CD Review – Ryo Okumoto – The Myth of the Mostrophus

Ryo Okumoto is not the most prolific of solo artists. Undoubtedly best known in the prog world for his dazzling keyboard displays with Spock’s Beard, The Myth of Mostrophus is his first release in a couple of decades, since Coming Through in 2002. There had been a handful of releases prior to that. But it was coming across I Am The Manic Whale during a livestream event called The Fusion Christmas Cracker that produced someone that Ryo wanted to collaborate with. He was so impressed with vocalist and bass player Michael Whiteman that he made contact with him and made the suggestion (Ryo refers to it as ‘being a collabowriter’). Michael gave a positive response.

Ryo explains; “It’s been 20 years since recording and releasing my fourth album, Coming Through [2002], but I’ve not stopped composing. I sent 30 ideas to Michael, he got to work and began sending back demos, one by one, and as they say, “The rest is history” – I got my album! But wait… “Who is going to play all the songs? They not only have to be the best players, but their personalities need to match each song.”

The keyboardist wanted to create his own version of Spock’s Beard with the album. The track Mirror, Mirror shares its title with the Star Trek episode where Mr Spock has his beard! Maximum Velocity also hints at a Sci-Fi angle. With other music in a similar vein, Ryo approached his fellow Spock’s Beard members, both current and one former musician, who all agreed to participate. In the end a number of other musicians were also approached and agreed to play, so the album cannot be construed as a Spock’s Beard album in disguise. There are four tracks without that direct Spock’s Beard connection, other than Ryo. He initially sent thirty demoes to Michael, although that was whittled down to six or so in the end, one of which is a mammoth twenty-two-minute epic. So, all the current Spock’s Bearders are present, and drummer-vocalist Nick D’Virgilio along with Steve Hackett, Saga’s Michael Sadler, Mike Kennealy, who many will know from his work with Frank Zappa, Michael Whiteman himself, Marc Bonila, who worked with Keith Emerson, and former GTR and Marillion drummer Jonathan Mover and a number of others. It is quite a roster of musical talents. Ryo Concludes; “There’s nothing better than to have a song — your song, which is like your baby — taken in and adopted by a great family of musicians that help nurture it to adulthood. I’m very excited by how this album came together and I hope people will appreciate every note written and performed.”

Photo taken in Glendale on 03/25/22.

There is no escaping that in another guise this could have been the next Spock’s Beard album. From the start it sounds like Ryo has logged into that band’s DNA. Mirror Mirror features most of the band and it sounds powerfully good. There is a lot of that throughout the album, although Ryo does take excursions into other areas from time to time. Jonathan Mover puts in a fine display on Turning Point, which has a solid prog rock frame, Chrysalis goes all Seventies with prominent pastoral flute and piano. The grand piece though is the title track, which concludes the album. It is a classy piece of prog rock, almost classic in its style. It could be, and to a very large extent is, Spock’s Beard firing on all cylinders. It is full of tempo changes, magnificent playing, showing great arrangements, not least for the vocals, building to a phenomenal ending. Throughout the album there are kernels of pop songs laden with beautiful melodies beneath their vast cousins in progressive rock. In other contexts, and greatly edited for length, these could well have been hit songs. Indeed, The Watchmaker (Time On His Side) has already been released as a single. Keeping it all “in-house” as it were, Rich Mouser, the engineer who recorded and mixed all of Spock’s Beard’s records, has done the same here.

This album makes no bones about being a traditional prog rock album. It will undeniably appeal to Spock’s Beard fans but should also be of great interest to others. Ryo, with the assistance of Michael Whiteman, has written an exciting, entertaining and diverse collection of melodic prog rock tunes featuring superb playing from all the participants. The playing will have prog lovers drooling with anticipation and their thirst will be sated. This is a terrific album that has great musicianship, excellent song-writing, imaginative arrangements with room for each of the contributors to have their moments. A must for Spock’s fans, and more than appealing to prog listeners more generally.

Photo taken in Glendale on 03/25/22.

1. Mirror Mirror

2. Turning Point

3. The Watchmaker (Time On His Side)

4. Maximum Velocity

5. Chrysalis

6. The Myth Of The Mostrophus

Dave Meros – bass

Alan Morse – guitars

Nick D’Virgilio – drums, vocals

Jimmy Keegan – vocals

Ted Leonard – vocals

Steve Hackett – guitars

Michael Whiteman – co-writer, guitars, vocals

Michael Sadler – vocals

Mike Keneally – guitars

Jonathan Mover – drums & percussion

Randy McStine – guitars, vocals

Lyle Workman – guitars

Marc Bonilla – guitars

Doug Wimbish – bass

Raphael Weinroth-Browne – cello

Mirko DeMaio – drums

Kevin Krohn – vocals

Andy Suzuki – woodwinds

Keiko Okumoto – vocals

Toshihiro Nakanishi – violin

Steve Billman – bass

Photo taken in Glendale on 03/25/22.

Photo taken in Glendale on 03/25/22.

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