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CD Review: Spock’s Beard, “Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep”

cd_bnads3When we last left the band Spock’s Beard in 2010, they had turned in one of their best efforts in years, the tenth studio album X. Eschewing some of the more radio-friendly elements of the previous self-titled record, X found the group fully embracing their prog-rock-iness again. Then vocalist and longtime drummer Nick D’Virgilio left the band.

Uh-oh.

Never fear. Prog bands are as resistant to mortality as comic book superheroes, so with the latest incarnation of SB we witness a sort of double rebirth. Adding in vocalist Ted Leonard from the long-on-hiatus band Enchant, Spock Version 3.0 is underway, and the results are impressive. The overall flavor of Spock’s had been very much of the Peter Gabriel Genesis variety, from the start with original lead singer and (generally assumed) ringleader Neal Morse on through D’Virgilio’s years. While there remains a tinge of that, the defining quality of Leonard’s voice is that he is a skyscraping powerhouse behind the mic, far more reminiscent of Steve Walsh from Kansas. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that the overall takes on a hint more Kansas/Kerry Livgren flavor.

What I wasn’t expecting was for things to work in both directions, meaning that even though the prog touchstones are there, the whole sounds like Spock’s (specifically on “A Treasure Abandoned”) and Enchant’s. (“Submerged” in particular sounds like it could have been on the group’s last studio effort Tug Of War after the introductory Spockiness — fans will know what I mean by that.)

There is another consideration that brings Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep closer to Spock’s core: Neal Morse co-wrote a couple of the tracks on the disc, so anyone who would get on their high horse about the music’s provenance probably needs to settle down.

For those who only find terms like Genesis, Kansas, Enchant and Spock’s Beard to be reasons to squirm, you’re unlikely to warm to the album. It can get a bit widdly and epic, but it makes for a very promising start to this latest chapter for the group. Leonard fits in very nicely, and drummer Jimmy Keegan has a fine rhythmic sense, going nuts when he needs to, pulling back and just plain rocking it when the song is clearly calling for a straight-ahead approach. I was worried the “new guys” wouldn’t fit in to the established core of Dave Meros, Alan Morse, and Ryo Okumoto but probably shouldn’t have. Beyond being a good Spock’s record, Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep is simply a good rock record with some high ambitions.

The twelve-track special edition version is available exclusively from the Spock’s Beard website at: www.spocksbeard.com

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