Previous 20 (41-60)

100 Favourite albums you will not find on other lists (61-80)


There are many lists of best of albums on the internet. What is interesting for me, is the fact that I might agree with many of them, they are not my favourite albums. Even though I agree to the merits of Pet Sounds and Seargent Pepper, I very often listen to them. Now what is the albums that I enjoy listening to the most. Here they are.  If you have any comments, please e-mail us. These albums are alphabetically. Here are the third twenty albums.

Nightwish - OnceNightwish - Once: After a hard time of two years in agony for their new work the Finnish metal mongers return with their finest work till today. All the elements that made them known and adorable are here, speed metal rhythms, with their elegant and simply undesirable vocals of Tarja Turunen, bringing heaven on earth. Listen to the bombastic “Wish I had an angel” and you understand what it means to combine earthly male vocals with the soprano approach of Tarja. Most of the sings are been helped not only by the quality of the compositions and the high professionalism of the band members, but also from the London Session Orchestra and Choir that helped NIGHTWISH to make the next step to the big league. Their music is melodic, still purely metal with rough edges that only Tarja’s voice softens a little. On the other hand the metal influences have become so much more vivid through the songs, especially in songs like “Dark chest of Wonders” and “Planet Hell”. The love of the band for the film scores can be easily spotted in small masterpieces like “Ghost Love score” and the London orchestra helps in most of the album songs to enhance this magical, theatrical atmosphere .We have eleven songs that are of the highest quality, melodic heavy metal with the classical influences under the skin of the music and the metal elements more on the surface than ever. In the world of female dominated bands, I believe that NIGHTWISH can now be recognized as the undoubtful leaders, a band that used the orchestra in such a unique way, that made my promo (even with the voice introductions in the songs) a treasure for future listening, bombastic, magnificent, heavy metal. That is all I have to add for NIGHTWISH. One of the albums that are more than certain they will enter my top ten of the best albums of 2004.

Osibisa - Black Magic NightOsibisa - Black Magic Night: Recorded on July 19, 1977, this double LP (reissued as a two-CD set) contained live versions of songs that appeared on several of their 1971-1977 albums, as well as one ("Living Loving Feeling") that only came out as a single. Osibisa, who anticipated many of the features of the worldbeat sound, cover a lot of ground on this lengthy set — maybe too much for some tastes. Sometimes the material gets close to traditional African music in its rhythms and chanting; at others, it nearly treads on jazz fusion territory, though not in a bad way. And while Osibisa singer and multi-instrumentalist Teddy Osei says in the liner notes that the band wasn't influenced by Santana, the Afro-Latin rhythms and chant-style vocals in some of the songs certainly remind you of Santana, though again not in an objectionable fashion. There's also some Rahsaan Roland Kirk-style flute playing, and a rendition of their substantial 1976 British hit "Sunshine Day" that finds them at their most pop-friendly. While they might not have been the most innovative or original of these kind of groups, overall this is a lively document of an ensemble that fused African, soul-funk, and some Latin and jazz elements when that sort of mixture was far less accessible outside Africa than it would be in subsequent decades.

Pallas -The Cross & The CruciblePallas -The Cross & The Crucible: Fresh off the oven is Pallas' newest, The Cross And The Crucible. So what is one to expect from the Scottish proggers this time around, considering that the space between this album and its predecessor was quite short (in Pallas time, of course)? Fortunately enough, the band was very clear about that: an ambitious concept album centering on the history of mankind and the underlying mystery that has run the course of our history. All surrounded by an elegant gala of well-arranged music and clever hooks, of course. Now comes a much more important question: did the band succeed?

Amazingly enough, yes. Not that I'm questioning the band's talent or decisiveness in the realms of progressive rock, but the lyrical quest that the band set upon its own porch was quite enormous, and thus much harder to tackle. Now add the need of an appropriate soundtrack for the theme, considering that just some background music wouldn't have done, and the merits found within The Cross And The Crucible are considerably augmented. So considerably, in fact, that one can almost forgive Alan Reed's excessively strained vocals and the less-than-spectacular moments that show up every now and then throughout the course of the album.

Then get into the pulsating stomp of "The Cross And The Crucible" or "The Blinding Darkness" and forgiveness soon mutates into grateful forgetfulness. That's when Graeme Murray's forceful bass lines submerge the listener into a deeply emotional world, where tragic lyrics haunted by images of religious wars and technological misuse evoke worrisome parallels between the barbarism of yesteryear and now.

The record, however, is more than just a couple of cleverly-arranged tracks adorned with thought-provoking lyrics, and thus resounds with a unique freshness that becomes evident when one absorbs the rare but delectable solos of keyboardist Ronnie Brown and guitarist Niall Mathewson, or the subtle textures that Murray lays across the entire album. "For The Greater Glory" and "Midas Touch" demonstrate the principle more than enough, and the songs serve to place the listener in the appropriate state of mind for the band's lyrical exploits not for a mere moment or two, but for the entire hour that The Cross And The Crucible spans. Sure, flashes of apparent sterility are intermittent throughout the record's songs and seem to somehow trespass even upon the band's brightest ideas, but even the best fail sometimes, and given the strength of Pallas' new material, the mistakes aren't really crass enough to truly detract from what is otherwise a very good record.

Pink Fairies - Never Never LandPink Fairies - Never Never Land: Kicking off the most exhaustive exhumation yet of the Pink Fairies' early-'70s catalog, the remastered Neverneverland readily takes its place among the era's most crucial debuts, a hard-rocking, free-flowing, and, above all, anarchic monster that opens with the definitive statement of yippie intent, "Do It," and doesn't look back. Titled for radical Jerry Rubin's book of the same name, "Do It" remains a manifesto for the revolution that never quite got off the ground, a gutsy affirmation that the Pink Fairies were never to eclipse. Originally released as a January 1971 single, "Do It" also appears among the bonus tracks in its edited (three-minute) 45 rpm format, together with its turbulent B-side, the similarly barnstorming "The Snake." And it must be admitted that anybody entering the realm of the Pink Fairies from those points of view is in for at least a few surprises. While "Say You Love Me" and "Teenage Rebel" certainly adhere to the band's rockiest tendencies, the ballad "Heavenly Man" sounds like nothing so much as those other pink things, Pink Floyd circa Obscured by Clouds, while "War Girl" has a distinct American R&B tinge to it. Other moods float in and out of focus before Neverneverland returns to Free Festival central for the live crowd-pleaser "Uncle Harry's Last Freak-Out" — present in both its 11-minute LP form and, among the bonus tracks, the 12-minute instrumental prototype that was one of the band's first studio attempts at the piece. Needless to say, both are as relentless as the title insists — and as fiery as the Pink Fairies' own reputation demand they should be.

Pink Floyd - The Division Bell

Pink Floyd - The Division Bell: "The Division Bell" followed "Momentary Lapse of Reason" and it constituted the band's second release without Roger Waters and with David Gilmour at the helm of the band. In my mind, it can be considered as an album that encapsulates all of Pink Floyd's grandeur, having an abundance of musical references to their greatest works.

Though "Marooned" is typically the most acclaimed track in the album (it earned the band a Grammy in 1995), there's plenty of additional outstanding material in it besides this instrumental track. Songs like the opening track and "Poles Apart", along with "Take it Back" and "High Hopes" have permanently been on my playlist ever since the album was released in 1994.

If you are missing more work from Pink Floyd, perhaps the closest we'll ever get from them will be more solo works from David Gilmour, like the album he released in early 2006, which will bring to mind all the great work they were capable of.

Praying Mantis - The Journey Goes on

Praying Mantis - The Journey Goes on: The band has been around since the late 70’s and managed to make a career in Japan in the 90’s despite all things grunge. Original members, brothers Chris and Tino Troy and Dennis Stratton are still there and are joined by two very respected rock vocalists. They are John Sloman (ex-Uriah Heep/Lone Star/Gary Moore) and Doogie White (ex-Rainbow and current Malmsteen/Cornerstone vocalist). Martin Johnson provides the drums.

John Sloman sings on the opener ‘Tonight’, a tune etched in classic rock sound, not dissimilar to one of his older bands, Uriah Heep! Sloman’s vocals suit the song very well. The other two tracks he appears on are ‘Beast Within’, which turns into a great power ballad after a neat keyboard intro and ‘The Voice’. The latter is the album’s longest track clocking-in at over eight minutes and manages to keep the listeners interest going with some stylish guitar and keyboard interplay.

