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Thread: FEATURED CD : Spock's Beard : Snow

  1. #1
    Moderator Duncan Glenday's Avatar
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    FEATURED CD : Spock's Beard : Snow

    Two reviews from Sea Of Tranquility


    With the release of the 2CD set Snow, Spock's Beard have joined the ranks of recent epic recordings like Dream Theater's Scene's From A Memory, IQ's Subterannea, Mei by Echolyn, and Symphony X's V in concept album history. While these albums all represent a fresh take on the concept theory, Snow seems to have more in common with albums like Tommy by The Who or even The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway by Genesis, as the album as a whole fixes on the adventures of one character, named Snow, and all the interesting and bizarre sub-characters that he comes in contact with throughout this musical journey.

    The traditional Spock's Beard formula of symphonic pop/prog is in full steam here on this sprawling 2 CD concept story. The band combines Gentle Giant complexity with Beatles harmonies and Yes sophistication, plus throws in the occasional guitar crunch. The story centers around a character named Snow, a disillusioned albino who leaves home as a teenager and decides to rediscover himself after becoming the target for much negativity back home. When he makes it all the way to New York, Snow encounters all sorts of interesting characters, from prostitutes to homeless people to junkies. Such is the life in NYC! It's quite a heart warming and wrenching story, and amassed within all the prog firepower it's a compelling listen. Neal Morse is at the helm as always, his voice in triumphant form, while he and Ryo Okumoto lay down all sorts of keyboard textures and solos with their arsenal of pianos, Moogs, Mellotrons, organs, and the like. Guitarist Alan Morse and bassist Dave Meros give the music a sophisticated punch (check out the rampaging Dream Theater meets Gentle Giant of "Devil's Got My Throat"), and drummer Nick D'Virgilio adds the right amount of nimble percussion, as well as fantastic lead vocals on "Looking for Answers." The pacing of the CD is simply marvelous, as the band segues from tender ballady sections to stomping prog rock rave-ups with the blink of an eye. To say there is something for everyone here is making a severe understatement, and the fact that they accomplished all this within the confines of a concept album is realy impressive.

    There are way too many parts to this CD to go into a track by track analysis, but let's just say that this is an essential listen for any fan of symphonic progressive music, or lovers of pop who want a little more than the norm. Spock's Beard is unparalleled at this point in terms of creating intelligent music that is catchy, melodic, complex, and rocking all at the same time. Highly recommeded, and a future classic of the genre.

    Reviewer: Pete Pardo

    Rating - 5 stars


    What can be added to what Peter has already stated about this disc? Neal Morse has the Midas Touch..Any band or project he has been a part of is indellibly stamped with his unique sound and musical approach. I think this is a masterwork of rock which elevates Mr Morse into the pantheon of great songwriters of the last 30 years. A full gambit of emotions are dealt with as our protagonist takes the pain of the world onto his own shoulders until he becomes victim of the same human flaws he was excorcising from humanity. A moving tale which runs the emotional spectrum from anger , to humour, to pathos.
    Well written and well performed, it's a tour-de-force recording and a fitting end (?) to the career of one of the pioneer's of the resurgence of progressive rock in the last decade. A no-brainer.

    Reviewer: Yves Dube

    Rating - 5 stars

    http://www.seaoftranquility.org/revi...content&id=354



    Regards,

    Duncan

  2. #2
    Insect Overlord Progatron's Avatar
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    Several really great tracks on this one but overall could have used a little editing. "Solitary Soul" is one of my favourite songs they ever did. "The Devil's Got My Throat" is excellent as well, and there are plenty of terrific instrumental passages throughout. Overall, not my favourite SB album but I do quite like a lot of it.
    Interviewer of reprobate ne'er-do-well musicians of the long-haired rock n' roll persuasion at: www.velvetthunder.co.uk

  3. #3
    My favourite SB album ! Lots of great songs .Wind in My Back is absolutely goreous ! OK,it has some padding but apart from Quadraphenia name me aconcept album that hasn't!

  4. #4
    Member bill g's Avatar
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    The story is derivative of 'Powder' (also an albino) but pretty cool nonetheless. Sort of. It could be my favorite SB album, along with 'Day For Night', and maybe 'Kindness of Strangers'. The slower songs work better for me. Agree with Rufus that Wind at my Back one of the good ones.

  5. #5
    Moderator Duncan Glenday's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bill g View Post
    The story is derivative of 'Powder' (also an albino) but pretty cool nonetheless.
    I always thought of it as "Tommy Mark-II".

    I agree about the thick, rich instrumental passages. We haven't seen those in post-Neal Spock's beard.
    Regards,

    Duncan

  6. #6
    Studmuffin Scott Bails's Avatar
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    Absolutely LOVED this album when it first came out. I was just getting into Spock's at the time and was working my way chronologically through their catalog. This was released just when I was ready for something new from them.

