracks of the first half of the album are just great. Stranger in a Strange Land, Long Time Suffering, Devil's Got My Throat, Open Wide the Flood Gates, Wind at My Back... All the tracks of the first Cd are some of the best Spock's Beard's Neal Morse best. And they fit and flow together perfectly, like one simple song.

But then comes the sencond half... With a lot of fillers, and repeating too much from the first. Specially songs like I'm the Guy, 4th of July, Reflection... They bring to my mind the weakest moments of "Day for Night". Even great songs like Freak Boy and I will Go can't change the bad feeling I have every time I hear this second Cd of "Snow", because it spoils a bit the great work made of the perfect first one. A pity.

Best Tracks: the songs of the first Cd are all great... The second one has too much fillers.

Conclusion: this is another example of an album spoiled by its excesive duration... It the band had taken the best parts of the second Cd and they had mixed in the first one for telling the whole story (wich reminds me too much to the film "Powder"...), maybe we could be talking about the definitive Spock's Beard album. But sadly, "Snow" is not the Spock's Beard masterpiece that we could hever hear from them, and of course is not their best album, although it has some incredible songs and the band sounds really cohesionated. After this album, and Neal Morse's departure, the things would never be the same.

Cd1 rating: *****. Cd2 rating: ***

My rating: ****

Report this review (#224648)
Posted Sunday, July 5, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Oooh, a concept album. Tricky fellow, johnny concept-album. I've heard dozens over the years, and, dear friend, Snow, is probably my favourite. Yes, even more than 'The Lamb'.

The narrative is far clearer and less pretentious than most - I'll leave it to other people to interpret it (it ain't rocket science!). Self conciously pretentious is still pretentious.

Following on from 'V', which was a very accomplished album, Snow takes the band further, and produces some of the their finest moments. You somehow get the feeling all the way through that they knew that Neal Morse was about to jump ship (whether they did or not I don't know), because everyone seems to be on the top of their game. Of course, as with any double CD with nearly two hours of music on, there are a few lulls, and the odd suspicion of a filler, but not many, and I don't think they detract from the quality of the album.

A lot of people seem to be comparing this to The Lamb, which I think is like comparing apples and hand grenades. The Lamb was an album borne of conflict and in-fighting, and I always had the impression that had Tony Banks heart and soul been in that album, then it would have been a far more coherent piece. In contrast, Snow has a polish which the Lamb doesn't, and, although this is sometimes a bad thing, I think it adds to Snow's charm. One more point is that I think this album proves that the whole of Spocks Beard was far greater than the sum of it's parts - nothing that either the remainder of the band nor Morse himself have done since comes close to the quality and heart of Snow.

The main thing about Snow, though, is something you just can't measure - how it makes me feel. The first time I heard it, I thought it was okay, but it was a grower, and over a year after first hearing it, it's one of the few albums that I can still play again immediately after it has finished. It drags me in, makes me go through the ups and downs that the lead character goes through, and at the end, I can't help but smile, and I'm sure that everytime the coda of "Wind at my back" plays at the end of disc two, the sun ALWAYS breaks through the dark english clouds. No, honestly, it does. Even if it was a flawless blue sky before. God, I might be turning into a romantic! I'll get me coat!

Not only do I think that this is Spock's Beard's finest album, it is one of my favourite of all time - and for an old git like me, that's saying something.

Report this review (#228639)
Posted Monday, July 27, 2009 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars Much has been made about this album being a distant cousin to Genesis' The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, especially since both albums are the final one to feature the front man. Musically and thematically, however, I don't see much of a relationship (with a few notable and perhaps deliberate sections). Many of the songs flows into one another, creating an almost uninterrupted stream of music, throughout which the band executes some thrilling performances. The biggest problem with this record, though is it's impossible length. Had the project been trimmed (and believe me when I say there are dispensable parts), it would have been a much more powerful album. Instead, it carries on and carries on, oftentimes offering nothing new, and wearing out its welcome in the process. In this overblown effort, there's simply too much that gets recycled (although the melodic motifs are outstanding). All that said, what's here is a beautiful story of defection and redemption, with many great musical moments. An excellent album despite so many flaws, but ranks ever so slightly above my least favorite Spock's Beard albums.

"Made Alive / Overture" Gentle acoustic guitar and Morse's quiet voice begin, with some lovely sound effects used when appropriate. But the instrumental overture is hard-hitting, full of heavy drums, chunky bass, and dirty guitar.

"Stranger in a Strange Land" The acoustic guitar, along with the slide, gives this song a down home Southern flavor at first. It's a pleasing narrative song that retains its simplicity, even when the rest of the band plays.

"Long Time Suffering" This is a gritty song that may just have a little bit too much going on at once. There's the complex vocal arrangements as heard on songs like "Thoughts," which never did much for me anyway. The chorus is catchy, as many Spock's Beard refrains are.

"Welcome to NYC" The Gentle Giant-like beginning is no indication of what sort of song this is: This is Van Halen music right here, full of heavy guitars and vocal screeching. The song proper gives way to gentle piano, a welcome relief after the loud and raunchy music that came before.

"Love Beyond Words" A poignant piece with harrowing words, quiet piano and guitar, I think this is one of the band's best soft songs. The piano at the end is a real highlight.

"The 39th Street Blues (I'm Sick)" A real nice rocker, this song works well, going as it does from traditional festive rock music to mellow moments where major seventh chords abound.

"Devil's Got My Throat" The lead singing is just grating on this heavier song; there's even more irritating David Lee Roth-imitation shrieking. The best part of the song, however, is the synthesizer solo, the tone of which sounds very much like Patrick Moraz's lead spot toward the end of Yes's "Sound Chaser." The brief organ solo is likewise praiseworthy. The end is more complex a cappella vocals akin to those in "Thoughts."

