The album features guest appearances by current and former Spock’s Beard bandmates Nick D’Virgilio, Al Morse, Dave Meros, Ted Leonard, and Jimmy Keegan.
Ryo Okumoto, long-time keyboardist for prog rock group Spock’s Beard, is pleased to announce his new solo album ‘The Myth of the Mostrophus’, due out on July 29th, 2022 on InsideOutMusic. The six song prog extravaganza features Okumoto’s signature style accompanied by the talents of a who’s who of progressive rock.
The album features guest appearances by a number of incredible musicians including current and former Spock’s Beard bandmates:
Nick D’Virgilio (Big Big Train, Spock’s Beard) – Drums & Vocals
Al Morse (Spock’s Beard) – Guitar
Dave Meros (Spock’s Beard) – Bass
Ted Leonard (Spock’s Beard. Transatlantic) – Vocals
Jimmy Keegan (Spock’s Beard) – Vocals
Steve Hackett (Genesis) – Guitar
Michael Sadler (Saga, ProgJect) – Vocals
Mike Keneally (Steve Vai, Frank Zappa, ProgJect) – Guitar
Jonathan Mover (Joe Satriani, ProgJect) – Drums
Marc Bonila (Keith Emerson/Kevin Gilbert) – Guitar
Twenty years since Ryo Okumoto’s last solo album ‘Coming Home’ (2002), work on the new album began in November 2000, when Okumoto reached out to I Am The Manic Whale vocalist/bassist Michael Whiteman, following that band’s performance on a livestream event that Okumoto had taken part in. An exchange of demos resulted in the writing of the initial tracks for the album. Okumoto then reached out the fellow Spock’s Beard bandmates (Nick D’Virgilio, Alan Morse, Dave Meros, Ted Leonard and Jimmy Keegan) to join in and the album started to take shape before rounding out with additional guest stars through his Okumoto’s new group ProgJect including Michael Sadler, Jonathan Mover and Mike Keneally. With the additions of Steve Hackett, Marc Bonila, Doug Wimbish, Randy McStine, and Lyle Workman, the star-studded lineup was complete. The result is a prog rock tour de force from one of the most entertaining and influential artists of prog’s modern era.
‘Only Passing Through’, the third Pattern Seeking Animals album has landed and, yes, it is another goodie. A fine set of modern progressive rock tracks, inspired by the greats, but no mere copy or imitation, this set takes the genre and gives it a contemporary twist and shake.
Let me explain the concept, John Boegehold, who has been a lyricist for Spock’s Beard for the past decade, had amassed a wealth of material that, whilst progressively inclined, were not suitable for the band. So John started a new project in which he could realise his vision of marrying his progressive leanings with modern pop/rock music where melodies were king. Hence Pattern Seeking Animals came into being. Using current Spock’s Beard alumni Ted Leonard (vocals and guitars), Dave Meros (bass) and Jimmy Keegan (drums), the project became reality, releasing their debut, self-titled album, in 2018 and the follow up ‘Prehensile Tales’ some 9 months later and the stage was set. The band line up also includes John himself on keyboards and programming and he also oversees the production with Rich Mouser performing the engineering, mixing and mastering side of things.
John says that his aim is to make music that is always trying something new or unexpected and that changes as it plays. He is a skilled writer and he has risen to the challenge by making interesting and intelligent albums. Then came lockdown and Covid. However, they have not been idle and have created this latest release which continues the goal of providing a new twist on progressive music. This time we are treated to several new twists on progressive rock with John also using brass enhancements on some songs.
The song Time Has A Way uses several novel innovations in its sound to make the album’s longest track really something a bit special. Changes in tempo and the ebullient brass section really raise the bar on this fabulous song. One could compare this sound to Big Big Train and their use of a brass ensemble to bring extra dynamics to their sound. The brass is used sparingly but effectively, adding rather than swamping everything, a lone trumpet adding a mariachi element to proceedings too, which is certainly different yet a highly enjoyable and effective take on the sound. This song is a monster and really a highlight of the album, symphonic prog at its finest.