    Haven't listened to it much lately, but I have to agree with the general opinion that it suffers from a little bloat. But it also has some gorgeous stuff - "Wind at My Back," "Stranger in a Strange Land," "Carie," and others.

    This definitely is the template that Neal has used for just about everything he's done since - you can hear this album's influence in Transatlantic and most of his solo stuff.

    So, because of that, I don't miss the NDV-led Spock's not carrying on this tradition. We have Neal who still seems to mine this territory and Spock's who are doing something different. Best of both worlds, IMO.
    Music isn't about chops, or even about talent - it's about sound and the way that sound communicates to people. Mike Keneally

  7. #7
    Without a doubt, my favorite Spock's Beard album, and a Desert Island Disc for me. It resonates with me on so many levels and I love the lyrics, the musicianship, the performances, and everything about this album., even the artwork that is beautifully done throughout the booklet! I love this album so much, I own THREE versions of it!

    -Marc.

  8. #8
    Still alive! Hunnibee's Avatar
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    I have a love/hate relationship with Spock's Beard. When they are good, they are very good, and when they suck, they really suck. Luckily for them, they don't suck on Snow. Wait, let me rephrase that...

    I really love this album because for years, friends would tell me how good this band is, yet everything I heard, I hated. Then one day, on Pandora, I heard this really cool song and looked up at my screen... Spock's Beard - Long Time Suffering. Hey, this was nothing like that horrible "Gibberish" or "Onomata-pee-on-me". This was actually pretty good! When I exlaimed my delight on Prog Ears, folks then directed me to the album V, which I took to like water. It was very enjoyable, but Snow was my second purchase, and I never looked back.

    Snow tells a story, which makes it a concept album, but the songs are so good, they stand alone as individual tunes. You don't need to follow along. I find it a bit too Lamb-like, story-wise, but overall, it's one of their best albums!

    I prefer Disc One to Disc Two, but there are times when I play the whole thing and just relax and fall into the music.

    I still have a problem with the early Nick years, sorry. Feel Euphoria is just horrible! I recently heard all of Octane, though, for which I give them a pass. They got much better with X, and hopefully the new one will be good, too. However, their best years were the Neal years, and Snow was a great album for him to say goodbye.
    "The mountains are calling and I must go" - John Muir

    "To breathe the same air as the angels, you must go to Tahoe" - Mark Twain

  9. #9
    Member thedunno's Avatar
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    I used to own this but I gave it away. Before this had a love/hate relationship with Spocks Beard. With Snow it turned to the negative. Now I avoid all things that involve Neal Morse.

    This is just way to American AOR-inspired for me. Cant stand it, sorry.

  10. #10
    > Without a doubt, my favorite Spock's Beard album, and a Desert Island Disc for me. It resonates with me on so many levels and I love the lyrics, the musicianship, the performances, and everything about this album., even the artwork that is beautifully done throughout the booklet! I love this album so much, I own THREE versions of it!

    -Marc. <

    I'll echo everything you say here Marc (except I only own TWO versions) - and of all the comments over the years I've received regarding my coffee, none has made me prouder than the one in the "Thank You" section here....

  11. #11
    Not one of their best, IMO. The previous, V, was much stronger.

  12. #12
    Member Vic2012's Avatar
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    I liked it at first but then got bored with it. Just too long and bloated. I made a CDr of this album taking the best from both CDs. I still have it around somewhere. I traded this album a couple years ago. It was just taking up space. I was a huge Beard fan up to that point. I stopped at Feel Euphoria (which I really like) and that's it. I've never been so disinterested in a band today, that I was so fanatical about 10 years ago.

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    An absolute classic and one of my top 3 prog albums of the decade (along with Dark Matter by IQ and In Absentia by Porcupine Tree). Those who say it is bloated are likely not big fans of double albums. It is a different approach where an artist shows every style of song writing they have to offer. Physical Graphitti, The White Album and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway are examples of this and some love the variety and some just want the jems. I would agree with those that gave the thumbs up to Wind At my Back. Especially the version on disc two. I was so dissappointed when Neal Morse left after this. I thought they were just peaking.

  14. #14
    Profondo Giallo Crystal Plumage's Avatar
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    Haven't played it for a long time. To me the songs weren't as good as on previous albums.
    I think I got a bit bored by all the Neal-isms.
    HuGo
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    When the golden voice appeared.
    She was gold alright, but then so is rust.
    "Such a shame about the beard."

  15. #15
    Highly Evolved Orangutan JKL2000's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hunnibee View Post
    I have a love/hate relationship with Spock's Beard. When they are good, they are very good, and when they suck, they really suck.
    I couldn't have put it better...

    My problem with Snow is that the story is totally uninteresting to me, I guess because as others have pointed out, it's rather unoriginal. In addition to the movie "Powder," remember the two movies where John Travolta and Nicholas Cage both play angels? Basically the same idea.

  16. #16
    ALL ACCESS Gruno's Avatar
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    Anything BUT Neal!

