Spock’s Beard – Noise Floor (InsideOut Records, 2018)
American rock band Spock’s Beard is still described as a progressive rock band. However, their new double album Noise Floor is not what you would expect from a progressive rock band.
The opening track, “To Breathe Another Day”, gives you a pretty good preview of what the album is about. It’s hard rock with pop hooks, pretty much AOR. The only prog rock is the outstanding work by keyboardist Ryo Okumoto, who injects intricate keyboard solos and atmospheres.
Track 2, “What Becomes of Me” is a pop ballad where Ryo Okumoto shines again and Alan Morse delivers a great guitar solo. The next song, “Somebody’s Home” combines AOR with progressive rock segments.
The longest song is “Have We All Gone Crazy Yet.” It’s a mix of hard rock with progressive rock. The prog parts kick in halfway through the track and the listener gets treated to superb keyboard instrumental work.
Track 5 “So This is Life” is sappy and sounds a lot like the Beatles, although Spock’s Beard are much better instrumentalists.
On “One So Wise, it’s more AOR with pop hooks. Superb bass lines from Dave Meros; and mellotron, organ and synth work from Ryo Okumoto.
“Box of Spiders” is an instrumental, composed by Ryo Okumoto. Without the vocals, the band switches to full, satisfactory progressive rock mode. The listener is treated to spectacular work from all instrumentalists. The band should form a prog rock side project and leave Spock’s Beard to AOR, hard rock and ballads.
Disc 1 ends with the anthemic hard rock “Beginnings,” featuring pop hooks.
Disc 2, titled Cutting Room Floor contains four short tracks. The first three are forgettable AOR songs. The only keeper is the last track, a great instrumental titled “Armageddon Nervous,” where the musicians get yet another opportunity to shine.
The current incarnation of Spock’s Beard includes Ted Leonard on lead vocals; Alan Morse on electric and acoustic guitars, backing vocals; Ryo Okumoto on keyboards; and Dave Meros on bass guitar, backing vocals.
Guests include Nick D’Virgilio on drums and percussion, backing vocals; Eric Gorfain on violin; Leah Katz on viola; Richard Dodd on cello; and David Robertson on English horn.
The star on Noise Floor, from a progressive rock perspective, is Ryo Okumoto. It would be great to see him collaborate more often with like-minded progressive rock instrumentalists.
Buy Noise Floor