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(72:31, Inside Out Music)
I was absolutely blown away by the album prior to this one, ĎBrief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleepí, where the Beard had finally moved away from the shadow of Neal Morse (who actually guested on it). This album shows the band again changing direction, with David Ragsdale being the only guest (and then on just one song), and to be honest the very first time I played this I didnít like it. It just didnít gel in the way I expected it to, and I felt incredibly frustrated and really quite annoyed. There were bits and pieces which felt like the Beard I knew and loved, others which were sort of like Enchant, and others which just didnít make sense. But, at one time SB were easily my favourite band, and ĎSnowí is still my favourite album, so could it be as poor as I thought? The second time I played it I still didnít like it very much, especially when comparing it to the latest album, but I determined not to be a quitter and sometime through the third (or was it the fourth) I started to finally get into the music. If ever an album was a grower then it has to be this, and it must have taken at least ten plays to finally get under the hood and realise that this is something pretty special indeed. John Boegehold was again involved in the writing, but whereas he may not always have been viewed fondly by diehard fans, that has had to have a total rethink. There is just enough within some of the songs and the way they have been arranged (plus Alanís guitar playing is always a dead giveaway) to allow fans to realise that this is a SB album after all, but the guys have switched and shifted into something that while not actually that difficult to get into and understand, does really take a while to fully get the benefit from. I honestly believe it has taken Ryo this long to really come out of his shell, producing some wonderful sounds and bits and pieces within this album, while Alan stretches himself more than usual, and Jimmy and Dave are as solid as ever. I have loved Tedís voice and performances for more than 20 years, and here he has excelled himself. Yes, it is eclectic, yes musically it is all over the place, but donít play this just a few times and put it to one side as it may actually be one of the best things they have ever done.
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