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Spock's Beard - 2005 - "Gluttons for Punishment"

(117 min 2CD, InsideOut)


Prolusion. Here is SPOCK'S BEARD and their new live album, "Gluttons for Punishment".

Disc 1 (54 min)


1.  Intro 1:20
2.  The Ballet Of The Impact 5:50
3.  I Wouldn't Let It Go 4:47
4.  Surfing Down The Avalanche 3:53
5.  She Is Everything 7:06
6.  Climbing Up That Hill 3:34
7.  Letting Go 1:20
8.  Of The Beauty Of It All 4:56
9.  Harm's Way 11:17
10. NWC 9:58

All tracks: by Spock's Beard.
Produced by Spock's Beard.


Alan Morse - guitars; theremin; cello; vocals
Dave Meros - bass; French horn; vocals
Ryo Okumoto - keyboards; vocals
Nick D'Virgilio - lead vocals; drums

Analysis. The first disk of "Gluttons for Punishment" is comprised largely of songs from "Octane", but also encompasses songs from other earlier album. This is a strong performance by one of Neo-Prog's strongest acts. Overall, "Octane" demonstrates a scaling back of the progressive elements that made the Beard such a powerhouse with their earlier albums. The songs are good, strong rock songs, but just lacking in the complexity and variations that were the hallmark of their previous output. That being said, following the Intro, The Ballet of the Impact comes out of the shoot sounding much like vintage Beard. There is a symphonic quality to it, with some deft twists and turns leading to the vocals. D'Virgilio does an excellent job of filling the vocal slot, left by Neal Morse. Indeed, I would say that his vocals are almost an impersonation of Morse. I Wouldn't Let It Go is a pleasant, soft rock ballad. Surfing Down the Avalanche by contrast is a hard rocking song with a much harder edge than anything else on the album. This is probably my least favorite song on the set. D'Virgilio's vocals sound least like Morse here, probably more like D'Virgilio. This song has more of a Hard Rock '70s or '80s Hair Band vibe to it. She is Everything returns to a softer sound, opening with an almost quiet industrial intro, a very pretty song, with some lush orchestration in places. Climbing Up That Hill is another rocker, followed by Letting Go, a keyboard interlude leading to Of the Beauty of it All, which starts as a quiet, pretty song, with some flute-like keyboard orchestration. About 1/4 of the way through, the tempo and mood shift into a much more frantic pace, sounding very much like earlier albums or Neal Morse solo work. In Harm's Way has some passages that allow Okumoto to shine. The opening theme and organ tonality sound very much like classic Beard, especially the way it switches from organ to piano, phrases being answered by guitar. This is probably my favorite track on Disk One, as it has all the elements that draw me the music of Spock's Beard, the shifting tempos and instrumentation, as well as deft mood shifts. Toward the end is a very up-tempo organ solo, which, if you just wandered in on this track during this passage, you might think you were listening to Rick Wakeman. NWC is the other instrumental track in the set, featuring Nick's drum solo. Here's something you just don't hear that much of anymore, an extended drum solo. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy a good drum solo!

Disc 2 (63 min)


1.  At The End Of The Day 16:33
2.  The Bottom Line 7:40
3.  Ryo's Solo 5:57
4.  Ghosts Of Autumn 6:49
5.  As Long As We Ride 8:26
6.  The Light 19:07

Credits / Lineup: same

Analysis. Let me just say up front that I find the second disk more compelling than the first. At the End of the Day is perhaps my all time favorite Spock's Beard song, so this wins big points with me for its inclusion. The Bottom Line includes some nice twists and turns in mood. It has its hard and soft moments with a dramatically quiet ending, just guitar and vocal. Ryo's Solo is just what the title implies. This is Okumoto's time in the spotlight and he does not disappoint. This is a beautiful solo, played mostly on piano after the initial electronic introduction, which reminded me of Isao Tomita's work on "The Planets". There is a stark beauty to this track. The occasional accompaniment by guitar is just right, very tasteful. Okumoto lists Bill Evans as his influence. Nowhere is it more evident than here. Ghosts of Autumn, as the title suggests, is a quiet Rock ballad with a wistful mood. Alan Morse turns in a long solo bridge between verses, then adding the occasional flourish behind the vocal. As Long as We Ride starts with a cool acoustic guitar solo (with quiet unimposing bass accompaniment) that gets the crowd clapping in rhythm, joined eventually by the drums. The song builds into a rocker that would have done The Who proud. Disk Two closes as it began, with an epic song, The Light. This is Spock's Beard at their best, an excellent choice to close out the album.

Conclusion. "Gluttons for Punishment" is a strong live representation of "Octane" and a good number of earlier works. The band has shifted a bit toward center with the loss of Neal Morse, as there is a definite step back from a complex progressive format. Overall, the songs are still well crafted, but lack the twists and turns, which gave Spock's Beard their trademark sound. D'Virgilio does a good job with the vocals and all the members turn in top notch playing, but I find the music to be a tad less compelling, less progressive, stylistically trimmed a bit from where they were once upon a time, on the newer tunes. However, there are excellent renditions of their earlier music are represented here as well, which buoys the overall effort.

VM: November 2 & 3, 2005

Related Links:

InsideOut Music
Spock's Beard


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