"Open Wide the Flood Gates" I first heard part of this song in the medley on Neal Morse's ? Live album. It's a pleasing, very memorable song, with some great drumming from Nick D'Virgilio toward the end.

"Open the Gates" This is a more progressive follow up to the previous track; it has several satisfying parts, but for some reason, I prefer what came before.

"Solitary Soul" Mournful piano works underneath Alan Morse's smooth lead guitar until his big brother comes in with acoustic guitar and his deep vocals. I also had previously heard an excerpt from this piece on Morse's ? Live album. It's a very satisfying soft song that I really enjoy listening to, even in isolation.

"Wind at My Back" The last song on the disc returns to the simple acoustic guitar and vocals, the latter of which is laden with short reverb. It's another good pop track, and a pleasing closer to the first CD.

"Second Overture" The beginning of the second disc is a varied piece of music, full of shifting complexities, nice organ, and grating electric guitar business. There's some newscast voiceovers, describing the titular character's powers.

"4th of July" This is another fairly weak track on this album, even though this track is important with respect to the story.

"I'm the Guy" This is a weird song, at least the way it's performed and sung, and it just makes me furrow my brow and want to hit skip. It's probably the weakest moment on the album, even if it serves the narrative well.

"Reflection" A basic narrative bridge, this is really well done. Morse does a great job singing some well-written lyrics. In spite of its length, this is very important part of the story.

"Carie" Acoustic guitar and light vocals abound in this short track that sounds like something from The Eagles in recent times; even the vocalist sounds like Timothy B. Schmidt.

"Looking for Answers" Generic-sounding Spock's Beard, what's here is still no less enjoyable for what it is. The subtle acoustic guitar in the background is nice to just pick out of the mix and focus on.

"Freak Boy" This short song has some good electric guitar and synthesizer, and I really like the lyrics, but overall this song isn't my thing.

"All is Vanity" This song flows quite naturally from the previous one, and is full of great lyrics that echo the main theme from the book of Ecclesiastes. The subsequent synthesizer and bass interplay make for good music. Everything that follows from the beginning of that point is some of the best instrumental business on the album.

"I'm Dying" Semi-metal guitar and buoyant keyboards work under Morse's seething vocals. It's not a bad song, but it's not particularly memorable. The end of it sounds like the band is attempting to imitate Genesis's "The Waiting Room."

"Freak Boy (Part Two)" The second part of this song, the instrumental section, is far superior to the vocal section, but it's a decent reprise.

"Devil's Got My Throat (Revisited)" Yet another reprise, this two minute bit may fit in with the story, but it offers nothing new.

"Snow's Night Out" A jaunty little piece that almost sounds a bit disco, this is one I could do without.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, Mister Ryo Okumoto on the Keyboards" Over an applauding crowd, Ryo Okumoto gets ample opportunity to demonstrate his exciting abilities on various instruments, not the least of which is the organ, and he sounds phenomenal playing it. This is easily one of his best performances.

"I Will Go" Melancholic Mellotron, gentle piano, and soft electric guitar set up the climax of the rock opera. There are some painful-sounding vocalizations before the music gels together, ushering in some lovely call-and-response vocal passages that treat the return of the prodigal son theme with elegance.

"Made Alive / Wind at My Back" The first song, with that gorgeous acoustic guitar, visits the listener again, and makes so much thematic sense in terms of the story, completing a beautiful story of redemption.

Report this review (#241903)
Posted Monday, September 28, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Aha, a concept album, about an Albino with a nick name of "Snow". Well there is a lot of religion in the lyrics also - so Snow is an albino Jesus or something like that...Anyway, the music is so good that it keeps your attention all the way through 2 hours of the life of Snow, very tight muscianship all the way through. Scintillating keys and interesting melodies make this possibly the best spocks beard CD I have heard up to now. Cd1 explores the major themes but it is CD2 that opens up with some wakemanesque arpegios and then my favourite bit - Ryo Okumoto doing his Keith Emerson (The Old Castle anybody) - If he had done the synth solo (and he should have) it would have been PERFECT...Anyway the CD is worth getting just for that bit of ELP bombast - I have to give it FIVE just because it's a good listen for TWO HOURS, buy it....
Report this review (#252362)
Posted Monday, November 23, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars This album is very accessible to newcomers and that's never a bad thing for any long concept album!

Just before leaving Spock's Beard, Neal Morse managed to write the best album that this band have ever accomplished. One may argue that the record's concept is unoriginal and contains very basic lyrical structures or even that it's actually a mash between The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and The Who's Tommy, but that's what makes it work so well for me.

Instrumentally Snow might not be as technical as anything that the band had recorded previously but the simpler arrangements definitely enhance the experience of the material especially since any other arrangement would just feel overblown and shallow. There are a few instrumentals here and there but most of the album consists of a stripped down arrangement dominated by acoustic guitars and melodic verse/chorus compositions.

If you found my description of this album interesting then stop hesitating and purchase this excellent album. If you intend to buy the CD version of this release then I would recommend the 3-CD version since the bonus tracks are really great. Get it even if it's just for the excellent cover of South Side Of The Sky, although I'm sure that if you like the album then you'll find most of this bonus material completely priceless.

