Spocks Beard- Feel Euphoria (Inside Out)
review by Jim Clark

Track Listing

1. Onomatopoeia
2. The Bottom Line
3. Feel Euphoria
4. Shining Star
5. East Of Eden, West Of Memphis
6. Ghosts Of Autumn
7. A Guy Named Sid
8. Carry On



It would have been easy for Spock's Beard to call it a day after front man Neal Morse surprisingly left the band in late 2002 after he found religious enlightenment. But with drummer Nick D'Vrigilio taking over the lead vocalist role, reminiscent of Phil Collins' ascension to the Genesis lead spot following Peter Gabriel's departure nearly 30 years earlier, Spock's Beard vowed to carry on. But that's where the comparison with Genesis ends. Gabriel-era Genesis was largely a collaborative effort with Mike Rutherford, Tony Banks and Steve Hackett contributing considerably to the writing side of things. On the other hand, Neal Morse wrote virtually all of the Spock's Beard material. His departure would actually be more likened to if Steven Wilson ever decided to leave Porcupine Tree and Richard Barbieri, Colin Edwin and Gavin Harrison decided to march on. In other words, it was almost incomprehensible that the Beard would continue.

But continue they did as they released a steady though unspectacular post-Morse effort in Feel Euphoria . And while D'Virgilio carries the load of the writing here, guitarist Alan Morse (Neal's brother), keyboardist Ryo Okumoto and bassist Dave Meros make some solid composing contributions, along with outside help from John Boegehold and Stan Ausmus.

The disc starts with the rocking "Onomatopoeia," penned by D'Virgilio, Alan Morse and Boegehold. The track starts as a pretty straightforward rocker until shifting gears to an acoustic bit about halfway through. The track closes much the way it started and includes some menacing screams. A fine opening number.

"The Bottom Line," written by D'Virgilio and Ausmus, is next up and sounds quite like the Spock's Beard of old with Okumoto's mellotron quite prominent and D'Virgilio channeling Neal Morse's vocal style. A cool vocal section dominates the middle of the song before finishing with an acoustic part. Again, a fine number, nothing great but nothing poor, either.

The title track follows and features some music that was written by Okumoto years ago and incorporated in his solos back then. Now, with D'Virgilio adding to the track, the sound is quite sinister. D'Virgilio's voice is distorted and there's some heavy Hammond playing from Okumoto. The track gets very heavy midway through with D'Virgilio shouting out the vocals, an effect that can grate at times.

D'Virgilio's acoustic ballad "Shining Star" is next. Though a pleasant number, nothing really stands out here.

"East of Eden, West of Memphis" gives Alan Morse the chance to step into the spotlight. The rocker, composed by Alan Morse with Boegehold, is quite a good track with layered vocals and fine singing from D'Virgilio. Okumoto adds all of his keyboard touches to the track to give it that progressive feel and Alan Morse provides solid guitar throughout. One of the better songs here.

But the true highlight of Feel Euphoria comes next. "Ghosts of Autumn," written by the previously underused Meros along with Boegehold, is an incredible ballad that sees D'Virgilio giving his best vocal performance on the disc. Alan Morse adds an excellent solo to the track and Okumoto contributes more solid keyboards. Hands down, the best song on Feel Euphoria .

And what would a Spock's Beard disc be without the 20+ -minute epic? Taking a page from the Neal Morse book of songwriting, D'Virgilio offers up "A Guy Named Sid," a six-part epic about, well, a guy named Sid who was a bully as a child and grew up to be disliked by all. This track offers all of the Spock's Beard trademarks - flashy synthesizers, lots of heavy Hammond organ, constant changes in time signatures and in "Sid's Boys Choir," a multi-part vocal section reminiscent of previous Beard songs "Thoughts" and "Gibberish." On its own merit, a decent song, however given Spock's Beard's epic writing past, this number sounds obviously contrived. Sort of like D'Virgilio felt that the disc needed to have a 20-minute song to show they could still do it without Neal Morse at the helm.

"Carry On" closes the disc and it seems really out of place following "A Guy Named Sid." An Alan Morse/Ausmus/Boegehold ballad, this number is again pleasant but entirely forgettable. Definitely not album closing material.

So is the new Spock's Beard worth listening to? Definitely. Considering that the four remaining Spock's Beard members wrote very little on all of the previous releases, they really did quite commendable on Feel Euphoria after the shock of Neal Morse's departure. D'Virgilio shows that he is quite a capable vocalist and when he wants to, he can sound much like Neal Morse. Okumoto stepped up and took over all of the keyboard playing (Neal Morse played all synthesizers on previous Spock's Beard releases) and he performed quite well.

More importantly, this disc doesn't sound a whole lot like the Spock's Beard of old. Whether or not that's a good thing is entirely up to the listener. For me personally, it's good. The band is trying to step out from Neal Morse's shadow and prove that it wasn't a one man show. While the regressive "A Guy Named Sid" sounds deliberately like an attempt to be like Neal Morse, most of the rest of Feel Euphoria offers an effort to be different. And while the band falls flat at times, I at least give them points for trying. So while not a great disc by any stretch, it's an interesting listen nonetheless. And it also makes me intrigued to see how their next release, which is currently being recorded, turns out.

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