Spock's Beard are significantly better than many of their contemporaries. But only sometimes. They were at their best when they put their main focus on making pop music that has more adventerous arrangements and structures. Basically doing the 90125/Talk-era Yes thing. Whenever they tried to do some gradiose prog rock opus they tend to fall on their faces. They blend a weird mix of ripping of classic prog elements (usually yes or gentle giant) and then putting that right next to borderline-generic AOR.
Their debut is amusing in a so-bad-it's-good kind of way. They bite off WAY more than they can chew and it's a total mess as a result. I don't like the album but it is an interesting failure I'll give it that.
Beware Of Darkness of course has one good song in the title track. It's a pretty obvious rip of how Yes would make proggified cover songs (it even sounds kind of like how yes might have done it). It's not a great cover but it's distinctive I guess. Some of the other material on it is OK. But it's all *very* prog by-numbers and the songwriting isn't good enough to overcome that. Lots of classic prog rip-offs too (hmm I wonder where they nicked the piano intro from The Doorway from).
The Kindness Of Strangers is their best album for sure. It, and to a slightly lesser extent the two albums that came after it, are the only ones I'd recommend to people. They come up with a batch of genuinely catchy melodies and the songwriting is stepped up WAY beyond the level it was at before. They're still playing lots of generic prog stretches but they're far more interesting to listen to and for the most part feel sucessfully integrated into the songs they're a part of. At its worst the album feels derivative and cheesy, but it manages to do that without being embarassing. And at it's best there are some pretty decent tracks. Also "June" is a way better ballad than this band deserves.
Day For Night has some really dull AOR stuff on it, but some of the band's best songs are there too. the title track and "Crack The Big Sky" are both among the bands more sucessful pop-prog hybrids. "Gibberish" is a pretty fun Gentle Giant rip-off.
V has nearly my favorutie SB song in "At The End Of The Day". The first 7ish minutes are the best stuff they ever did, overblown and cheesy as usual but the tune and arrangment are good enough to justify it. Unfortunately they just couldn't resist the temptation to stretch it out longer and the rest of the song doesn't add anything to what came before. They should have reprised the chorus after the pause in the middle and ended it under 10 minutes. the 30 minute epic is mostly a waste sadly. It's more boring than awful though, it doesn't have nearly enough musical ideas for it's runtime but what's there is listenable. The short tracks in the middle are suprisingly pretty decent though.
Snow is where I hop off the wagon. It's overlong, preachy, and pretentious. The Neal Morse who writes 70-minute transatlantic songs and awful christian-prog solo albums really emerges here and while it's better than some of his later stuff would be it defintiely ain't good either.
Amusingly after Morse left they ripped off Genesis and made their drummer the new singer. that meant they lost the only guy who could write good melodies and without their biggest redeeming quality they got real bad real fast. Their drummer *is* a really talented dude though (he pretty much single-handedly rescued the final Kevin Gilbert album from oblivion, so I'll always respect him for that) so I can't hate them with all my being during this period just most of it.
Then hilariously, they ripped genesis off again when their drummer/singer left and they replaced him with some other dude putting them into their "Calling All Stations" era with a level of badness unfathomable by human ears.
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