Up first, a grand majestic intro that screams Spock’s Beard segues into a deliberate beat with staccato piano driving the rhythm. It’s a very natural transition featuring piano arpeggios and a jazz-oriented guitar solo that finally winds up a modern rock piece with “Edge of the In-Between.” Although I hear echoes of the past on this new Spock’s Beard, it feels like they are really working their way towards their own sound. Throughout the entire CD, they elegantly move from rock to jazzy improvisations to pop melodies to prog workouts and back again.
“The Emperor’s Clothes” features great instrumentation with a unique acoustic guitar intro, some Gentle Giant elements, and a great rock and roll verse. “From the Darkness” finds elements of softness, harmonies, strength, jazz jamming, through its over sixteen minute length. A great metal riff begins “The Quiet House” which then goes a bit softer and into a clean and direct melody at the chorus. This song (really the entire album) shows why Nick is one of the most sought after drummers in the prog world today. All this wonderful progressive rock music, I’m reminded of when I saw Ryo playing with K2 in L.A. saying “Oh, this much more prog than Spock’s.” I’m not sure he could say that today.
“Their Names Escapes Me” is the song that is exclusive to this Limited Edition and won’t be presented on the standard CD. It’s a shame because it has a lot of great qualities, regardless of the slightly twee ending where Nick sings a list of all those who contributed to the financing of this record by pre-paying for the CD. I wish I had.
If you want to pick a single from this recording, it might be “The Man Behind the Curtain.” I can hear our sons and daughters singing it out loud along with the modern hits of the day. Dave’s bass leads this song to an explosive conclusion. On the other hand, you won’t be hearing the over fifteen minute “Jaws of Heaven” on the radio anytime soon (except maybe internet radio). This song is powerful and rhythmic, yet liquid and ever changing. Nick is showing such vocal strength in his lower register now, it’s hard to believe this is the same man who sang the falsetto-drenched “Carrie” from Snow.
Although I miss the mix of shorter poppish tunes mixed with the longer pieces as they have done on all their previous records, I must say that this is perhaps their strongest post-Neal recording yet. This is definitely a prog album, with the mighty Beard showing a newfound respect of their various jazz-fusion influences. Perhaps this has something to do with Alan’s instrumental jazz-focused solo recording? All songs are close or over the 10 minute mark, with singable melodies and progged out jams. I absolutely loved the last record (the eponymously titled Spock’s Beard), I would have to say this ones even better, especially for us progheads. Spock’s Beard X? Well done! Did I say prog album? Make that a great prog album!
Reviewed by Terry Jackson on September 16th, 2010