Doogie White takes lead vocals on four tracks, the best of which are harmonies on the mid-tempo rocker ‘The Escape’ and the great hard rockin’ ‘Hold On For Love’, one of the best tracks on the album. Special mention to the beautiful acoustic guitar on ‘If Tomorrow Never Comes’.

A very enjoyable album, that will certainly please long term fans of the band. But the album has one or two songs that stop it from being a classic, such as ‘Lost World’. Well played and produced and with a bit of exposure could win the band a whole new audience.

Rare Earth - Ma

Rare Earth - Ma: Rare Earth's most satisfying LP, Norman Whitfield wrote and produced all five songs. "Ma," the title track, had been done by Temptations and Undisputed Truth but nobody rocked the sucker like Rare Earth; they jam for 17:17 on the funkiest mama song ever. "Hum Along and Dance," first appeared on the Temptations' Psychedelic Shack; Rare Earth gives the groover and update, a rolling organ sets it off. Lead, Gil Bridges brags about his musical ability on the loud, horn dominated stomper "Big John In My Name."A haunting arrangement of "Smiling Faces Sometimes" will make you shiver. And you don't get much more sensual than the soft and lush "Come With Me," where a female simulates an orgasm that puts Donna Summers' exhibition on "Love to Love You Baby" to shame; it's the only new song on the LP, but who's quibbling, MA is da bomb!

Jim Reeves - Ultimate Collection, The

Jim Reeves - Ultimate Collection, The: This must be a total surprise of many of you out there. But ....... keep in mind that Jim Reeves is in the top 5 dead singers who sold the most albums after he died. He must have done something right. And that is the voice. Listen to songs like Distant Drums - nowhere in the world will you find a voice like this.



The Rolling Stones - FlowersThe Rolling Stones - Flowers: The Rolling Stones Flowers was dismissed as a rip-off of sorts by some critics as it took the patchwork bastardization of British releases for the American audience to extremes, gathering stray tracks from the U.K. versions of Aftermath and Between the Buttons, 1966-1967 singles (some of which had already been used on the U.S. editions of Aftermath and Between the Buttons), and a few outtakes. Judged solely by the music, though, it's rather great. "Lady Jane," "Ruby Tuesday," and "Let's Spend the Night Together" are all classics (although they had all been on an LP before); the 1966 single "Mother's Little Helper," a Top Ten hit, is also terrific; and "Have You Seen Your Mother Baby, Standing in the Shadow?" making its first album appearance, is the early Stones at their most surrealistic and angst-ridden. A lot of the rest of the cuts rate among their most outstanding 1966-1967 work. "Out of Time" is hit-worthy in its own right (and in fact topped the British charts in an inferior cover by Chris Farlowe); "Backstreet Girl," with its European waltz flavor, is one of the great underrated Stones songs. The same goes for the psychedelic Bo Diddley of "Please Go Home," and the acoustic, pensively sardonic "Sittin' on a Fence," with its strong Appalachian flavor. Almost every track is strong, so if you're serious about your Stones, don't pass this by just because a bunch of people slag it as an exploitative marketing trick (which it is). There's some outstanding material you can't get anywhere else, and the album as a whole plays very well from end to end. [This is the Japanese edition of the CD.]

David Lee Roth - Eat 'Em And SmileDavid Lee Roth - Eat 'Em And Smile: Guitarist Steve Vai, bassist Billy Sheehan, and drummer Gregg Bissonette sound perfectly at home aping their boss' old cronies on such sizzling party anthems as "Shyboy" and "Elephant Gun." A fun-loving cover of "Tobacco Road" kicks off a very solid side two featuring the remarkably Fair Warning-esque "Big Trouble," and it doesn't get any better than first single, "Yankee Rose," where the squealing call and response between Roth and Vai reaches unparalleled comical heights. The glossy pump of "Goin' Crazy!" (originally conceived as the title track for Roth's botched movie project) hints at the pop excesses to come, and although two lounge pieces are knocked out for good measure, these are easily offset by the cool strut of "Ladies Nite in Buffalo?," arguably Roth's most legitimate piece of art ever.

