This album, their eleventh studio work, is an important album for LA prog-rockers Spocks Beard, as it's their first with new members, vocalist and guitarist Ted Leonard and drummer Jimmy Keegan, who both joined in 2011 after drummer/vocalist Nick D'Virgilio departed the group.
A change in personal in a group as stable as Spocks Beard, who until recently had only lost one other member, founder Neal Morse, can be a cause of concern for long term fans and followers of the band; will they still be able to maintain the quality of their music, will their sound change beyond recognition, and can they compete with the other music vying for the listeners attention?
To keep you on your toes, dear reader, I shall address the second question first. Despite the personnel changes this new music is still recognisably Spocks Beard, featuring all the ingredients that make up their sonic recipe, from the distinctive guitar sound of Alan Morse, to the swirling, soaring keyboard work of Ryo Okumoto. Keegan is a powerful, melodic drummer, and meshes well with the bass of Dave Meros to give this music a strong foundation. Ted Leonard has a high clear vocal style, and his clear diction makes understanding the lyrics a joy. So, no worries regarding the new line-up.
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Can they maintin the quality of their music? The answer to that one is an emphatic "Yes"! The seven songs on the standard CD issue (a two disc deluxe issue, featuring five additional tracks is also available) are consistantly memorable, melodic and even on the longest numbers, such as the closing twelve minute epic 'Waiting for Me', this listener's attention was held throughout.
album gets off to an exciting start with 'Hiding Out', a Ted Leonard song, which shows what an excellent songwriter he is. This memorable rocky number is a great opening track, and is the sound of Spocks Beard saying: "We've been away, made a few changes, and now we are BACK!"
After this fine start the quality is maintained throughout, and it's difficult to really find anything but positives to say about this excellent album. The songs are all fine examples of melodic, accessible progressive rock at it's very best, while the performances from the musicians are superb. There is much virtuoso playing on display here, but no showing off for the sake of it. Each solo, and each note, simply serves to drive the song forwards and upwards.
As I mentioned, the songs are consistantly excellent, but if pressed to choose one standout track, I'd plump for 'Waiting for Me'. This song features everything that is great about this band; a fantastic melody, exciting and inventive muscianship, and in true prog-rock style packs in many different themes and ideas into it's 12.36 of music.
As an added bonus Neal Morse co-wrote and plays guitar on this track, and it really does have his signature sound all over it. I might not always find his overtly spiritual solo albums to be always accessible lyrically, but musically he is always magnificent tunesmith, and 'Waiting for Me' is a superb example of Neal's way with a tune. This one song is well worth the price of the CD.
Neal's fans will be delighted to know that he also has a writing credit on another song here, the lovely 'Afterthoughts'.
Thirdly, can this veteren group keep up with the new breed of prog bands that are making a name for themselves, as well as other more established bands?
In the past few months I've listened to some utterly brilliant albums from Cosmograf, Lifesigns, Mostly Autumn, The Reasoning, Rob Cottingham, The Flower Kings, and Neal Morse in solo mode, and in my opinion 'Brief Nocturnes And Dreamless Sleep' is up there with the best of those. I know the year is still young, but so far this brilliant album is a definite contender for 'Prog album of 2013'.
If you love well written, superbly played prog, then you'll love this sumptuously produced album. I love it, and when I've finished writing this, I'm off to order the two disc version!
Definitely a full five pints for this one, hic....
Hiding Out (Ted Leonard) - 7:13
I Know Your Secret (Dave Meros, John Boegehold) - 7:40
A Treasure Abandoned (Boegehold, Alan Morse) - 8:53
Submerged (Leonard) - 4:57
Afterthoughts (Alan Morse, Neal Morse, Leonard) - 6:08
Something Very Strange (Boegehold) - 8:23
Waiting for Me (Alan Morse, Neal Morse) - 12:36
Disc Two (Special Edition Bonus Disc)
The Man You're Afraid You Are (Alan Morse, Stan Ausmus) - 7:11
Down A Burning Road (Boegehold, Alan Morse) - 6:51
Wish I Were Here (Alan Morse) - 6:33
Something Very Strange/Sanctified Remix - 5:09
Postcards From Perdition (Boegehold) - 4:27 (Limited Edition bonus track)