Exposé Online banner

Spock's Beard — The Beard Is out There (AKA Official Live Bootleg)
(Inside Out Music IOMCD031, 1996/1998, CD)

by Paul Hightower, Published 1997-05-01

The Beard Is out There (AKA Official Live Bootleg) Cover art

The Los Angeles ProgFests have proven their worth to the attendees and now they seem to be yielding rewards for the performers as well. While there was no ProgFest last year, 1996 turned out to be the year of the ProgFest live album with releases from Änglagård and Solaris. Now joining the ranks is The Official Live Bootleg from Spock's Beard. This disc captures Neal Morse and crew on stage at the Variety Arts Center, as they plow through their debut release, The Light, rounding out the collection with "Thoughts" from their sophomore effort Beware of Darkness.

For many in the audience, Spock's Beard's ProgFest performance was first contact with this new American band and, though Neal Morse was facing a somewhat hostile audience, he seems totally determined on this disc to win them over. Judging by the band's current popularity (including a repeat invitation to play ProgFest — an honor only previously accorded to Änglagård), for the most part he appears to have succeeded. No doubt this is aided by Morse's attention to detail which pays off on stage as it does on the CD; overall production values are high, with a good live ambiance added to a stellar board mix. And, regardless of how one might feel about the music of Spock's Beard, one can't help but feel that Morse is putting out 150% for the audience. The song "Thoughts" works especially well, giving the entire band a chance to show off their chops and ability to handle Gentle Giant-esque vocal interplay.

But, as much as I want to like Spock's Beard, I still have a nagging problem with them. Don't get me wrong, these are no slouches. The Official Live Bootleg proves that the group is more than capable of mastering long, complex arrangements full of twists in meter and dynamics. In fact, on this disc they make it look easy — perhaps a little too easy. I ultimately get the feeling that these guys could make a living playing just about anything they wanted and the performance (and their recordings, in my opinion) consequently lacks a bit of sincerity. Can a prog band be too professional for its own good? It's a question I think worth debating and The Official Live Bootleg provides a perfect case study.


Filed under: Reissues, Issue 12, 1998 releases, 1996 recordings

Related artist(s): Spock's Beard, Neal Morse, Ryo Okumoto, Nick D'Virgilio (NDV)

Latest news

2020-05-15
Phil May of The Pretty Things RIP – We were saddened to learn that Phil May, lead singer and founding member of The Pretty Things, has died at the age of 75. The band's 1968 album S.F. Sorrow is one of the enduring classics of the psychedelic era, and the group existed in various forms until finally retiring in 2018. » Read more

2020-05-14
Jorge Santana RIP – Jorge Santana, noted guitarist, leader of the band Malo and brother to Carlos Santan, died on May 14 at the age of 68. Jorge and Carlos worked together on a number of occasions, though Jorge's career was centered around Malo, solo work, and with Fania All-Stars. » Read more

2020-05-06
Florian Schneider RIP – Florian Schneider, one of the founders of the pioneering electronic group Kraftwerk, has died at the age of 73. Co-founder Ralf Hütter announced that his bandmate had passed away from cancer after a brief illness. » Read more

2020-04-23
Shindig Festival Goes Lock-Down – Here's what they're saying: It's A Happening Thing! The Shindig! Magazine Lockdown Festival. In our days of no large gatherings of people, maybe it's still possible to have a music festival. Shindig! Magazine is giving it a go with a multi-artist streaming extravaganza on Saturday April 25. » Read more

2020-03-24
Bill Rieflin RIP – The sad news reaches us today of Bill Rieflin's death. Rieflin was best known as a drummer in bands ranging from post-punk to industrial to indie-rock to progressive rock, including work with The Blackouts, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Swans, Land, and King Crimson. Rieflin had been battling cancer for several years, and succumbed to it on March 24. He was 59. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Thierry Zaboitzeff - Dr. Zab & His Robotic Strings Orchestra – Zaboitzeff is the bass guitarist/cellist for Art Zoyd. This solo project shows him in a more electronic setting, as it is done mostly using synths and sequencers. There are 22 tracks of varying length...  (1993) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues