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Spock's Beard: Brief Nocturnes And Dreamless Sleep

As life imitates art, so Spock's Beard imitates Genesis. Not however with their sound (well not completely!), but with the pattern of losing a lead singer and important songwriter, only to replace him with their drummer, before he too jumped ship for pasture new (expect the new Nick D'Virgilio Disney soundtrack any day now...). However where one band failed, finding singer number three a stretch too far, Spock's Beard look set to thrive and grow with Enchant frontman Ted Leonard not only settling in nicely, but helping the band deliver arguably their finest moment so far. Now that is a grand statement, and it is one I don't make lightly and while I only have the single disc version of this album (so far), I can confidently tell you that there isn't a single note wasted on the wonderfully titled Brief Nocturnes And Dreamless Sleep. Neither is there a single superfluous time change, nor a vocal harmony, guitar flurry, or keyboard cacophony that isn't exactly where it ought to be.

Leonard has always been a fine vocalist, but in this slightly less aggressive setting, he absolutely shines, with his voice full of character as he delivers a heartfelt, emotional, yet powerful performance that nails a whole host of attacks. However with songs that continue to broaden the Beardian horizon, while remaining firmly within the realms of the Spock, he isn't the only one to come out of the whole thing positively reeking of roses.

Obviously when D'Virgilio upped his mic-stand and moved on he took his drum sticks with him, with the no-brainer decision to bring the band's long term live stick-smith Jimmy Keegan onboard ensuring a smooth transition. However as one new face and one familiar one are welcomed onboard, so an old favourite also lends a hand to proceedings, with onetime frontman and, truth be told, until his departure, the face of Spock's Beard, Neal Morse contributing to the song writing of two numbers on BN&DS, teaming up with his brother Alan to do so. In ways it is a brave move for the band to face a past that many believed they would never move on from, but there's no denying that the simply stunning "Afterthoughts", which has the most sublime acappella sections you could ever hope to hear and the exuberantly melodic and bass pumping "Waiting For Me" are simply stunning. However more impressively they are merely two amongst seven standout tracks that never fail to captivate through mesmerising performances and expertly crafted songwriting. "Hiding Out" kicks the whole shebang of with poignant piano counterpointed by cracking snare smacks, Alan Morse then wraps his spiralling guitar work around the shimmering keys display of Ryo Okumoto, who as ever is on top form, while bassist Dave Meros keeps the bottom end constantly shifting and shape changing. This is a band immediately illustrating just how comfortable they are, even if circumstances suggested they should have been anything but. The mix of speeds and altering aggression levels is spellbinding, but then it is a trait borne out time and again across this whole album, with the music never satisfied to stand still for too long, while never feeling like the changes and alterations are forced, or contrived.

All seven songs really are totally engrossing, while never becoming lessons in technique (although it is on display in spades), with "I Know Your Secret" positively bursting with Floyd-like guitar stabs and bass lines - although with far more energy. "Submerged" meanders intently in the same way that Genesis hurtling headlong into King Crimson might have many moons ago, before "Something Very Strange" segues easily between off kilter beats, manic bass lines, smooth as silk vocals, soaring guitar and keyboard minglings.

While Spock's Beard have always been a band I've admired and enjoyed, it isn't until more recent releases that I've really begun to hear the appeal that their utterly devoted fans have extolled for many years. However with Brief Nocturnes And Dreamless Sleep I am a complete convert to the Beard cause. It really is that good.

Track Listing
1. Hiding Out
2. I Know Your Secret
3. A Treasure Abandoned
4. Submerged
5. Afterthoughts
6. Something Very Strange
7. Waiting For Me

Added: June 13th 2013
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Spock's Beard Online
Hits: 7693
Language: english

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Spock's Beard: Brief Nocturnes And Dreamless Sleep
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2013-06-13 10:18:30
My Score:

Spock's Beard have survived not one, but two major vocalist changes over the last decade, and once again, they've landed squarely on their feet poised and ready for battle, not missing a beat and in fact taking their music to the next level. Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep is the debut of Enchant vocalist Ted Leonard with the Beard, and he fits in here like the proverbial glove, his soaring vocals working like magic alongside the symphonic arrangements that the band have created for this album. Though Spock's Beard had fiddled with straight ahead modern rock music in spots on the early release with Nick D'Virgilio taking over the vocal chair from Neal Morse, they slowly started to return to adventurous prog in the years leading up to Nick exiting the band, and now with Leonard in tow the Beard have released what is possibly their strongest and most satisfying album in many years. Ryo Okumoto might possibly now be recognized as the truly remarkable keyboard player he is once folks fully digest his work here, and alongside guitarist Alan Morse, bassist Dave Meros, and now permanent drummer Jimmy Keegan, the band have crafted some remarkable tunes in the form of "I Know Your Secret", "Hiding Out", "A Treasure Abandoned", and the mind-blowing heavy prog rocker "Afterthoughts". This one, co-written with Neal Morse, is a must hear for all you Gentle Giant fans in attendance. "Waiting For Me", also co-written by the Morse brothers, captures the early Spock's Beard sound as well as vintage Genesis, and even sees Neal add in some additional guitar work.

If you can get the deluxe edition, you'll be treated to bonus tracks like the darker "The Man You're Afraid You Are" (complete with a wonderfully soaring chorus), the slightly bluesy "Down a Burning Road" (great Hammond organ and Mellotron from Ryo on this one, as well as sizzling guitar from Alan), and the raucous prog of "Wish I Were Here". Overall this is a great release from Spock's Beard, with Leonard settling in like he's been here all along, even taking a big part in some of the songwriting as well. The future indeed looks very bright for this modern progressive rock institution.

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