***** star songs: Long Time Suffering (6:03) Devil's Got My Throat (7:17) Open The Gates Part 2 (3:02) Wind At My Back (5:12) I Will Go (5:08)

**** star songs: Made Alive/Overture (5:32) Stranger In A Strange Land (4:29) Love Beyond Words (3:24) The 39th Street Blues (I'm Sick) (4:05) Open Wide The Flood Gates (6:14) Solitary Soul (7:33) 2nd Overture (3:47) 4th Of July (3:11) Reflection (2:49) Carie (3:06) Looking For Answers (5:17) Freak Boy (2:12) All Is Vanity (4:35) I'm Dying (5:09) Freak Boy Part 2 (3:01) Devil's Got My Throat Revisited (1:55) Snow's Night Out (2:04) Ladies And Gentleman Mr. Ryo Okumoto (2:40) Made Alive/Wind At My (8:27)

*** star songs: Welcome To NYC (3:32) I'm The Guy (4:48)

Total Rating: 4,16

Report this review (#254391)
Posted Saturday, December 5, 2009 | Review Permalink
The Truth
Post/Math Rock Team
5 stars I bought this album immeadiately after I heard the description, emotional rock opera. That is absolutely my kind of album!

The story of the albino psychic is quite a narrative all right and it's one that seemingly gets better each listen. The story is very much "out there" but somehow I can relate to it and the emotion Morse shows with his vocals match the storyline perfectly.

That's one of the real reasons this is a masterpiece, how well the music matches the lyrics. The emotion given by both just create one big emotion you can feel. (How many times have I said emotion so far?)

I don't want to give away the storyline in my review, that would take much too long but I will give you this, it is a spiritual journey in the purest musical sense. The musicians can really play especially the incredibly skilled boards player Ryo Okumoto and the shape shifting guitar of Alan Morse.

5 bright and shining stars.

Report this review (#293575)
Posted Friday, August 6, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars An absolute masterpiece.

For a long time I identified Snow as my "second favorite album ever" (behind Ayreon's THE). I don't think I could say that's still the case, but that doesn't mean the album is any less good!

It's impossible for me to do a track by track (just too many songs) but I will say that in my opinion there is not a weak moment on the album. From the beautiful and spare opening of "Made Alive" to the rocking "Devil's Got My Throat" to the emotional "I Will Go" and the stellar finale of "Made Alive/WInd at My Back," this is an album that keeps the listener engaged (both emotionally and intellectually) throughout all of its almost 2 hours of music.

This album gets compared a lot to Tommy and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, and it's not a bad description of the album to say that it sounds like a combination of those with a lot of classic prog influence (GG, Genesis, etc.) thrown in as well. This is easily the most consistent SB album, and one that every prog fan should here.

Absolutely recommended.

Report this review (#297990)
Posted Wednesday, September 8, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Well, though this is not my personal favourite album in Spock's Beard discography I'll throw some lines about it. This album has all the trademarks that Spock's Beard and Neal Morse work are famous for. Their influences of Genesis, Gentle Giant and Yes are in the spotlight, musicianship is great and Morse writing skills are as high as ever. But...

I guess the storyline is well crafted, pieces well put together, but I am missing more instrumental challenges, there's too much vocal moments for me...It's like toooooooooo much AOR...though I really the overtures, Long Time Suffering, Welcome To NYC or the great Open The Flood Gates and Wind At My Back, I'm feeling still like there's something missing.

Ok, this album flows perfectly and the production is really flawless, there are a bunch of really good themes and lyrics that fit the music but...I think that Spock's Beard could give really a lot more, a so I can't say this is masterpiece for me. So 4 stars it is, an excellent addition to any prog discography out there, but it really could have been better.

Report this review (#308048)
Posted Wednesday, November 3, 2010 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars Another double concept album and another lead singer gone!

Ironically the concept double format has been the bane of at least two legendary solo artists. First Peter Gabriel left for greener pastures and a prolific successful career after genesis' "Lamb Lies Down On Broadway", and now Neal Morse leaves Spock's Beard for a solo career after "Snow". Both albums are based on a man who leaves behind an old life to embrace a new one going to NYC ot become a rock god and falling prey to all the temptations therein. As with the aforementioned Genesis album, "Snow" may be the best Spock's Beard album though I have not heard every one. A double Cd full of inspirational songs hung on a conceptual framework is irresistible. The concept is heavy handed and revolves around the story of a young albino boy named Snow, who moves to NYC and is, due to an unprecedented gift, transformed into some kind of legendary rock god, but of course all does not go well on this adventure and there are many hurdles to overcome. It is not a new idea, as mentioned, Genesis have done it on their "Lamb" magnum opus, but Spock's Beard have really created something equally special with this magnificent album.

The way the songs merge in to each other like one long track is a compelling device and the whole album works die to the way the songs blend seamlessly. Neal Morse's wonderful clean emotional vocals are as good as it gets. The lyrics are uplifting and innovative with some darker moments telling the cautionary tale. The lead work is excellent. The keyboards are shimmering and strong. The drums are sporadic and creative. The melodies are infectious and akin to the type of material Morse contributed to both his solo career and Transatlantic. Having heard those albums before this it is impossible to differentiate between the styles, as they are so similar. Morse's vocals are always excellent.

There are some amazing tracks on this opus. The memorable melodies of Stranger in a Strange Land come to mind. Long Time Suffering with an amazing shimmering organ and lead break and acapella vocal harmonies.

The heavier and darker Welcome to NYC features Morse aggressive on vocals and the riffs intensified with organ staccato slamming. It sounds like "Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" with references to the tracks on the Genesis classic. It ends with a minimalist piano, gently played with emotion to bring the atmosphere down. It segues to the pretty melodies of Love Beyond Words. Morse is always terrific on these ballads.

The 39th Street Blues is a real rocker with grungy riffs and loud vocals. The moment the sax blasts out I knew that I loved this track. This is a jazzy thing with some very powerful melodies.