Ted Leonard is on good form vocally and he plays some very graceful guitar melodies, he has really matured as a guitarist over the three albums the band have released and it is good to hear his skills on these songs. Also worthy of note are the rhythm section of Meros and Keegan, who bare both really both driving and supporting these efforts as appropriate. Sometimes on the beat, other times driving or pulling it along with them, all highly impressive sounding. I think it would be fair say that I really am enjoying this album.
Rock Paper Scissorsis another fine track, if not a bit different. The violin part by Rini shines and puts me in mind of vintage Kansas as Ted Leonard projects his inner Steve Walsh. This is, in fact, extremely high praise as Kansas are one of my favourite bands ever, with this section of the track evoking many happy memories of that group. Much Ado is a riff driven track with quite unusual lyrics that talk of depression and a lack of will or desire to do anything for oneself. Whilst the lyrics could be seen as depressing, there is a lot going on in this song musically, plus it has a great guitar break from Ted. Only Passing Through is a song about the temporary nature of our lives, especially how we are only passing through this world. It is a beautifully written and composed track and one that certainly makes you think.
Said The Stranger is another highlight and a mariachi inspired track. It is one that thunders along with a great guitar break thrown in for good measure, there are interesting lyrics to this one too. The final song on the album, Here With You WithMe, is a ballad of sorts, albeit one with more prog than a normal syrupy ballad. It has great words and sound with lots happening musically. The track is a terrific number on which to end, although the cd version has two bonus tracks, I Am Not Alright and Just Another Day At The Beach. You do not really want an album this good to end so the extra seven and a half extra minutes are very welcome indeed!
The first bonus song is about mental health issues and is dealt with in a sympathetic and delicate manner. It is very well written and observed, whether this springs from personal experience or mere observation is not clear. It is a powerful statement either way and is an issue that should be written about, especially now in the wake of covid and lockdown life and the problems that has both created and exacerbated for many folks. The other bonus track is far more upbeat and cheerful sounding although it does say that when it comes to love we are all on our own swimming, treading water or going down another time!
So, even within the happy song there is an undercurrent of sadness or darkness. Even so, this is a very strong and highly enjoyable musical statement of intent from Pattern Seeking Animals, long may it continue.
When the first Pattern Seeking Animals album was released last year, such was its beauty that it easily made my albums of the year list. Its mix of style and deep lyrics made it a very worthy album indeed and, when I spoke to John Boegehold he’d remarked that they had already started work on this sophomore release.
Well that was last year and now, just about a year later, comes ‘Prehensile Tales’, the continuation of the Pattern Seeking Animals story, or sub tale really as the folk involved are predominantly the core nucleus of legendary US group Spock’s Beard, with PSA treading a slightly different path musically. It is still prog but PSA exist as a vehicle for material that John has written, but that he feels in not quite within the remit of Spock’s Beard.
At time of writing this does not mean the end of The Beard, it just means a further outlet is available to John, which I am sure you will agree is a good thing for listeners as, when that material is as fine as this, then there is really no issue, let’s just be grateful for this music.
We find a range of subjects tackled in these songs from finding a second chance in your life, vampires, shipwrecks and facing mortality. Another difference this time around is the wider musical palette that is employed to add more colours and timbre to the tones, these include violin, flutes, piccolo, trumpet, flugelhorn and cello along with saxophone and pedal steel guitars. This makes for an interesting and richly rewarding listen, although, as always, you will have to listen carefully for the magic to unfold around you.
The production by fellow bearder Rich Mouser is crisp and clear with clear separation of instrumentation across all the tracks, likewise the cover art is also highly arresting and intriguing,
The album starts with the Dave Meros rumbling bass on Raining Hard In Heaven this is interspersed with snatches of guitar from Ted Leonard, all ably supported by the keyboard work of John Boegehold and Jimmy Keegan’s solid drumming. The bass work from Meros is sublime and carries the melody wonderfully before a synth solo takes the song forward into a more upbeat section and then reverting to a quitter more measured pace with classic organ sounds and that bass moving the song forwards once again as it heads towards its satisfying conclusion. A great opener by any standard
This is followed by Here In My Autumn which features a sublime violin from Rini in the latter sections, giving this song a Kansas feel, and I mean that in a good way as this additional colour really adds to the dynamics of the song greatly, as indeed does the excellent piccolo and flute which are also very noticeable. Again, the bass work is of the highest standard and his support and playing is subtle and effective. The guitar break by Leonard yields another elegant and emotional track that really hits the mark. Ted’s vocals on this track are also extraordinarily strong, he really can take these songs and stamp his own identity on them. A second guitar solo takes this song to an epic conclusion in tandem with John’s keyboards.
