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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Roger Powell

Fossil Poets

Review by Gary Hill

Fans of Todd Rundgren's Utopia should find this release of particular interest as Roger Powell was a member of that band. Those who enjoy mellow fusion instrumentals should find plenty of common ground here as that style makes up the whole disc. While I find many instrumental releases to suffer from too little variety, Powell for the most part avoids this trap. There was only one point late in the disc where it seemed to be lagging due to over similar sounds. I'm not sure I'll find myself digging this disc out a lot, but that's more about some disinterest in this musical format than any lacking in the particular CD. The truth is, if I want something to mellow out to, this will certainly be a disc I think about. Its sounds are pretty and rather complex. There is enough diversity to keep it interesting, but it never jars the senses. This is a very good CD overall. If you liked Utopia or enjoy mellow fusion, by all means pick this one up.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Lone Gunmen
While this comes in dramatic and mysterious (and maintains much of that texture throughout), it becomes bouncy and funky in a great sound that seems to merge elements of Alan Parson's Project with fusion. This is a cool number that serves the disc well in the opening slot. While maintaining it's melodic tone overall this one still manages to rock out quite well, even turning a little crunchy later. Who says prog rock can't groove?
Fallout Shelter
With a playful electronic sound that feels rather like Kraftwerk serving as the intro, guitar bring in more traditional fusion elements and the cut is off and running. This has several intriguing changes and moods and is another strong tune on a disc that has no shortage of potent material.
Delayed Reaction
More ambient and mysterious keyboard sounds lead this one off. It grows much more slowly than the previous tracks, drawing a lot of its early sound from the rhythmic, percussive elements. While there is still fusion included in this mix it also has some of that Kraftwerk type feel and is a bit more experimental and unusual. This gets quite powerful and involved later, but while I wouldn't consider this weak by any means, it seems a bit of a step downward from the first two compositions.
Test Drive
And now for something completely different, this has a smooth jazz texture to it and another killer groove. Again, I wouldn't consider this a standout of the CD, but that has more to do with the overall strength of the whole release than it does any weakness of this number.
Crème Fraiche
Keys again serve to lead this off. Then a rocking guitar sound takes it for a time and they launch out into another funk based fusion jam that's a step back upward. This is another killer groove.
Too Much Rain
Some of the most pretty modes of the whole album start the game here. This moves through some intriguing changes and varying moods, though, wandering from more fusion to a more hard rocking, almost Pink Floyd like texture. It's one of the more dynamic pieces here and one of the highlights of the whole show. There is a cool false ending that gives way to a very brief reprise.
Underwater City
Echoey, enveloped keyboard textures serve to start this and the cut begins building as a swirling piece of weirdness. Slow, almost funky modes emerge at times but this spacey, strangeness continues and this is another that feels just a tiny bit like Pink Floyd. This is one of the odder compositions on show here and certainly one of the most dynamic.
Dauphine (piano solo for Vince)
As if Powell sensed that there was becoming a bit of a sameness to the disc by this point, he added the first of two piano solos. It is pretty and sedate and (at under a minute) quite short. It some dramatic textures and melodies within.
Tribe By Fire
An electro rhythmic texture leads this one off and as the musicians begin to build out from there this is one of the stronger pieces on the album. It has drama, majesty and power (and some killer guitar sounds near the back of the mix). This might be my favorite track on offer and it wanders into spacey atmosphere from time to time.
Miles Per Gallon
A techno styled rhythmic structure serves as the backdrop for some killer jazz modes. This is interspersed with space rock textures and some great lines of melody that run along its course.
Peaceful Uprising
Backwards tracked sounds start this off and carry it for a time. The musicians launch out into a smoking Eastern tinged jam that is full of drama and mystery. After a while it drops to just percussion and builds up in a techno-dance type way. This is merged with the earlier musical themes to carry forward. This sort of alternating pattern creates the motif for the entire track, and it's a favorite of mine.
Serpentine
Starting more sedately, this one moves out with a Beatles-like guitar texture (a bit down in the mix and with some crunch in its midst). Moving forward that guitar takes more precedence as it becomes more of a hard rocking sort of motif. Still the keys stay over the top with spacey patterns that call to mind Hawkwind a bit. You can hear bits of that Eastern texture in the backdrop later here.
Zentegrity
Another that starts off quite mellow this turns into a dramatic keyboard laden jam that showcases more of the stylings that make this album what it is. This is a good one, but by this point it's starting to suffer a bit from sameness. This is slower than some of the others, lending a bit of variety, but it's not quite enough. Still, the soaring guitar work (still in the back half) and some rather Hawk-like space combining with fusion elements is rather effective.
Osmosis
This cool groove is a great change of pace and feels a little like something from Alan Parsons or Pink Floyd. The guitar is rather bluesy here and the whole thing works extremely well.
Astrae (piano solo for Karen)
Powell ends the disc with another piano solo, serving as a nice change-up and a solid ending. For some reason this reminds me at times of some of Rick Wakeman's stylings on Yes' “Awaken.” It's a cool track. 
 
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