Spock’s Beard’s second album Beware of Darkness sees the band moving towards their classic sound a bit more and finding their own way. Whereas the first record seemed more a pastiche of classic 70s progressive rock bands, this one (at least in retrospect) points the way to their long and productive career as modern proggers.
Then as if to belie all that, they begin with a cover of a George Harrison song and follow up with a Gentle Giant motif! “Beware of Darkness” is originally from Harrison’s All Things Must Pass album. You’d never know it from the treatment Neal and the boys give it! Progged out to the nth degree and featuring Dave Meros’ Squire-inspired bass-work, it takes twists and turns heretofore undreamed of by George Harrison. The Gentle Giant pastiche is “Thoughts” and it begins the career long love affair that Spock’s Beard hold for this classic Art-Rock band. They pull of the vocal rounds and contrasting harmonies amazingly. What’s impressive is that you get a real sense of individual voices in the solo parts and can tell who’s singing. Much like the later Beatle years where the songs and lead voices were so individualistic, it was completely obvious.
The two best pieces on the CD are “The Doorway” and “Wasted Away” in my opinion. “Wasted Away” would easily have been a hit if this was released during the 80s hair metal days. It possesses a hooky chorus and clever lyrics. “The Doorway” is one of the Beard’s classics. It is still played in concerts by the band and usually features a long acoustic battle between anyone in the band who can play a guitar. A real crowd pleaser.
Although this is not quite as strong as the first CD, it is still highly recommended. A thought I’ve had often is that the odd-number releases have always been slightly stronger than the even number ones. Kindness of Strangers(#3), V(5), and Spock’s Beard(9) have all been indispensable in my collection and modern-prog classics. I’m a big fan of this group to this day however, and follow every release from any member and their various ventures and have never been disappointed.
Reviewed by Terry Jackson on July 13th, 2011