Another stunning song, and were only at the start really! The next piece is Elegant Vampires which features some terrific drum patters from Jimmy alongside more solid bass from Dave and atmospheric keyboards from John, who plays a recurring motif that runs throughout the song. Another fabulous vocal from Ted carries this short song about the inevitability of death using the metaphor of vampires as symbolism. Again, an interesting song which leads us to one of the more unusual tracks of this set,
Namely, Why Don’t We Run? which features, believe it or not, a mariachi band! The track opens with what sounds like Chinese or oriental brass before an acoustic guitar ushers in the mariachi type sound and it gallops along most effectively. The instrumentation on this song is tremendous, highly evocative, and realistic, an acoustic guitar carrying the melody forwards till at the 3.35 mark the horn returns with its wail and Ted’s guitar takes brief flight. This may all sound very weird yet somehow it works and it all sounds magnificent, possibly my favourite song thus far.
We are then led into the albums longest and most epic song at 17:20 called Lifeboat. It is comprised of 5 parts, the first the first of which is an instrumental section, called Nearer Now To Heaven. It then switches to Ted emotive vocal telling the tale of the people on the lifeboat as the ship is going down, leading to another excellent bass part from Dave who really anchors the track together so that you can feel the despair that the hero is facing in an ocean of uncertainty. A plaintive trumpet voluntary takes the song forwards into Ted’s guitar solo after which the protagonist is pondering his mortality whilst crying out for someone to save him. Finally we are led into the closing section which deals with what happens when you die, in this instance we are left with an open ending to that particular question as the song ends with storms and the noise of oars, a brilliant track by any standards.
The album’s final track Soon But Not Today then follows with a musical mystery tour taking in reggae, surf and the Beatles in the tale of a man who gets chance to reassess his life and hopefully make changes to how he leaves the world. Again this song is concerned with one’s mortality and in this song we see just how solidly this band work as one to deliver stunning song after stunning song.
I loved the debut album and, guess what? I love this one too! ‘Prehensile Tales’ is very accomplished and engaging and a great piece of work that will make you glad that you heard it, I really recommend this to you all, it is really really fine piece of music.
In 2019, PATTERN-SEEKING ANIMALS, the California-based band featuring Ted Leonard (lead vocals & guitars), Jimmy Keegan (drums & vocals), Dave Meros (bass) and John Boegehold (keyboards), presented its much-lauded eponymous debut.
Just a year later, the group announces May 15th, 2020 as the release date for its newest opus, “Prehensile Tales”, which expands the stylistic niche carved out by the debut and adds additional twists and turns along the way.
For the six songs on the album (the longest clocking in at over 17 minutes), the band introduced violin, flute, trumpet, cello, sax and pedal steel to the sound palette that was once again recorded & mixed by Rich Mouser at The Mouse House.
The track-listing reads as follows: 1. Raining Hard In Heaven 2. Here In My Autumn 3. Elegant Vampires 4. Why Don’t We Run 5. Lifeboat 6. Soon But Not Today
“I started writing for the second album right as we were finishing up the first one” says Boegehold, who is again producing. “I wanted to change around some of the songwriting approaches I’d been using and draw from a few different musical influences while not straying too far from the overall vibe of the band.”
Ted Leonard adds: “This album is another collection of lush arrangements and infectious melodies. I mean REALLY infectious. There are certain lines that are the last thing going through my head at night and the first thing in the morning. I think it’s actually furthering my insanity.”
For the striking cover image, P-SA collaborated with Polish artist Mirek (https://www.facebook.com/mirekis7/), whose ‘An evolutionary broadcast’ design Boegehold immediately considered a perfect fit to the album’s peculiar title.
“Prehensile Tales is a play-on-words I came up with while writing lyrics and thought it would be a funny album title. As a bonus, it actually seems to mean something that fits the music.”
