I watched The Making of Snow after not having listened to the concept album Snow for quite some time – unusual for me, actually, as I think it's one of the best modern prog records ever. I half-expected to see a tedious video diary, full of little more than writing and recording sessions. Instead, thanks to the vision of producer and editor Philip Satterley — a guy who landed the job sort of by accident after interviewing former Spock's frontman Neal Morse — this nearly two-hour documentary is eminently entertaining. The first of many memorable scenes puts viewers in the passenger seat with Morse as he drives from California (where initial writing sessions were to begin had drummer Nick D'Virgilio not taken ill), across the New Mexico desert and home toward Tennessee on September 12, 2001. Inspired by the scenery, Bob Dylan music and the sobering tragedy of 9/11, he wrote "Made Alive" and launched himself into the story of a misfit young man named Snow.
The documentary gives space to practically every song on the double CD, often seamlessly segueing from footage of writing and rehearsals to recording sessions. As on The Making of V, the men of Spock's Beard emerge as regular guys. A woman and various children can be seen in the background of some rehearsal footage, keyboardist Ryo Okumoto gives a cooking lesson in his kitchen and Morse films himself working on lyrics during a camping trip. Through it all, Morse is clearly in charge. With hindsight — viewers now know that Morse would leave the band shortly after the release of Snow — it's easy to read perhaps too much into some of his behavior and the reactions of his bandmates. That said, D'Virgilio's frustration with Morse's nit-picky suggestions during vocal recordings on "Open Wide the Flood Gates" is evident. Morse, in a private moment captured by Satterly during the production process to help give context to the footage, admits that most concept album are "pretty lame" and reveals that he thought some other members of the Beard were leery of Snow early on.
If they were, it doesn't show in the two acoustic concerts included here. Filmed in what appears to be a community meeting room and outside of a book store during September 2002 — no doubt intended to be warm-up gigs for a full-fledged tour in support of Snow — the performances became Morse's swansong. Perhaps that's why Morse often appears overcome with emotion, struggling to sing some of the new material. The rest of the Beard, on the other hand, looks renewed and eager to incorporate Snow songs into the set. D'Virgilio, in particular, sings his heart out and overpowers Morse on songs like "Wind At My Back" and "Solitary Soul."
Hard to believe this all went down almost five years ago. Since that time, Spock's Beard has carried on as a four-piece, with D'Virgilio wisely taking over lead-vocal duties on the past three records. The band's self-titled latest album sounds like I imagined Spock's would eventually sound: a savvy mix of classic and modern prog rock that respects its past but isn't afraid to move beyond it. Nevertheless, this DVD is an illuminating look into the making of a brilliant album and a bittersweet vision of where Spock's Beard could have gone next ...
Songs featured in the acoustic sets: The Good Don't Last, Thoughts II, Stranger in a Strange Land, Open Wide the Flood Gates, Pride (In the Name of Love), Carie, June, Looking For Answers, Solitary Soul, Wind At My Back, The Doorway.