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Spanning two decades as one of the premier latter-day progressive rock outfits, this two-CD set features new members, vocalist Ted Leonard (Enchant, Thought Chamber), and drummer Jimmy Keegan (Santana), who has performed with the band during its live performances over the years. Sporting a big sound, integrated with the ensemble's agility and vibrant improvisational segments, the program imparts a few nods to the glory days of prog, amid the obvious modern era overhauls, with reverence to pop and storyboard-like theme-building episodes.
"Waiting for Me" clocks in a little over twelve minutes and is the Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep's lengthiest piece. There's a lot to digest as the rhythm section provides a hearty impetus, coupled with hard-rock riffing, driving keys and swiftly executed chord voicings. Leonard's attainable vocals combine passion, grace, and soaring attributes. And the ensemble fuses serious-minded musicianship with amenable overtones, occasionally projecting a radio-friendly vibe. At times sublime, sparked by Ryo Okumoto's delicate acoustic piano fabrications and guitarist Alan Morse's yearning notes, the group picks up the pace and dashes back into the grand schema with a firestorm and a sense of regality, largely due to Okumoto's majestic synth lines. The intense finale subsides into a divine fadeout, shaded with the sounds of church bells ringing.
With Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep, Spocks Beard links time-honored prog rock characteristics with a distinct flavor and fresh ideas on this gripping studio date.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.