Devil's Got My Throat is driven by a staccato organ and guitar riff. It really grabs you by the throat (pun intended) and refuse sot let go. The lyrics are very aggressive and well executed. The keyboard solo and guitars soar over each other, you have to love that Hammond sound and howling wind. One of the heavier tracks, very progressive, and one of the best compositions of the band. The acapella ending seals the deal and then it has a passage of sweet flute sounds.

A soft ballad follows with Open Wide the Flood Gates, sounding familiar to the solo career of Morse. It builds to a majestic feel with solid melodies but goes on a bit too long. I like the jazzy instrumental though the return to the chorus is a bit repetitive.

Open The Gates 2 continues the same theme, with anthemic and loud choruses. The flute sounds and brass in the instrumental is innovative.

Solitary Soul is one of the longer tracks over 7 minutes, beginning with a beautiful keyboard solo. Morse is quiet and emotive on vocals. The melancholy ambience is punctuated by harmonies and a majestic chorus. There are some high falsetto vocals later heard, and the piano is ever present. A real dreamy sleeper but packs an emotional blast, especially that finishing lead break over a Hammond sound. It segues into Wind at My Back, acoustic, moderate tempo, heavily reliant on Morse's performance.

CD 2 has some highlights also starting with the sledge hammer riffs and soaring keyboards of Second Overture and 4th of July. There is a familiar melody heard on CD1, which ties it together well. The sax is dynamic and a welcome sound after all the balladeering and organ heavy work of Cd1. The slide guitar work on 4th of July is excellent and it has a great chorus, "another 4th of July, another shot hits the sky, another eagle exalts the man".

I'm The Guy is a great song, and has a wonderful bassline and scratchy guitar. It has a darker feel and Morse gets into a more sinister style; "I'm the mind you're living in, I'm the guy who thinks of the press and interviews, likes to walk a mile in God's favourite running shoes."

Carie grabs my attention after Reflection ends. This ballad is full of tranquil beauty and some sweet lyrics. It is the story of a girl who the protagonist is in love with, but has to ultimately leave her behind to pursue his career.

He pursues her on Looking for Answers, sung well by Nick, working out how he is going to contact Carie again. The melody is very strong and grows on you. The twin lead guitar break on this is well executed.

So the story continues with Freak Boy, a strange track with a powerful strong heavy riff, where the tale turns darker. The protagonist has a freakish gift, and Carie is turning him away at 2 in the morning, as she can't love such a man, calling him "a magnet for the pathetic". It's a fun song with some great distortion on the guitars, and squealing guitars. It blends seamlessly into All Is Vanity; "I'm all alone without a friend" says the young man, who is sinking deeper into a depressed state. The keyboard solo and very cool guitar riff is essential listening. There is a very dynamic instrumental break that takes off in many directions, switching time sigs, and is one of the most proggy tracks on the album. The Hammond sounds are grinding and violently juxtaposed with blindingly brilliant synths.

Immediately we launch into the heavy choppy I'm Dying. Morse is remorseful (pun intended) with depressive vocals, "when they come in the night I won't be here no more, help me I'm dying, my soul is flying, hear the shots in the night and I don't care what for, I had mustard before, I can't eat it no more ". It breaks into a fine instrumental with choral vocals and a majestic keyboard passage. It tends to build to a crescendo till it quietens at the end with a rather odd violin sound, haunting and ghostly.

Eventually Freak Boy 2 begins with a cool riff and strong percussion, over deep bass. The downbeat atmosphere is augmented by the lyrics, "I'm a freak boy, everlasting, on the street now barely breathing, they don't call me Snow it's too charming, somehow I still have some feeling". I really like the feel of this track, driving with a heavy riff and a melodic lead break.

Devil's Got My Throat revisited has more choppy Hammond and howling wind, and it is nice to be reminded of the melody once again but this is more effects laden, even with a Dalek voice at one stage.

Snow's Night Out has a frantic riff and some jazzy sax nuances. The proggish time sig is rather innovative and there are even effects of a night club crowd. The instrumental breaks the singing for a while which is worthwhile as Morse has been dominant. This remains one of the best examples of the progressive side of Spock's Beard.

The fake crowd represents this is the live stage with the protagonist now a rock god playing to a strong audience in a stadium. Ladies and Gentlemen Mr Ryo Okumoto on the Keyboards, sounds live and is really a showcase for Ryo and why not, he is one of the best keyboardists on the planet. The shimmering Hammond is incredible. Reminds me of Emerson in places.

This blends into I Will Go with the protagonist sad singing a melancholy ballad, emotional and endearing. "Help me, I'm dying" he croons again. The song is very quiet at first, bleak piano stabs, and mournful atmosphere. Morse is beautiful here and this sounds more like his solo career, even mentioning God and the idea of searching for something else leading him to God eventually as we know.

The accomplished work of keyboardist Ryo Okumoto and guitarist Allan Morse are prominent on the prog mini epic Made Alive/ Wind at my Back. This is a definitive highlight full of melody and innovation. The main majestic point is found in the way it builds and the melodic harmonies. Morse absolutely pours his heart and soul into this. So it ends on a high note and a positive theme. Overall in effect I think the album improves dramatically on the second Cd building up all the time with some very strong compositions and melodies. The dilemma I have is the thing is so long and the concept is overblown sometimes. It is a bit poppy for my prog sensitive ears, though the songs grow on you like osmosis over time. It is a compelling album with many great songs and a few that could have been left off but it is hard to complain about such an ambitious passionate project as "Snow". I will settle with 4 stars as this is definitely an excellent addition to any prog addict's collection.

