Spock’s Beard is one of the most important touchstones for Possible Worlds. This is true not necessarily in the particulars of their sound, as the Beard is heavily keyboard-oriented and draws a lot more from the sonics of classic progressive rock than do we. Rather, it is their emphasis on a song-centered approach, in which melodies come first and the frilly bits come after, that we find them so attractive. Singer Neal Morse has an immediately identifiable voice (both compositionally and otherwise), and he is the person most people think of when it comes to SB. But brother/guitarist Alan cannot be ignored; he adds a shot of unpredictability to the proceedings that keeps things from ever getting too slick. And the rhythm section of Nick D’Vergilio and Dave Meros? Brilliant players with great feel and great tones. Ryo Okumoto’s keyboard textures are the perfect icing on the cake.

Want to give them a try? Start with 1998’s The Kindness of Strangers. This may not be their best album (our favorite is Snow), but it’s probably the easiest entry point for beginners. You’ll get mini-epics like “The Good Don’t Last” and “Flow,” but also shorter and more direct pieces like the lovely “June.” The latter shows off the band’s excellent harmonies, which we greatly admire and envy.

Neal Morse would eventually leave the band he founded and strike out on a solo career in which he produced similar-sounding music with overtly Protestant lyrics. Possible Worlds does not begrudge him this choice (in fact, his album Testimony is one of our favorites), but we prefer him working in more abstract lyrical territory. Musically he would reach his peak around the time of the first two Transatlantic albums (early ‘00s), but we like The Kindness of Strangers for its directness and charm.

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