Spock's Beard

The Kindness of Strangers

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1998's The Kindness of Strangers sees Spock's Beard returning to the more "suite" oriented format of their debut The Light, issued back in 1995. There, the set kicks off with "The Good Don't Last," a three-part ride that serves as Neal Morse's indictment of popular culture --though his lyrics are pure pop culture tripe. His screed belittles his wonderfully accessible and labyrinthine music; too bad. Things look up on "In the Mouth of Madness," with its Mellotron and heavy guitars complemented beautifully by Nick D'Virgilio's drum thud. The disc also features "June," one of Spock's most popular songs in a live setting. And it is easily the most accessible and pleasant thing the overly technical and cerebral Morse ever wrote, with its lilting vocal harmonies and acoustic guitars, which give way to the rollicking metallic prog of "Strange World." The track "Harm's Way" features organist Ryo Okumoto prominently, as well as Al Morse's squealing guitar. The set closes with the three-parter "The Flow," which is carried by a knotty, guitar-driven assault that is accented by various keyboards and moved forward ever more insistently by D'Virgilio's amazing drumming. This elegy for the end of times is one of Morse's better jobs lyrically. There is real poetry in his tome, and as piano and electric guitar solos and fills weave in and out, it becomes ominous, an elegy, and a dark meditation on the current era. This is a solid date, one that feels focused and true and full of strong songwriting with typically excellent performances and is well advised for those seeking an introduction to this fine band.

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