Report this review (#408424)
Posted Saturday, February 26, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars The parallels between this album and the last Gabrie-era Genesis album, "Lamb Lies Down on Broadway", are clear - both are double concept albums, both are centred in New York both were the bands sixth album, and the lead singer left after each album.

The parallels end there, for while The Lamb is one of my all time favorite album, featuring great melodies, a bizarre story, and really unique music, well ...

Snow makes me understand all the retro-prog hate out there.

I've actually had this album for about two years and never listened to it. I got it around the same time I got Day Into Night, being certain I would love this band, and after Day Into Night failed to impress me I kind of ignored this one for a while. But when I stumbled across a video of "The Light" on youtube, and found myself enjoying it, I figured I would finally give the band a second chance.

Truthfully, the music here isn't terrible. There are, in fact, some pretty good tracks - I like it when the band creates a heavier, darker sound. The problems that plague this album, though, really hurt it. And these albums are evident throughout most of the two hour production, making it very difficult for me to listen to the whole thing.

In all honesty, by the time that "Open Up The Floodgates" Comes around, I am ready to turn it off. And that isn't even the end of the first disc!

Again I'd like to state that this music isn't terrible, and if you're a huge fan of modern symphonic prog, you'll probably like it. It contains everything one expects from the current leaders of the genre, but almost nothing that they expect from the past masters. There are long instrumental flourishes, lots of singing, a strong concept, and it is long!

I think this is my biggest complaint. It's long, and not hugely varied. On their own a lot of these songs stand out just fine, but as an album, it's a lot of the same thing to take in. And they have the bad habit of stretching songs out beyond where they should be. Can you imagine how terrible The Lamb would be if Counting Out Time were 8 minutes long? Yet "Open Up The Floodgates" is a perfect example of a song that's like that - it says what it has to say in 1 minute, then goes on for another 5.

Truthfully at this point I've only gone through the album a couple of times, and it's rare for me to want to review an album after so few listens. I try and get as much as I can out of the album first. But in this case, the good parts often last too long, and even when they don't, they just aren't enough to make me want to trudge through the bad parts

Report this review (#439997)
Posted Thursday, April 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Hello everyone, Tommo here. I rarely post album reviews although I have been using PA since its inception! However, my birthday is on its way and I want to make sure I am up to date on the lastest releases ;) So, listening to the stream, I happened upon a review of Snow that gave it just 2 stars. It's tricky, isnt it, music is SUCH a subjective medium - beauty being in the eye of the beholder etc... Anyway, I felt I just had to put my two-pennieworth in - Snow is, as far as I am concerned - legendary. If you know SB, or just love true symphonic prog - this is among the grand-daddies of them all. It makes me cry - every time. I would have given 5 stars - but that would be a bit predictable eh! With all respect to music lovers - especially proggers!! Tommo
Report this review (#440019)
Posted Thursday, April 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Neal Morse's final album at the helm of the band he founded is a rock opera masterpiece.

It's too bad that he left the band after it's release; I would loved to have seen this album performed live. Morse went on to a fantastic solo career, while the band went forward with uneven results (understandable, since Neal Morse was the creative force behind the band for its first six albums). Morse is also one of the masterminds behind the Prog supergroup Transatlantic.

"Snow" is the story of a young man whose called this nickname due to his pale complexion. Snow leaves his small town for New York, where he discovers his supernatural powers to feel the pain of the people he encounters and the ability to heal them.

This is a very moving album ? the Christian allegory is real but it is subtle. The music moves effortlessly from the influence of Genesis to Yes to The Beatles to Gentle Giant to Kansas.

There are wonderful ballads and hard-edged rockers. There are excursions into magnificent instrumentals that showcase the band's excellence as players (especially Morse, who provides vocals and plays piano and acoustic guitar).

This 2-CD concept album moved Morse into the upper-echelon of composers; with this album he developed the ability to create a complex yet cohesive album with repeated themes to tie things together and catchy melodies and hooks for individual songs that are worthy of radio airplay.

Report this review (#442802)
Posted Wednesday, May 4, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is a terrific concept album. Disc 1 is awesomeness from start to finish, Disc 2 is very strong most of the way, finally ending with the double whammy of I Will Go and Made Alive Again/Wind at My Back Reprise, which was a spectacular way to end the record. Disc 2 does meander a bit too much following I'm Dying for about 10 minutes, but the rest of the album is more than great enough for me to forgive them for that. The stretch of Love Beyond Words through Wind at My Back on Disc 2 might be the greatest 37 consecutive minutes on any Spock's Beard record.

Overall, I would probably give this 4 1/2 stars out of 5, but since we don't give halves here, I am bumping it up to a 5 because I consider Spock's Beard one of the best modern symphonic prog rock bands, and since this is their best overall work, this is what I would consider the most essential record by one of the best modern prog rock bands.

Report this review (#450394)
Posted Friday, May 20, 2011 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
2 stars Neal Morse's web site has this qoute about "Snow": "Snow is an exemplary concept album in the tradition of The Who's Tommy or Genesis' The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and has earned the right to be mentioned in the same breath as these classics in the annals of Rock' n 'Roll."

That's hubris.

While a concept album is a fine idea, and a great way for Morse to leave the band, his ham handed approach to this album causes it to fail on a number of levels.

First, the story told here just doesn't seem original. If you've seen the movie "Powder", you have seen the main character, here renamed "Snow". There are also hefty helpings of plot from the two classic albums listed above.

Second, the music is the weakest of any of the Morse-led Spock's Beard albums. The overtures, one at the beginning of each CD, hint at some spectacular prog to come. False advertising. While there are a few good hard rock songs, there is next to nothing progressive about the mostly arena rock tracks that fill this turkey. And Morse should have listened to "Tommy", especially Captain Walker to hear music written to move a story along that doesn't sound forced.

