This new release from Spock’s Beard keyboardist Ryo Okumoto is a most welcome offering, especially when it is as fine as this is. Furthermore, not only is it a very fine album but it is also a wonderful collaboration with Michael Whiteman of I Am The Manic Whale, who helped out lyrically with these songs and also co-produced the album with Ryo. The results being a highly accomplished and entertaining piece of work.
Ryo was able to draft all of his Beard colleagues to help, along with the likes of Steve Hackett, Marc Bonilla, Jonathan Mover, Randy McStine, Mike Keneally, Doug Wimbush and also Michael Sadler (from Saga) to contribute to the album. Over the sixty minute running time, it’s six tracks tell some great tales in addition to which, the guest musicians add their own individual magic.
The album begins with a belter of an opener in Mirror Mirror which features the Spock’s Beard boys joining with their ex singer/drummer Nick D’Virgilio once again to craft a storming track. The song features Ryo delivering some very frenzied Hammond Organ parts, you know this is prog when you hear the Hammond play! It’s a joy to hear this workout, it really is. The song, unsurprisingly, is very reminiscent of prime Spock’s Beard, as all the current incarnation are playing on it, along with Nick on vocals. There is lengthy organ solo, some fabulous bass lines and a fiery solo from Alan Morse, the song powering along really well before a climatic guitar line begins the long closing section. The lyrics are wonderful too and really add something different and special to the track, a fabulous opening statement. Turning Point is a stylish keyboard led track with Doug Wimbush adding a seriously funky bass. The graceful vocal from Michael Sadler is another plus to the track and the song really impresses with it excellent vocals and consummate musicianship, another winner to these ears. Next we have the very I Am The Manic Whale sounding The Watchmaker (Time On His Side), which, while being very familiar sounding due to Michael Whiteman’s vocals (not a bad thing at all), is a very good song.
Maximum Velocity is another great song with lots of synthesisers and also the always graceful guitar of Steve Hackett, who guests on the track a long with Marc Bonilla, who plays rhythm guitar. The track, about the soon coming NASA moon mission, surges with such intensity that the next song, the far more gentle Chrysalis, comes as a welcome change of pace. A delicate, but earnest, vocal by Randy McStine makes for a highly memorable track. In the middle section, a brief but fine solo is ably matched by the dynamic bass of Doug Wimbush, whose presence helps make it a most impressive track.
The album closes with a monster track, the centrepiece of the album, The Myth Of The Mostrophus, a tale of hibernation and subsequent re-emergence and the chaos that causes. It is both a cautionary tale and also one of ecology, global warming and the like. The track is in six parts but makes one continuous 22 minute piece. Especially strong is part four, which is a prog disco track (honestly!) and the song offers an unusual solution to the Mostrophus, communal singing. It’s a catchy song that he sings and it would be great for an arena crowd. Sadly, I doubt we’ll ever realise that aim or hear the song the way it warrants but we do see the demise of the beast, thanks to the good people of Basingstoke! I think the track is really just a bit of fun and, perhaps, a poke at the pompousness of most prog rock songs or albums, even so it’s a remarkable track and a great way in which to close the album.
When you consider the genesis of the collaboration arose from a lock down Fusion Festival special that both Ryo and I Am The Manic Whale appeared on and the friendship that ensued, that makes this album both a treasure and also powerful proof in the wonders of technology and, also, of the magic of working together to create something of worth and value. I guess that only time will tell if further opportunities will be forthcoming, I for one sure hope that it does. ‘The Myth Of The Mostrophus’ really is a fantastic album and one of my favourites of the year. Yes, it really it’s that good and I encourage you to hear it for yourselves, highly memorable and highly recommended!
Released July 29th, 2022.
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