Spock's Beard: The First Twenty Years

Double CD/DVD comp of maximal Cali-prog.

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As an analogue to this year’s highly agreeable The Oblivion Particle, the 12th album of their career, Spock’s Beard have opted to look back and survey their history.

The two-CD part of this compilation traces their beginnings in LA in the early 90s, when the notion of a band creating complex, multi-part suites like The Light was still deeply unfashionable in the prog-less environs of grunge. The track selection is pretty democratic (at least one song from every studio album thus far), though the real boon is twofold. First off there’s new song Falling For Forever, a proudly overblown epic written by ex-leader Neal Morse, that makes room for all past and present members of the group, including its three vocalists. The other big selling point is Don’t Try This Anywhere, a riveting documentary that intersperses a live show from Progfest ’97 with recent interviews and home‑made footage of rehearsals for 1998’s The Kindness Of Strangers. Morse recalls the initial impetus, before he even thought of putting a band together: “I wanted to do big pieces of music – I didn’t want to do pop songs.” His decision to suddenly quit, post-Snow (2002), is addressed too, the emotions still laden with a degree of rawness. “It was a real trial for me and everybody else,” he confesses, while guitarist brother Alan talks of their “crazy shock” on hearing the news. The in-concert stuff is terrific. Walking On The Wind is a great showcase for both the band’s rare delicacy and their ability to tease moments of melodic beauty from the knottiest of time signatures – not to mention Morse’s penchant for a loud shirt. The Doorway is arguably the standout though, with its lyrical keyboard intro, deliberate build and hushed acoustic interplay between the Morse siblings, before bursting into heavy bloom at the finale.

Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.