Third, where Morse previously wrote some nice lyrics, even some with religious overtones, here, he sounds like he's trying to fill a playing card from Born Again Buzz Word Bingo. While he's not preachy, the lyrics are so unoriginal that they are cringeworthy. I keep wanting to hear "You are the wind at my back" as "You are the wind from my crack".

Aside from the overtures and the few hard rock pieces, the only musical highlight, and prog moment comes near the end of this ordeal of an album. After the reprise of Devil's Got My Throat, the music gets good for almost five minutes, with Snow's Night Out and the out-of-place Ladies And Gentleman, Mr. Ryo Okumoto on the Keyboards. But don't worry, the music gets quite lame again afterwards.

Spoiler alert: Snow apparently is a Jesus figure. If you hadn't figured it out from the parallels to "Powder" or Snow's girlfriend Carie (who's last name is probably Cagdalene), it's stuck in your face after Snow rises from the dead at the end and talk to God. Jeeze.

I have the deluxe edition with the bonus disk. The Yes cover is interesting, as are the "acoustic" versions of some earlier songs. But one the whole it doesn't add much value to the set.

Report this review (#451659)
Posted Tuesday, May 24, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars 2.5 stars really

Once again, an updated review. In this case, I'm going to round up from my original rating, as I think there is some good material on here.

This is not my least favorite Spock's Beard album, as that is reserved for the Day For Night album. However, I can't say I like it that much either. It does have it's moments, but perhaps the formula is wearing thin at this point. Though I don't like the albums without Morse at all, I do commend them for breaking out of the formula......not hard to do since the formula was Neal's.....although, oddly enough, I really like Neal's formula on his solo projects. Go figure.

When I first heard this album, I probably would have given it one star. I admit, I was drawn in by the hype, Mike Portnoy comparing it to Tommy and The Lamb. I figured it wasn't THAT good, but considering their last album was the best I'd heard from them, I was expecting great things. Man, was I disappointed. After giving the album more chances, I decided that it wasn't really a bad album after all.

Overstretched, weak melodies being dragged out over two CD's, certainly. But on the whole some parts come off very well. The concept, lyrically, is pretty well done, and certainly foreshadows the subject matter of Morse's future solo career. But I just don't think there is enough good material to warrant two CDs. And even then, I think what is good is some of the weakest material Morse has ever come up with. On the other hand, some of the vocal melodies and harmonies are quite good. But what's missing is much of the prog bombast and grandness that was present on the previous album. The Overtures are excellent, of course, and there is some fun instrumental stuff and some lovely vocal melodies and harmonies. However, this is not quite enough to shake the feeling that this was a few ideas made to fit a longer format than they needed to.

Still, it's not a terrible album, but one I simply can't give more than two and a half stars to. I'll round up to 3, as I don't feel I can quite say it's a collectors and fans only release, but I also think the good would have made a fine 4 star single CD album, and stretching it to two CD's makes it a half good album. If you are a fan, you probably have it, and if not you should probably get it. If you are just starting to check the band out, start with "V" or "Beware Of Darkness".

Report this review (#609160)
Posted Friday, January 13, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars By this point (and with their last album) Spock's Beard has finally found their sound. The Gentle Giant influences are nearly gone on this album, and only traces of Genesis can be heard as well. The obvious comparison to be made here is to A Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, but in many ways Snow is better. Snow is probably their most complete and focused effort, with perfect contributions from all members.

The album starts with 'Made Alive/Overture' (10/10) which introduces the story as well as a killer riff in 26/16.

'Stranger in a Strange Land' is an acoustic guitar driven ballad with touches of Hammond and Mellotron. Not as great as some of the other songs, but it does provide some important back story for those interested in the lyrics.

'Long Time Suffering' (9/10) is an upbeat song based around a really cool riff played on guitar by Alan Morse who also adds a nice Steely Dan-ish solo midway through. Welcome to NYC (9/10) starts with another killer riff played on guitar along with Neal Morse's extravagant vocals.

'Love Beyond Words' (5/10) is another acoustic ballad with some backing vocals from Nick. It does have a nice piano section two minutes in.

'The 39th Street Blues (I'm Sick)' (9/10) has more of that crunchy guitar riffing. It's a pretty standard rock song, but I do love the change-up at about 3:13.

'Devil's Got My Throat' (10/10) is a Spock's Beard rock anthem filled with heavy guitar and a catchy chorus with Neal's bombastic vocals showing full well he's capable of rocking.

'Open Wide the Flood Gates' (6/10) is another ballad. It sounds like something that would come from one of Neal's earlier solo albums, which is perhaps hinting to where he is headed.

'Open the Gates Part II' (8/10) is more a full band effort with backing vocals from the band over a few cool melodies. Solitary Soul (6/10) is another slower song on acoustic guitar. It has some great Mellotron bits from Ryo and backing vocals from Nick.

'Wind on My Back' (6/10) concludes disc one in an almost folk-like fashion for the beginning half. It's doesn't have much variation instrumentally, but it does have nice vocals.

Disc two opens with a bang with Spock's Beard/Second Overture which is a reprise of some melodies heard in disc one. I especially like what begins at 1:51 which has some fat bass which is supported by Alan's guitar to give a moment of multi-layered madness.

'4th of July' has some cool melodies and riffs in an almost Beatles fashion. 'I'm the Guy' (7/10) is an interesting song with some odd and bombastic vocals from Morse. 'Reflection' (6/10) is another slower ballad led by piano and Mellotron. Like the rest of the ballads it's a nice touch but rather forgettable.