    Quote Originally Posted by Hunnibee View Post
    their best years were the Neal years, and Snow was a great album for him to say goodbye.
    Thank God! Never a fan of Neal's vocals... until Snow. He wasn't as annoying or raspy as their previous releases. Snow was the first disc(s) I could listen to his vocals from beginning to end without wanting to yank the CD out and toss it over a cliff. This remains the only CD with him on vocals that I can tolerate.

    Spock's definitely got better and better after Snow.

  17. #17
    One of their finest albums, without a doubt - and I'm really fond of it both musically and emotionally. Perhaps tighter editing of material might've helped slightly, but I'm thinking of only about 10 minutes of shaving, and making some bits more concise. Not many albums by even the greatest of our heroes are totally free of that malaise...

    I like Neal's vocals, although I agree with the poster above who observed that 'Snow' established the template he's followed for most of his work since.

    For what it's worth, I like the albums Spock's Beard did after 'Snow'. Some of my favourite Spock's tracks are on 'Feel Euphoria' and 'Octane', but those albums aren't as consistently strong as 'V' and 'Snow'. My least favourite album is the self-titled 'Spock's Beard' (the third post-Neal album), but that still has two or three great songs on it. 'X' was definitely a huge improvement and a return to form, but I feel it's a bit over-rated.

  18. #18
    Insect Overlord Progatron's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dodie View Post
    For what it's worth, I like the albums Spock's Beard did after 'Snow'. Some of my favourite Spock's tracks are on 'Feel Euphoria' and 'Octane', but those albums aren't as consistently strong as 'V' and 'Snow'. My least favourite album is the self-titled 'Spock's Beard' (the third post-Neal album), but that still has two or three great songs on it. 'X' was definitely a huge improvement and a return to form, but I feel it's a bit over-rated.

    I agree. A disc of the best material from Spocks mk. II would be a very strong disc indeed. Maybe I'll do that one day just to see how it flows. Off the top of my head, I'd definitely include "Ghosts Of Autumn" (a beautiful track, and that middle section is wonderfully Genesis!), as well as "Jaws Of Heaven", "The Ballet Of The Impact" and "All That's Left". I love the track "Their Names Escape Me" as well but I want my own 'edit' of it (I actually loaded it into Sound Forge and faded it out just as the reciting of the names begins). I also love the vocal choir section of "A Guy Named Sid" but the transition into the next section is awfully abrupt and I can never properly enjoy it the way I want to. One of the strongest post-Neal tracks IMO is "Follow Me To Sleep", only available as a bonus track on Octane. Likewise with "From The Messenger" from Feel Euphoria.
    Interviewer of reprobate ne'er-do-well musicians of the long-haired rock n' roll persuasion at: www.velvetthunder.co.uk

  19. #19
    LOVE it! A real classic!

  20. #20
    Which SB album(s) are the most Hammond organ-heavy?

  21. #21
    Studmuffin Scott Bails's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hunnibee View Post
    Hey, this was nothing like that horrible... "Onomata-pee-on-me".
    Absolutely LOVE "Onomatopoeia." One of their best rockers.
    Music isn't about chops, or even about talent - it's about sound and the way that sound communicates to people. Mike Keneally

  22. #22
    Member Vic2012's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rickenbacker View Post
    Which SB album(s) are the most Hammond organ-heavy?
    Beware Of Darkness
    The Kindness Of Strangers

  23. #23
    Member mellotron storm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by maribor View Post
    Not one of their best, IMO. The previous, V, was much stronger.
    I agree with this, in fact it's my least favourite of the Neal Morse led SPock's Beard era.
    "The wind is slowly tearing her apart"
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    Anekdoten

  24. #24
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    I was fairly active on the SB message board when this came out. I absolutely loved the first five albums. PapaJim narrated a soundclip teaser for Snow before the release and I was totally sucked into the hype. The teaser made it sound great!

    I got the 3 disc special edition...and that was good because at least I got a nice cover of Southside of the Sky for my money. The actual two disc album? Quite a letdown. It has some decent moments but it seemed like they fell off a cliff compared to the previous five albums. I wasn't so sorry about Neal leaving if that was what they had come to.

    I did buy Feel Euphoria out of a strange sense of fanboy duty and was quite pleasantly surprised. There are some weak moments, but overall I find it to be a very good album and much better than Snow. Snow started a trend where I always reacted just the opposite way I thought I would each time a new Beard album was released.

  25. #25
    Member Vic2012's Avatar
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    ^ Good Post Howler. Snow just sounded so "rock opera" and theatrical. To some that's a prog wet dream. Too much bloat and Broadway for my taste. For me the last really good SB album was Day For Night. When I heard Neal was leaving I was a little disappointed but I'd hoped that the band would continue and maybe try something a little different. Feel Euphoria was suprisingly good. There's some ballady, boring stuff on FE but the meat of the album is really great.

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