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(62 min, Muse-Wrapped)
TRACK LIST: 1. Ebb & Flow 7:03 2. Heaven on Earth 4:41 3. Koan 5:14 4. Worst Enemy 6:15 5. Sense of Static 2:49 6. Tremble 4:45 7. Love Goes 'Round 5:17 8. Mean Solar Day 6:48 9. Love Loss 5:15 10. Gnosis 2:31 11. Strange New Muse 6:17 12. Lost in the Moon 5:25 All music: by Foster, Gardner & Berry, except 4: Foster, 5: Berry, 10: Gardner. All lyrics: by Foster, except 7, 8: M Myers, 6, 9: M Myers & Foster, 11: Foster & Gardner. Produced by Gardner & Berry. LINEUP: Jack Foster - guitars; lead vocals Trent Gardner - keyboards; trombone; vocals Robert Berry - drums; bass, guitars; vocals With: Skip Mesquite - saxophone Mic Gillette - trumpet
Prolusion. "RaptorGnosis" is the second album by JACK FOSTER III, following his splendid debut with "The Evolution of JazzRaptor" from two years ago. Once again, the project's nucleus is comprised of Jack, Trent Gardner (of Magellan, Explorers Club, et al) and Robert Berry (of Emerson-Berry-Palmer and solo, amongst others).
Analysis. Unlike "JazzRaptor", most of the music and lyrics for which have been written by Foster, "RaptorGnosis" appears to be more a collaborative effort between him, Trent and Robert than his solo album, because the men equally contributed to this material, which is not only stated in the CD booklet, but (and what is essential) is also vividly traced in the sound. I wouldn't say that I am happy about the changes. The opener: Ebb & Flow is the longest and, simultaneously, most original, diverse and compelling track here, at least from a canonical progressive standpoint. The music is a highly effectual, truly working synthesis of symphonic Art-Rock and Cathedral Metal, the amount of purely instrumental arrangements exceeding that of those going alongside the vocals. Most of the other songs (no instrumentals here) aren't much inferior to Ebb & Flow, but nevertheless, the level of expressiveness the trio has reached here turned out to be unattainable for them in future. The album's primary style is a typically American optimistic Hard 'n' Art Rock with only occasional excursuses into quasi Jazz-Fusion, a cross between Magellan and Kansas with familiar (at times immediately recognizable) structural constructions and, therefore, the rather predictable development of events. The said category includes five out of the twelve tracks present: Koan, Worst Enemy, Sense of Static, Mean Solar Day and Love Goes 'Round, none of which are groundbreaking, but good, especially Mean Solar Day, which would be the second best composition on the album. There is no rhythm section on either Tremble or Heaven on Earth, both of which are complicated Art-Rock ballads with interesting interactions between acoustic guitar and piano and heartfelt dramatics vocals. The short Gnosis finds Jack Foster narrating to the quirky saxophone improvisation and the straightforward line of programmed drums, which is a rather strange combination. The main problems I have with this album are highlighted on the songs: Strange New Muse (where there is nothing new or strange either, not counting the abundance in the anthemic choir singing), Love Loss and Lost in the Moon, each being in all senses superficial, with a mainstream-like approach and lots of repetitions, particularly in the vocal sections. This is the kind of music that might have been called "pop-Rock" in the '70s.
Conclusion. To be fair, I must admit that "RaptorGnosis" is a solid, lustrous, professionally made recording, which will most likely get a wider success than Jack's debut album. From a creative viewpoint however, it's a step backward. Recommended with reservation: the adventurous Prog-lover will find little here to be satisfied with.
VM: October 1, 2005
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