'Carie' (4/10) is Spock's Beard spewing out a love song. It's a little mushy, but I do like that Nick is singing lead vocals on it.

'Looking For Answers' (8/10) also has Nick singing lead vocals, but in a more upbeat and prog rock manner. I normally don't prefer Nick on vocals, but on here he sounds great.

Freak Boy (5/10) features some more of Neal's bombastic vocals. I don't really like the vocal melodies on this one.

'All of Vanity'(10/10) (is much stronger vocally though, with Neal wailing his lyrics passionately until 1:10 where a fantastic synth solo begins. The rest of the song works of a nice reprise of the melodies heard in the overture.

This segues perfectly into 'I'm Dying' (7/10) which has some hilariously inappropriate lyrics ("I had mustard today, I can't eat it no more.") Musically it is decent.

'Freak Boy Part 2' (6/10) is slightly better than the first due to the improved vocal melody.

The rest of the album doesn't really fit the preceding both instrumentally and lyrically. 'Devi's Got My Throat (reprise)' (8/10) is nice but adds nothing new. And 'Snow's Night Out' (8/10) and Ladies and Gentlemen, Ryo Okumoto on Keyboard' (7/10) seem completely out of place.

The ending ('I Will Go' (6/10) and 'Made Alive Again/Wind At My Back (7/10)) of the album is a bit overlong and dramatic, but that IS Neal's style.

This, in my opinion is the Beard's last hoorah, as much as it is Neal's farewell to the bad. Everything after this seems, well, not Spock's Beard. The sound is still there, but the melody writing and vocal style of their most crucial member is missing. Fortunately Neal will go on to churn out some excellent solo albums with a strong Spock's Beard. Despite this, Snow remains one Spock's Beard's best albums and is truly a full band effort.


Report this review (#771404)
Posted Friday, June 15, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars For a number of years, I was completely happy with only The Light and V to fulfill my Spock's Beard needs. Fortunately for me, I eventually got around to the rest of the Beard's catalog, although this album was the one I was most dubious about.

For my high-level review, I think there is enough good material for a 4-star album. However, extending an album's worth of high-quality material into a double album removes a star in my book. I don't think there's really any debate that there is not enough material for the runtime of this album.

Upon more close analysis, I can understand better how this album came to be. In Neal's book Testimony, he refers to the time in which Snow was conceived and recorded. He was being pulled in multiple ways professionally and personally, When they met to record the album, there was a scheduling conflict in the recording studio, and that is when Snow went from one album to two. It was a bad choice, but I understand why it was done at least. I also think that Neal was moving toward a more symphonic and dramatic form of composition, and if he took a few lumps on Snow to refine his approach to future albums, then it was worth it.

And the concept...oh the concept...well it's just terribly lame. I don't mind cheesy lyrics, and you have to be willing to make a bit of a fool of yourself to make Spock's Beard music, but I can't imagine how awkward it must have felt to be working in the studio on vocal round after round about the albino. Let's just say that nothing in the concept or lyrics resonates with me and leave it at that.

Fortunately, I do enjoy most of the music. The first 10 minutes or so of each album are a bit uneven and perhaps uninteresting, but things really pick up in momentum as the side moves forward. The one glaring limitation is the end of the album (everything after Ryo's piece), mainly because those sections involve reprisals that I thought were done better earlier in the album. Save the best for last, guys! Don't give us a 10-minute reprise of Wind at My Back, please.

I find the playing to be tight on Snow. Meros is a bit muted due to the composition, but fortunately I can hear plenty of bass (which is always a Beard highlight for me). Alan is solid, as is Ryo, and NDV is particularly locked in. They really have moved into a great brand of prog metal at this point, and they cement their place as one of my all-time favorite rhythm sections. Vocals are quite strong, and that includes Neal! He has some awkward moments, but it's not due to lack of ability in my book. With a double album, you can't just sing the same way throughout, and when you experiment, sometimes it doesn't work. Fortunately, I think things work more here than not.

All in all, Snow is yet another cautionary tale of a quality album that should not have been a double album. For those who can appreciate (or at least stomach) the occasional excesses of the Beard, Snow is a must-have.

Report this review (#890377)
Posted Wednesday, January 9, 2013 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Crossover Prog Team
5 stars t has been a long time since I first heard 'The Light', and I think that it is safe to say that since then I have been a fan. They are the most exciting and dramatic progressive rock band around, driving the genre forward and in this album they have come of age. This is THE album of the year; I cannot imagine anything else coming close. 'Snow' is the band's first concept album, and with 115 minutes of music they have allowed themselves to stretch in the way that they have been threatening in the past ? no stranger to epics, this is a whole new ball game. The double CD tells the story of a young man who is blessed, and cursed, with the gift of healing and tells the story of the problems that he faces and how he overcomes them. As Neal says "When it rocks, then it rocks more than before. When it's soft, then it's softer than before. And when we decide to play complex parts, then it's more over-the-top that it ever was". Some of the songs have extremely catchy hooks ("Devil's Got My Throat" being a case in point), while others are just breathtaking in their complexity, or just simple and commercial.

I can't wait to see this played live as the guys are blasting away one second, then it is accapella vocals, or it comes from incredible note density to just simple work on an acoustic guitar. I listened to it in it's entirety in the company of a VDGG fan who had never heard Spock's Beard previously and he was stunned. In this album the band are bringing together all of their rock and prog influences and moulding them into something truly new and exciting. There is nothing here to fault. The songs and musicianship are of the highest order, and the production top class. In fact, the only issue with the album that I have is that when I put it on just to play a few tracks I feel cheated if I am unable to listen to the whole thing again. The double CD is being released in the UK on August 26th (distributed by Koch) but there is also a limited edition available that contains the 2 CD digibook version with a 28 page booklet. It comes in a special box plus an extra bonus disc with a cover song, live acoustic versions, and some outtakes and dialogue. They have an excellent web site that also contains details on solo projects (just in case any of you haven't got the hint yet and are yet to buy Neal's awesome solo album) If you only buy one progressive rock album this year, it is this one.