Royal Hunt - ParadoxRoyal Hunt - Paradox: Reviewer: Mike "Mike" (Maryland)
Royal Hunt is one of those bands (Savatage, King's X) that deserves greater attention in America, but is almost unheard of in the States. Their lead singer for this album is an American named DC Cooper. He came to many bands' attention after placing second behind Ripper Owens in the Judas Priest auditions. Ironically, although he can sound exactly like Rob Halford when he wants to, his normal voice is much different. He has incredible range, and I would go as far as to say that he is one of the best vocalists in rock today. Andr Andersen is fantastic at keyboards, and guitarist Jacob Kjaer always gives a fantastic, passionate solo in nearly every song. There are no bad or filler songs, the weakest being the 9:31 "Time Will Tell." "Message to God" is my personal favorate not only because of the music, but because the lyrics call out God for screwing so many people over; I have felt many of the same thoughts that are in the lyrics. "Silent Scream" and "Long Way Home" are also strongpoints on the album. My only complaint is that Andersen's keyboards are in the front of the mix, drowning out the guitar for most of the song except the guitar solos. In fact, this album could have used longer guitar solos and shorter keyboard solos, but this hurts the album only slightly. The bonus tracks are good, but not necessary, and do not continue the theme presented throughout the original album. "Paradox" shows a lighter side of prog-metal, but should appeal to fans of melodic metal and prog-rock as well. Very highly recommended.


Leon Russell - Retrospective

Leon Russell - Retrospective: The ultimate rock & roll session man, Leon Russell's long and storied career includes collaborations with a virtual who's who of music icons spanning from Jerry Lee Lewis to Phil Spector to the Rolling Stones. A similar eclecticism and scope also surfaced in his solo work, which couched his charmingly gravelly voice in a rustic yet rich swamp pop fusion of country, blues and gospel. Born Claude Russell Bridges on April 2, 1942, in Lawton, OK, he began studying classical piano at age three, a decade later adopting the trumpet and forming his first band. At 14, Russell lied about his age to land a gig at a Tulsa nightclub, playing behind Ronnie Hawkins & the Hawks before touring in support of Jerry Lee Lewis. Two years later, he settled in Los Angeles, studying guitar under the legendary James Burton and appearing on sessions with Dorsey Burnette and Glen Campbell. As a member of Spector's renowned studio group, Russell played on many of the finest pop singles of the 1960s, also arranging classics like Ike & Tina Turner's monumental "River Deep, Mountain High"; other hits bearing his input include the Byrds' "Mr. Tambourine Man," Gary Lewis & the Playboys' "This Diamond Ring," and Herb Alpert's "A Taste of Honey."

In 1967, Russell built his own recording studio, teaming with guitarist Marc Benno to record the acclaimed Look Inside the Asylum Choir LP. While touring with Delaney & Bonnie, he scored his first songwriting hit with Joe Cocker's reading of "Delta Lady," and in 1970, upon founding his own Shelter Records imprint, he also organized Cocker's legendary Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour. After the subsequent tour film earned Russell his first real mainstream notoriety, he issued a self-titled solo LP, and in 1971 appeared at George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh following sessions for B.B. King, Eric Clapton, and Bob Dylan. After touring with the Rolling Stones, Russell increasingly focused on his solo career, reaching the number two spot with 1972's Carny and scoring his first pop hit with the single "Tight Rope." While the success of 1973's three-LP set Leon Live further established his reputation as a top concert draw, response to the country inspired studio effort Hank Wilson's Back was considerably more lukewarm, as was the reception afforded to 1974's Stop All That Jazz. 1975's Will O' the Wisp, however, restored his commercial luster, thanks in large part to the lovely single "Lady Blue."

In June of 1975, Russell married singer Mary McCreary; the following year the couple collaborated on The Wedding Album, issued through his newly formed Paradise Records label. Also in 1976, the Russell-penned "This Masquerade" earned a Grammy Award for singer George Benson. He and McCreary reunited for 1977's Make Love to the Music, and upon completing the solo Americana, Russell teamed with Willie Nelson for 1979's Willie & Leon. He then spent the next two years touring with his bluegrass band, the New Grass Revival, issuing a live LP in 1981; although Paradise shut down later that year, the label was reactivated for 1984's Hank Wilson, Vol. II and Solid State. Russell spent the remainder of the decade largely outside of music and did not resurface until issuing the Bruce Hornsby produced Anything Can Happen in 1992. The album appeared to little fanfare, however, and another long period of relative inactivity followed prior to the 1998 release of Hank Wilson, Vol. 3: Legend in My Time. Face in the Crowd appeared a year later.

