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'The First Twenty Years'
(Inside Out)
Release Date: 20th November 2015

Ian Sutherland
ian sutherland

spocks beard

It doesn't seem that long ago to me that someone was telling me about this new American prog rock band I should check out.

That band were Spock's Beard and since then I have enjoyed their complex, melodic take on the genre with the focus on strong songwriting but with exemplary musicianship, harmonies aplenty vocally and a comfort level with letting a song be twenty minutes plus in length if that's what works.

It is somewhat sobering to find out how long ago that initial introduction was but the release of this best of set called 'The First Twenty Years' makes that fact inescapable.

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Putting together a best of for a prog rock band like Spock's Beard can be problematic. When long songs are so common the difficulty can be which to include and which to leave out being dictated as much by the available space as the quality and popularity of the songs.

An example is right at the start of disc one here with the fifteen minute title track of debut album 'The Light' opening proceedings. The other magnum opus on that album is the twenty three minutes of 'The Water' which you could argue is equally as famous or popular with the fan base but doesn't make the cut here.

With that sort of compromise in mind this is still a very effective representation of the band's career. Disc one covers the Neal Morse era of the band from the almost commercial sounding 'June' to the full on jazz fusion overtones included in 'At The End Of The Day' and every style in they explored inbetween.

Disc two has material from when Nick D'Virgilio stepped forward from his drum stool to take over vocal duties when Morse left and a couple of tracks from the most recent albums with Enchant man Ted Leonard taking on the lead vocal role.

If you don't really know Spock's Beard much then this album would make an ideal introduction, showing all the different eras and facets of the band. However I'm sure Inside Out are looking to sell this to the committed fans as well as entice some new interest in the back catalogue so what is here to tempt the fan base to part with their cash?

First of all, all the tracks from their output to date have been remastered by long time collaborator Rich Mouser. More exciting to most fans will be the inclusion of a DVD featuring among other treats some live footage of the band from the '90s.

The real enticement though is a new epic twenty minute song written and recorded specially for this release. 'Falling For Forever' has been written by Neal Morse and features performances from every band member, past and present.

This means Morse has had to find room for three different singers and two different drummers all within the one song. It is to his great credit that the piece flows seamlessly along and works in its own right as a top quality example of Spock's Beard doing what they do best as well as a showcase for all the talents the band has had within its ranks over the years.

I think that due to the new song and the DVD this compilation will find its way into the home of most SB fans and I don't think they will be disappointed with what they get.

If you are a new or casual fan of the band then this makes a good starting point before delving further into their releases. Mission accomplished as far as best ofs go then.

spocks beard

‘The First Twenty Years’ Track Listing:
CD 1
1 The Light (remastered) (15:33)
2 Thoughts (remastered) (07:10)
3 The Doorway (remastered) (11:27)
4 June (remastered) (05:31)
5 Day For Night (remastered) (07:34)
6 At The End Of The Day (Remastered) (16:28)
7 Solitary Soul (remastered) (07:33)
8 Wind At My Back (remastered) (05:12)

CD 2
1 The Bottom Line (remastered) (07:33)
2 She Is Everything (remastered) (06:46)
3 On A Perfect Day (remastered) (07:45)
4 Jaws Of Heaven (remastered) (16:22)
5 Waiting For Me (remastered) (12:36)
6 Tides of Time (remastered) (07:47)
7 Falling For Forever (19:45)
Total: 02:35:20
+ DVD 01:40:11

Alan Morse – Guitar, Vocals
Dave Meros – Bass Guitar, Vocals, Keyboards
Ryo Okumoto – Keyboards, Vocals
Jimmy Keegan – Drums, Vocals
Ted Leonard – Vocals, Guitar
Neal Morse – Vocals, Keyboards
Nick D’Virgilio – Vocals

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