Originally appeared in Feedback #69, Aug 02

Report this review (#978047)
Posted Friday, June 14, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars I must admit I had great expectations for this album, being that is made by the same guys that made monsters like The Light and V. Cover art is not that bad, and fans often call it the best Spock's Beard album ever, I'm afraid it isn't. I can't call myself a SB fan, and perhaps I should analyze better the way this guys work at this point, but let me tell you something: I have listened to this work 3 times, and I still haven't found something really special. Nevertheless I'm not saying it is a bad work, I think lyrics are pretty nice and the style of this musicians doesn't go to the heaviest, which I like because almost all the time I can't enjoy an extremely hard work. I can't say it's perfect, and much less essential, but is a fine addition if you're up to some conceptual prog.
Report this review (#986511)
Posted Wednesday, June 26, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Snow, Spock's Beards last release with main man Neal Morse, is their quintessential album. Fair enough it may not be as raw as as 'The Light', or have epic suites like 'V', but brings together all their influences, as well as their trademark sound to create a very fine double concept album, in the same vein as 'Tommy' or 'The Lamb'.

Disc one, the stronger of the two discs, starts with 'made alive', a short but pleasant acoustic piece that leads into the first overture, an explosive instrumental that explores themes to come. The first disc of this double album is filled up with shorter pieces which flow seamlessly from one to another. Melody is a main focus here, limiting the drawn out instrumentals Spock's Beard usually incorporate into their songs. All of disc one is excellent, making it hard to pick out highlights. Personally for me, 'long time suffering', 'devil's got my throat', 'open wide the floodgates' and 'wind at my back' are some of Spock's Beards single best pieces.

Disc 2 starts with another overture, weaker than the first, before flowing into '4th of July' and 'I'm the guy'. For me, this section of songs is the weakest part of the album, melodically and musically waning. However, the poignant 'reflection' in 6/8 time, the soft 'Carie' and the ''Toto esque'' 'Looking for answers' (sung by Nick D'virgillio) pick things up. 'All is Vanity' and 'I'm Dying' have a heavier sound, with technical execution showing the bands capabilities. The album closes with 'made alive again/ wind at my back', a reprise of what has been heard before, ending the album in triumphant fashion; with Neal Morse proclaiming to the listener 'you're beautiful', a touching farewell as Neal Morse's last statement before leaving the band.

The one thing that spoils Spock's Beard for me is the guitar playing, Alan Morse on this album explores with some quite frankly disgusting guitar sounds along with his mediocre playing. This is a minor issue but an annoyance nonetheless.

Overall, even with it's faults I cannot bring myself to award this album any less than 5 starts. It's a flawed masterpiece (much like the lamb), but a masterpiece of progressive rock nevertheless. Neal Morse's song writing is in top form and is the quintessential Spock's Beard album, if not the most progressive.

Report this review (#1531060)
Posted Sunday, February 21, 2016 | Review Permalink
2 stars Less musical, too preachy.

For the last of the Morse-era SB albums, Morse wrote a double-concept-album based around a character named Snow who, just like Morse, found himself facing a number of potential life directions and who was eventually led to find religion. The album is made up of a number of shorter tunes, with no epics or even extended songs. Kindof like how Floyd jettisoned longer tunes when it created The Wall. And like The Wall, the character here is full of angst, easily manipulated, and has to face his demons and make a decision about his life near the end, bringing the album to its climax. However, while Floyd's The Wall is rooted in an important political message and said something truly novel, profound and authentic about the human condition beyond/more than the narrow story of the main character Pink, Snow is basically only about the character's (and thus Morse's) personal quest and redemption, in the face of a unredeemable (except through religion) human world. In a way, the album Snow is anti-political, for it seems to assume the world is and will always be morally bankrupt, and that faith and scripture is the only way to truly understand both the world and ones-self, with the homeless person a key metaphor for someone who has not yet found god but who contains the potential. While the lyrics on certain selected tracks are such that one could enjoy them outside the context of the album, the general message of the album is essential one of a religious preacher. Saying this, I still have it in my collection, and there are a few musical songs on it. Of course the main instrumental theme ("Overture") is great, and it is very welcome when that gets repeated, bringing some nice relief from the heaviness of the lyrics (just as Ryo Okumoto's "Ladies and Gentlemen" solo near the end, nice relief). Even some of the otherwise preachy tracks are OK despite the lyrics. "Welcome to New York City" is this album's equivalent to The Wall's "Young Lust" and is very good musically. "Open the Gates, Part II" is great, as is "Freak Boy, Part I". "Devil's Got My Throat" is one of the strongest pieces, musically, making one wish perhaps that the devil still had Morse's throat, as the pieces that are supposed to make the listener identify with Morse's message here are mostly slow sappy ballads. At least one-half to two-thirds of this album leans far too heavily on the latter, making this one of Morse-era SB's most difficult to sit through musically (even apart from the preachiness). And at 114 minutes, that is a lot of slow sappy listening. Overall, I can't give this more than 5.4 out of 10, which translates to high 2 PA stars on my 10-point scale, even if I disregard the preachiness of the lyrics/concept. You have to wade through too much sappy music to get the good stuff. Saying this, if you like Morse and his religious message, you will obviously love this album.

Report this review (#1743975)
Posted Sunday, July 16, 2017 | Review Permalink

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