Best Of Santa EsmeraldaBest Of Santa Esmeralda: Some of Bob Dylan's best songs were done by the Byrds. Now some of the best songs by the Animals were done by Santa Esmaralda. Dont worry about the other 4 songs - just by this album for Dont let me be misunderstood and House of the Rising sun. I can compare it to The Byrds versions of Bob Dylan - totally different, but brilliant.



Santana - Inner SecretsSantana - Inner Secrets: Since he had joined Santana in 1972, keyboard player Tom Coster had been Carlos Santana's right-hand man, playing, co-writing, co-producing, and generally taking the place of founding member Greg Rolie. But Coster left the band in the spring of 1978, to be replaced by keyboardist/guitarist Chris Solberg and keyboardist Chris Rhyme. Despite the change, the band soldiered on, and with Inner Secrets, they scored three chart singles: the disco-ish "One Chain (Don't Make No Prison)" (#59), "Stormy" (#32), and a cover of Buddy Holly's "Well All Right" (#69), done in the Blind Faith arrangement. (There seems to be a Steve Winwood fixation here. The album also featured a cover of Traffic's "Dealer.") The singles kept the album on the charts longer than any Santana LP since 1971. For me this album is the link between the early and the later stuff - and it is brilliant. Forget about Samba and the other songs - give it an honest change.

Savatage - The Wake of Magellan

Savatage - The Wake of Magellan: Not only is this one of the most profound, philosophically engaging albums around, it also suceeds in drawing upon the listeners' emotions better than any other album I heard. The lyrics are breathtakingly expressive, along with a gigantic poem commenting upon the events alongside the lyrics with great detail and artistry, and the music, while never as sentimental as some of Savatage's earlier works, manages to produce the entire range of emotions, from courage and hope to profound sadness and introspection. As a concept album, this is heavier than Streets and more austere than Dead Winter Dead, but the final tracks, performed by Jon Oliva in more heartfelt mood, provide a perfect counterbalance to the complicated fury of some earlier tracks (Paragons of Innocence, The Wake of Magellan, The Hourglass). It is especially wonderful to hear him now personally address Criss Oliva in the remake of Alone You Breathe. An outstanding album in every way, probably my favorite CD of all time.

Savoy Brown - Hellbound Train

Savoy Brown - Hellbound Train: Comprising the same lineup as Street Corner Talking, Savoy Brown released Hellbound Train a year later. For this effort, Kim Simmonds' guitar theatrics are toned down a bit and the rest of the band seems to be a little less vivid and passionate with their music. The songs are still draped with Savoy Brown's sleek, bluesy feel, but the deep-rooted blues essence that so easily emerged from their last album doesn't rise as high throughout Hellbound Train's tracks. The title cut is most definitely the strongest, with Dave Walker, Simmonds, and Paul Raymond sounding tighter than on any other song, and from a wider perspective, Andy Silvester's bass playing is easily Hellbound's most complimenting asset.

Saxon - Lionheart

Saxon - Lionheart: “Old men“, no way, SAXON have been active in the Hard Rock business for a quarter of a century, but tiredness or signs of wear and tear are foreign words to the Britons. This is proved more than clearly by the latest epic “Lionheart”. I even go as far as saying that this has become the freshest and best album since the blessed times of “Crusader”. The predecessor “Killing Ground” sure had its moments, but just too many black-outs as well.

The opener “Witchfinder General“ already blazes through the speakers with heavy double bass and neat riffs. Cool chorus, Biff’s vocals are godly. The following “Man And Machine” is rather mid-tempo and there’s a biting Mr. Byford to hear on the microphone as well here. A killer chorus again, that’s the way I like it. Then it comes, the title track “Lionheart”, an epic smasher in the tradition of “Crusader” or “747 (Strangers In The Night)”. It will certainly work well at the next live gigs…Next song, next highlight: “Beyond The Grave”, an outstanding melodic hammer, with cool acoustic guitars and superb vocal arrangements – actually my personal favourite. And it goes on like that one after the other, the fillers of the predecessor have been forgotten, there really is not a single bad track on “Lionheart”! Besides the abovementioned ones, “Searching For Atlantis” stands out. This song is finest epic stuff again and another future band classic!

