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

2019-11-07
Glenn Smith RIP – Glenn Smith, founder, mandolinist, and primary composer of the DeLand, Florida based prog / fusion band Magnatar, passed away on October 18th 2019 at the age of 68, after a brief illness.  » Read more

2019-11-04
Dino Brassea RIP – Word reaches us of the passing of Dino Brassea, who sang and played flute in Cast for many years. By our count, Brassea appeared on 11 Cast albums between 1994 and 2002. He also released music as a solo artist. » Read more

2019-10-06
Ginger Baker RIP – Legendary English drummer Ginger Baker has died at the age of 80. After coming to fame with Cream in the 60s alongside Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce, he became one of the most recognized and influential drummers of the rock era. On September 25, his family announced that he was critically ill, and on October 6 his death was confirmed. » Read more

2019-08-20
Alex's Hand Seeks Spa Treatment – American / European band Alex's Hand has a new album in the works called Hungarian Spa, which looks to be their biggest and best yet, featuring a large roster of guest musicians. They're seeking funding to take the project on the road, and are looking for help from the crowd of wisdom. » Read more

2019-06-05
Legendary Co-Founder of The 13th Floor Elevators Passes Away at Age 71 – Sadly, Roky Erickson passed away on May 31, 2019. Known as the father of psychedelic music and co-founder of the ground breaking 13th Floor Elevators, Roky had a profound influence on music from the 60s to today. Plagued by his own personal demons, Roky had a difficult life and is now free of these burdens. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Tomasz Stańko Quartet - Lontano – Piano tinkling in the moonlight of a muted trumpet stutter, Miles Davis' lighter moments. Very easygoing and mellow music, perhaps best served with a fine cognac and some throw pillows in front of...  (2007) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues