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Jack Foster III

Raptorgnosis

Review by Gary Hill

While I don't think this entire album truly qualifies as progressive rock, much of it does. Add to that fact the presence of prog rockers Trent Gardner and Robert Berry and it should be obvious why I put the disc into that category. This one is really a mixed bag. It has moments of sheer power and brilliance. Other times the music is less progressive rock, but still entertaining. Sometimes, though (not all that often) it just feels a little lackluster. Still, there isn't really a song here that doesn't get redeemed in the long run by at least one killer section. If you're like me, at times you'll hear Kansas, Yes and ELP. While other moments will call to mind The Beatles, Dream Theater and even Foreigner. Chicago is even represented here. But it is all woven into a musical montage that is unique and entertaining.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Ebb and Flow
Sound effects bring this one in, then it shifts to acoustic guitar with waves of keys over top. A very Open Your Eyes era Yes sound makes up the riff that takes it from there. They seem to merge this killer riff with the textures that preceded it to carry this one forward. This introduction runs through for a time, then drops to just mellow guitar (with a twinge of blues) and vocals to move it forward. Foster's vocals here get very soulful. After the verse/chorus in this mode, this explodes out into hard edged fury for a guitar solo, then drops back to a bluesy, yet very prog like section for another solo, this time an extended one. When the verse comes back in this time it's in a heavier Kansas like mode, then they launch into a smoking instrumental break with a great keyboard sound that again feels like that band. This only runs through for a short time, though, instead dropping back to acoustic guitar to carry it forward from there. This time around the verse/chorus section takes on a definite jazz like structure. This gets quite powerful and Foster's vocals here are in a word powerful. Waves of keyboards come across after this to move the track into another killer prog rock jam - again feeling a lot like Yes. Then it shifts to harder rocking modes that once again call to mind Kansas. This ends abruptly
Heaven on Earth
Starting with acoustic guitar, as the keys wash over world type percussion takes over in the background. It runs through like this as the introduction, but once the vocals come over it is atop this same format. This is a balladic styled section with the only prog elements coming in the layers that work their way over the top of his motif. This one doesn't move far from its roots, but gains power from the intensifying of the arrangement. The vocal layering on this one, and Foster's performance, are simply incredible. Really the vast majority of why this one works is his singing. With someone else carrying the vocals this one just wouldn't hold up. As it is, it's not very prog, instead leaning towards mainstream rock, but it is very good.
Koan
A hard-edged early Kansas sound permeates the intro here. A noisy, but very tasty guitar solo comes over top and this begins to feel just a bit like Dream Theater or other newer prog bands. It drops to a crunchy stripped down rocking mode with a definite '70's texture for the verse. The chorus has more of a prog rock texture, but the lyrics on that segment tend to be too repetitive. The next verse is bouncy and a bit odd, but then it launches into a hard edged space rock jam that gives way to a tasty guitar solo section. This one even turns to a jazzy scat segment later after another verse. Eventually the track turns to something that feels a lot like Chris Squire both in terms of the vocals and the song writing. Then it launches into a series of short, but frantic prog rock changes in instrumental segments.
Worst Enemy
Church choir like vocals start this. A symphonic arrangement joins to take it on a short excursion that makes up the introduction. The song drops to just a stripped down ballad like structure to create the backdrop for the verse section. After a chorus in this format it shifts to a related arrangement, still very mainstream rock oriented, but with a bit of a bounce in its step. After carrying around in this general style for quite some time it opens up into a killer jam that feels a lot like early Chicago - you know when they did all the jazz related jams. This cool segment really saves this one from mediocrity. It shifts back to the verse structure after this point, then drops to a very stripped down, but intricate acoustic guitar based mode to take it on from there. This eventually ends the track.
Sense of Static
The sounds of radio stations (or are they TV stations) being run past on a dial. Eventually the cut comes in with a bouncy and odd playful jam that is one part straight ahead rock and roll and one part prog. Trombone gets a solo here - how's that for a twist? This one doesn't change around a lot til a break later brings in a different sort of vocal arrangement. The Chicago like elements come in (with less force) for a brief time after that. Then the crazy jam eventually returns until it ends abruptly (literally) with a "huh?"
Tremble
A prog mode starts this one, then it shifts to a bluesy acoustically driven ballad style. Keys eventually come over the top to bring in bits of the prog sounds, but overall this is a potent ballad based on acoustic guitar and voice. A keyboard break later is pretty. It shifts later to more textural prog like stylings for another break. A longer keyboard break comes in after a while and brings some minor ELP like textures with it. Eventually it resolves out to a mellow, but intriguing sequence to end the track.
Love Goes 'Round
This one is very cool. It's hard rocking, and modern rock styled. This feels a bit like Open Your Eyes era Yes on the chorus, but almost like INXS on the verse. Keyboard layers over the top of the second verse bring in some prog stylings. Eventually a pounding prog rock sequence takes it into new territory. When the vocals come in after this it's a less fun, but very potent jam that serves as the backdrop. An extended progressive rock excursion soars out of this, and the cut truly rocks out in this sequence. It drops to just drums and voice with bursts of guitar to carry forward. This closing segment again ramps up and creates a very satisfying conclusion to the piece. 
Mean Solar Day
Dramatic, but very sedate keyboard based textures start this and serve as the backdrop for the vocals. After a time this arrangement is changed around mostly by a ramping up of the percussive texture and the addition of a sparse guitar based mode. This is eventually pumped up to carry forward. It drops back to a sparser keyboard based arrangement again, then a fairly mellow and classically tinged keyboard solo moves it forward. The other instruments at first just hint at entering, then eventually pound in with a new fast paced and potent prog rock jam that calls to mind Kansas and ELP both a bit. This takes some awesome twists and turns, feeling a bit King Crimson like at times, before resolving back out to something that feels more like the hard edged version of Foreigner to me. Eventually this works out into an incredibly powerful progressive rock jam that just plain smokes and is one of the most effective segments of the whole album. The ending is again rather ELP like.
Love Loss
From the power of the last cut to the acoustic ballad like pop sound that starts this the contrast is pretty drastic. This shifts to more of a bouncy arrangement after a time, then takes on a texture that feels a bit like Magellan - the mellower more pop oriented side of that band, anyway. They drop it back to a fairly sparse arrangement for a tasty guitar solo. After another verse in the earlier style they move this one back up to a jazzy like rocking mode to carry it from there. This one has a killer groove and a great vocal arrangement. This moves out into several changes feeling a bit like Echolyn in its open grooving prog approach.
Gnosis
A weird keyboard/percussion section serves as the backdrop for a poetry reading. Other elements begin to come forth in a creative, but odd sort of arrangements of sounds. Weird as this is, it's incredibly accessible and very cool.
Strange New Muse
This comes in with a piano based ballad texture that rises slowly in a very pleasing manner. After a verse and chorus like this it explodes into a more powerful segment that reminds me a bit of the more prog oriented, but very British, side of the Beatles. Then it moves out into a neo prog jam that feels like a lot of bands while not really capturing any of them directly enough to mention them by name. Another piano based verse chorus segment gives way to a noisy, rocking jam that is pretty cool. This one goes through a lot of changes, working and reworking themes, merging them with new ones. While it's quite an intriguing and entertaining cut, it's also quite weird.
Lost In the Moon
This one comes in on keys, then works into a bouncing rock jam for the main song structure. This one moves through several different sections, but just doesn't really grab me until it shifts gears to a keyboard dominated lush jam later with another great vocal arrangement. This gets built on and layered over and over again, each time becoming more powerful. After a while working through this excursion they drop it back to just piano and voice to end the song and the CD. Frankly, I think a crescendo on the previous phase would have been a stronger farewell, but this works, too.
 
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