Even the weakest song “Flying On The Edge“ would count among the highlights with most other bands…With this album, SAXON prove they are about the only survivors of the old days who make discs today that are almost as good as back then. You can say that about neither IRON MAIDEN, nor JUDAS PRIEST nor OZZY OSBOURNE… (Online November 17, 2004) (Metal-observer)

Simon & Garfunkel - Old Friends

Simon & Garfunkel - Old Friends: This consists of most of the Simon and Farfunkel songs. It is not only an introduction into the great music they have done, but as far as most people concerns - this is the definitive collection. It is really a nice compilation.





Spiritual Beggars - Demons

Spiritual Beggars - Demons: When I listen to ‘Demons’, I suddenly understand that I once took a train to a Spiritual Beggars concert without the guarantee of getting home afterwards. Man, man, what kind of marvellous music they make up there in Sweden, for more than twelve years. And in different line-ups. Maybe the band has become a little less sharp through the years, but it is the kind of heavy rock that blows your mind and make you forget all the worries in the world, while emotional moments of introspection are not missing. The band came into being when guitarist Michael Amott left Carcass and cheered the world with a steamy stoner rock approach, certainly a hell of a change after the technical death metal Carcass. That sound has been perfected on every album and nowadays we can speak of a band who combines the energy of modern times with the pure instinctive eagerness of former times. Fans of early Deep Purple for instance, they will not believe their ears and the guitar skills with excessive spatial distortion and wah wah pedal effects are akin with the magic of Jimi Hendrix. ‘Demons’ turned out to be a very organic record, it catches the live atmosphere of a band performing in the studio. JB as vocalist, making his entrance on the previous album ‘On Fire’, is a fantastic front man. He sounds raucous when needed, but makes your flesh creep when he shows his melancholic nature in a track like ‘No One Heard’. Bass player Sharlee D’Angelo (Arch Enemy, Mercyful Fate) is quite new and keyboardist Per Wiberg we all know from Opeth. Concerning the production we are dealing with a famous name again: Fred Nordström.

The intro makes it instantly clear that we are dealing with extreme high quality here. “A Simple intro like that?” I hear those doubtful figures mumble… yes such a brief intro…

just listen to those stone-pitted riffs and the epic melody which is splinted on top of it. Roll ruffles summon some expectations and then the band cuts loose in ‘Throwing Your Life Away’ with delicious greasy vocals, droning bass and groove-laden riffs. The chorus is irrefutable Spiritual Beggars and that means inviting us to sing along (or maybe just hum for those more sedated ones). The muddy riff texture never lacks of energy or speed and magnificent seventies soloing with a tear in the right eye glance pass all by before they swallow the bait again in the almost light chorus. Sturdy rockers like ‘Salt In Your Wounds’ and ‘One Man Army’ (with a familiar sounding guitar run that runs synchronous with the vocals) continue the revels.

But not only in grooving rock tracks these spiritual beggars rule. The mid paced ‘Through The Halls’ proves that these Swedish lads go to the bone in quieter songs too. Just consider those sensitive vocals where sentiment drips off. But never cheap romantic attitudes, always contemplations which can be described as licking of the wounds of an intense existence. Jesus, what a hell of a singer is JB! And I used to think that Spice would be hardly replaceable. Another apex is ‘Dying Every Day’. It begins rather frank with a wah wah guitar intro, swings like hell and refers guitar-wise to the late Jimi Hendrix. It has a stowing rhythm and freaks out gloriously (with that irresistible organ in front – hello Deep Purple), but it offers also breathtaking guitar skills and JB in a very emotional mood. A stunner that has all the ingredients to make it as a classic track. ‘In My Blood’ is without any doubt the most heavy track on the album and they close down with a paradigm of deep emotions. In ‘No One Heard’ JB sings like Kitchen Of Insanity. OK, this comparison does not stand fire. Because nobody knows Kitchen Of Insanity. I would like to risk a second comparison: the atmosphere of the song ‘Easy’ of Faith No More (qua vocals). Be sure to purchase the special edition, for that one comprises a bonus CD with eight tracks live in Japan (April 2003). (

