Spock's Beard Biography

This progressive rock band was formed in Los Angeles in the spring of 1992 by brothers Neal (2 August 1960, Van Nuys, California, USA; vocals, keyboards, guitar) and Alan Morse (b. 22 August 1958, Los Angeles, California, USA; guitar, vocals). Originally named One, they recruited Dave Meros (b. 8 February 1956, Salinas, California, USA; bass, vocals) and Nick D’Virgilio (b. 12 November 1968, Whittier, California, USA; drums, percussion, vocals) before changing their name to Spock’s Beard. Named after the Star Trek character of the same name, the moniker was originally conceived as a joke and to be discarded before the band relented after failing to think of a more serious title. Following a period of heavy touring, the band built a substantial following based on their energetic live performances, and their assertive 1995 debut, The Light, confirmed their status as one of the forerunners of the progressive rock scene of the period. Although influenced by Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant and the Beatles, their work possessed an original and distinctive keenness that ensured they could not be dismissed as mere plagiarists. Filled with expansive and compelling epics such as ‘The Water’ and the title track, The Light was rightly acclaimed as one of the finest progressive rock albums of the decade.

By the time of their second, and somewhat lacklustre studio release, Beware Of Darkness (which included a cover version of the George Harrison song of the same name), they had strengthened their sound with the addition of seasoned session player Ryo Okumoto (b. 24 May 1958, Osaka, Japan; organ, mellotron). Probably their most stirring and ebullient release, 1997’s The Kindness Of Strangers saw the band develop their engaging and multi-layered sound, based around the potent songwriting ability of Neal Morse. Around this time, the band formed their own record label, Radiant, on which they have released a number of live and rarities albums (of varying quality) that are sold through the band’s popular website.

Seemingly as a convoluted attempt to appeal to the more mainstream listener, 1999’s Day For Night consisted of shorter tracks that veered from the simple balladry of ‘Can’t Get It Wrong’ to the excessively avant garde ‘Gibberish’ and ironically proved to be their weakest release. Fortunately 2000’s V turned away from shorter, commercial songs and proved that the band’s most alluring material remains in the form of longer and elaborate tracks. Their musical credentials were further enhanced by their work away from Spock’s Beard, with Neal Morse producing a substantial solo album and becoming a member of the part-time supergroup Transatlantic, and drummer D’Virgilio working with Genesis on Calling All Stations.

Neal Morse’s departure following the release of 2002’s Snow was a major surprise. This concept album’s themes mirrored Morse’s recent conversion to Christianity and after his departure he concentrated on expressing his faith through music. D’Virgilio took over lead vocals on the harder-rocking Feel Euphoria but the critical reaction was mixed. The 2005 album Octane was more successful and marked a return to the progressive style of the band’s earlier releases. Despite operating in the much-maligned area of progressive rock, the band’s mainstream popularity has increased in both the USA and Europe as a result of their unquestionable technical ability and their flair for writing infectious material.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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