Spock's Beard keyboard has released his first full solo album. There was only a single entitled "Winners of the heart" under the name Ryo Okumoto Project on the market. But he has always been a very appreciated studio musician. So his name can be found on dozen's of albums of the past 20 years. That's the reason we not only find some Beard members but also names like Steve Lukather and Michael Landau in the long list of musicians who participate on the album.
On vocals: Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple), Bobby Kimball (Toto), Neal Morse (Spock's Beard), Nick D'Virgilio (Spock's Beard) and Linda Green Okumoto.
On drums: Simon Phillips (Toto), Nick D'Virgilio (Spock's Beard) and Sage Okumoto (Ryo's 11 year-old son)
On bass: Dave Meros (Spock's Beard) and Kenny Wild.
On guitar: Steve Lukather (Toto), Michael Landau and Jun Sumida.
The guy who deserves to be mentioned extra is Ryo's friend Neal Morse (ex Spock's Beard). Four tracks on the album are co-written with Neal Morse and one track is of the hand of his Beard mate Nick D'Virgilio. There are in total nine tracks on the album with timings between 4 and 19 minutes. The longest track is co-written with Morse.
If you put the CD in your player and the first notes of "Godzilla VS. King Ghidarah" (7:18) is filling the room; you think you are going to listen to a "symphonic-keyboard- prog" album. The symphonic opening in the Eddie Jobson-UK style is great. After that first minute the music becomes more a mix of Spock's Beard and Jazz-fusion. The foundation of the track is formed by fantastic drum work and Ryo's Hammond organ and piano. This is one of the better progressive tracks on this album, I think.
Next track is "The farther he goes, the farther he falls" (5:43) and is more mainstream rock. With a funky bass and Spock's Beard vocals. Beard fans could appreciate this song, which ends with guitar solo in rock style. To be honest, I don't think as prog-fan I will play the next two tracks of the album again after hearing them several times while preparing and writing this review. "Slipping down" (5:57) has fat bass, drums and Hammond work but the vocals are in mainstream rock style and the singer is often more screaming then singing. I hate this! "Highway roller" (4:04) is also a funky rock song with vocals that hurt my ears. OK there is a nice guitar solo but I can't imagine progfans are waiting for this. Sometimes it can be hard to be a prog-journalist. "Free fall" (4:03) is a lot better. Great keyboard work of Ryo accompanied with fat bass and fantastic drum work. This is a track you would expect from a great keyboard player.
But the best things has to come yet. "Coming through" (5:21) is a ballad of great beauty. Neal Morse is singing like he has never done before. You have to hear this. Absolutely the most beautiful composition of the album. We shall miss Neal in the progscene. Next song is the long epic "Close enough" (18:54) we were waiting for. An Okumoto-Morse composition of almost 19 minutes. The Mellotron, Hammond and music style of the first parts give me some flashbacks of the first Beard's albums. This long track has of course a lot of variation and up-tempo pieces are followed up with slower and passionate parts. Ryo is playing some great Hammond organ and synth solos. But there are also some mainstream rock parts, however the mix of rock and prog works better in this track. Also we can hear again some amazing drum work of Simon Phillips. This guy is so good! My dream is to hear Phillips play in a real progressive band. Spock's Beard fans will like this one!
The track that closes the album is called "The imperial" (5:20). Classical piano is combined with Mellotron and a synths. The piano is playing the melodies in this composition with classical influences. Together with "Coming trough" this are the most beautiful and delicate parts of the album.
If you skip the two rock songs you get just more than forty minutes of good music in a progressive vain. All the musicians have great skills on their instruments and in general I think this is a good album. Spock's Beard fans will appreciate and buy the album. It is not an album that I would advice to buy blind (buying without listening to it first) to you. If you are more into a real keyboard player album you probably would like the new Tomas Bodin album "Pinup Guru" also released on the Inside Out Music label, more. But as always, it is up to you. progVisions is only giving you the personal views of the reviewers to help you a little in choosing the albums you buy. And if you like an album, please buy it and don't copy it. If I really like a promotional copy I have to review, then I will buy the original album too. Let support the people who have the courage to make progressive music!