Spock's Beard - Feel Euphoria

Spock's Beard - Feel Euphoria: Feel Euphoria marks the beginning of Spock’s Beard, Phase II – the band’s first album ever without founder, multi-instrumentalist, chief songwriter, producer and singer Neal Morse. Even the old logo is gone. Replacing Morse on vocals is drummer Nick D’Virgilio, whose high-pitched harmonies made many older Spock’s Beard songs so memorable. Expectations among both fans and skeptics are high, and Feel Euphoria provides fodder for both camps. Written, recorded and released nine months after Morse’s departure and less than a year after the band’s two-CD concept masterpiece Snow appeared, Feel Euphoria emerges as the band’s seventh studio album -- a likely and a likeable next step that echoes much of the Beard’s earlier material without repeating it. That said, here are three things you should know heading into your first 64-minute spin of Feel Euphoria:

1. Two, maybe three, tracks are almost unrecognizable as Spock’s Beard songs. The rest don’t sound that much different than tunes from the Morse era. Opener “Onomatopoeia” and the title track boast distorted guitars and vocal effects that would probably sound more at home on D’Virgilio’s 2001 solo album, Karma. Off-key jams and fast tempos intertwine with creeping choruses that lend these tracks an even more progressive vibe than previous material. Other songs, however, adhere more to the traditional Spock’s Beard style, as “Shining Star” and “East of Eden, West of Memphis” pump out smart and soaring feel-good rock. “The Bottom Line” is a progressive tour-de-force that finds D’Virgilio singing like Peter Gabriel and the rest of the players expanding their chops as the band journeys through several diverse passages. Meanwhile, the six-part, 20-minute epic “A Guy Named Sid” recalls a much more condensed version of Snow. D’Virgilio often sings like Morse here, and the band engages in effective use of counterpoint vocals that marked some of Snow’s best moments. Not surprisingly, “A Guy Named Sid” was the first song D’Virgilio wrote after Morse’s departure, and it boasts lots of drums.

2. Feel Euphoria was recorded differently than previous Spock’s Beard albums. With the departure of piano and synths man Morse, Ryo Okumoto now plays all keyboards, instead of just organ and Mellotron. His new contributions are most apparent on the haunting piano ballad “Ghosts of Autumn.” Likewise, guitarist (and Neal’s brother) Alan Morse wrote many of his own parts this time, using such diverse inspirations as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix and Ted Nugent as jumping-off points during “East of Eden, West of Memphis” and various movements of “A Guy Named Sid.” Bassist Dave Meros, while not taking on new roles, plays as solid as ever. Also new for the band, now down to a quartet, was recording much of Feel Euphoria at California’s Lawnmower and Garden Supply studios and The Mouse House – leading to a fuller, deeper and more effective sound. Unless you’ve seen the band live, Spock’s Beard has never before been in your face this much. Previously, the Morse brothers recorded their individual parts at their homes; this time, the band’s seasoned engineer and mixer Rich Mouser laid down most tracks in a professional recording environment. Plus, the members of Spock’s Beard receive a collective “Produced By” credit on Feel Euphoria, rather than the “Neal Morse and Spock’s Beard” credit that appeared on the previous six discs.

3. Just as Day For Night and Snow did before it, Feel Euphoria is bound to divide fans. There’s no question that this is no longer “Neal Morse and Spock’s Beard.” Neither, however, is it “Nick D’Virgilio and Spock’s Beard.” Rather, Feel Euphoria is an entity unto itself, an enigma that will likely remain so until this version of the band records at least one more album. What’s more, “Carry On,” this disc's hopeful closer, doesn’t quite live up to the promise of its beginning – or even of the album’s other songs. In an eerie performance, D’Virgilio seems to invoke Neal Morse’s voice more than ever on “Carry On,” reminding listeners of the past this brave band has attempted to leave behind. What’s truly remarkable about Spock’s Beard right now is its ability to confront adversity so admirably. After all, Neal Morse often appeared to be the brains behind the Beard, albeit backed by some extremely talented musicians. Feel Euphoria proves that those extremely talented musicians don't need Neal Morse, that (contrary to debate on some Internet bulletin boards) the players in Spock’s Beard didn’t have to change the band’s name after all, find a new singer from the outside or even call it quits.

At this moment in time, no other rock group – progressive or otherwise – could have made an album quite like Feel Euphoria. And at this moment in time, that's about all Spock's Beard fans can ask.  (


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