To coincide with the album’s release, the band is set to perform at RosFest 2020 in Sarasota, Florida on May 9th and is lining up more dates later in the year which will be announced soon.
“Prehensile Tales” will be released as Gatefold 2LP plus CD, Limited Edition CD, and as digital album on May 15th, 2020 on InsideOutMusic.
Progressive Rock music is a funny thing. Often pretentious, up its own arse, quite frankly snobby and elitist. Almost like you have to be super clever to get it, the musical equivalent of Jeremy Paxman asking a contestant from an old Polytechnic a question about thermo-nuclear physics on University Challenge, with an obvious sneer because they don’t go to an Oxbridge college. In short, their seriousness can make them seem ridiculous and open to much mirth.
However, every now and then you come across a band that who have a sense of humour, who are self-aware and who can create great music whilst not taking things too seriously. One for whom progressive music doesn’t have to be dour and only for a niche, but can be entertaining, fun and welcoming whilst retaining all its virtuoso playing and performing.
With a name like Spock’s Beard no one could accuse this Californian band of being dour or elitist. Their music has always been both clever and accessible; something that they’ve continued to achieve on their new album, being released on the 25th May, ‘Noise Floor’. The album is full of what singer/guitarist, Ted Leonard, describes as ‘crazy prog,’ whilst also working on making the songs ‘more immediate.’
And for sure, they’ve achieved it with this collection of smashing tunes featuring beautifully played instruments; both trusted old friends plus new orchestral additions of strings and horns. Spock’s Beard have been developing their sound and style for over twenty years now and find themselves at a point where they can take time to develop and create their music which results in this album being released at a point when all members were in agreement that it was the best work they could put out there.
With all members of the band writing and recording demo’s independently before bringing them together to be worked on collectively in production, there is a great sense of exceptional quality being produced over quantity for the quantities sake. The album itself, and accompanying E.P, displays its influences with pride; the hints of 1970’s prog such as Yes, Genesis and Supertramp, influences that have led to songs of majestic beauty such as the wonderful Bulletproofthat appears on the ‘Cutting Room Floor’ E.P.
It is fair to say that the album isn’t without flaws; the jazz instrumental of Box of Spiders jars slightly, but it doesn’t diminish from what is an accomplished and melodic journey through the slightly crazy world of Spock’s Beard. Die-hard fans will find more than enough typical output to allow them to enjoy the musical development that this album represents. And those for whom this will be their first exposure to the band will find plenty to enjoy and will also spark interest in finding out more of the bands back catalogue.
Legendary US progressive rockers Spock’s Beard have announced the release of their 13th studio album ‘Noise Floor’ for May 25th, 2018. As announced previously, for this album Ted Leonard, Alan Morse, Dave Meros & Ryo Okumoto are joined in the studio once again by drummer & original member Nick D’Virgilio.
Spock’s Beard is a band that is in a continual state of evolution, as is always the case with genuinely creative musicians. And their new album, ‘Noise Floor’, fits perfectly into this process.
We are always about evolution, not revolution. But what we have done this time is make the songs more melodic,” believes vocalist/guitarist Ted Leonard. “We still love our crazy prog, but now appreciate how important it is to grab people’s attention early on.”
As with all Spock’s Beard songs, most of the new album was written by the individual members, and then brought to the rest of the band as high quality demos. “We all do this type of thing in our home studios,” adds Leonard. “So, by the time they reach the stage where the entire band get to judge them, they are really developed, and therefore everyone can make a reasoned judgement.” Much of what you will listen to here is very much the product of fresh inspiration from the Californian band.
One key change on this album sees the return of drummer Nick D’Virgilio, who originally left in 2011. There are also two violinists, a cello player, a viola player and an English horn featured on the album, thereby giving the sound a slightly more evocative and persuasive twist.
The album was once again engineered by long-time collaborator Rich Mouser and will be released as a 2CD digipak (featuring an EP of material from the same sessions), gatefold 2LP + 2CD & as digital download.
The track-listing is as follows:
Disc 1 – Noise Floor
1. To Breathe Another Day
2. What Becomes of Me
3. Somebody’s Home
4. Have We All Gone Crazy Yet
5. So This Is Life
6. One So Wise
7. Box of Spiders