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Foster III, Jack: RaptorGnosis

Sometimes the differences between a debut record and its follow-up album are nothing short of astounding. Such is the case with RaptorGnosis, the second album from guitarist and vocalist Jack Foster III. While 2004's Jazzraptor was an unremarkable and aimless record that tried to bridge progressive rock, blues, jazz and singer/songwriter fare, RaptorGnosis emerges with greater focus and energy, concentrating on rock more than any periphery genre. Foster, whose strong yet dusty mid-range voice is suited to this material, once again is joined by journeyman multi-instrumentalist Robert Berry on guitar, bass, drums and vocals and Magellan mastermind Trent Gardner on keys, trombone and vocals. (Both men also produced the record.)

Why the vast improvement between albums released only one year apart? I have no idea. But the results of this Foster/Berry/Gardner collaboration with occasional lyrics from Foster's writing partner Melanie Myers sound magical, if not overly adventurous. Lush and melodic musical references range from the obvious (Magellan on "Koan," post-Neal Morse Spock's Beard on "Heaven On Earth") to the surprising (mid-period Chicago during the brilliant horn arrangement in "Worst Enemy," post-Peter Gabriel Genesis on "Mean Solar Day"). Lyrically, many of these songs seem based on spiritual questions, and they give the material an added dose of depth.

Near album's end, the music gets bolder, hinting that Foster the Third's third record could be even more impressive. "Strange New Muse," with its Freddie Mercury-like vocal performance and over-the-top Broadway-ensemble-style chorus, doesn't come close to fitting with the rest of this material. And neither does "Gnosis," the two-and-a-half-minute spoken-word piece set to a creepy, exotic instrumental backdrop. Factor in dramatic artwork by renowned album-cover designer Thomas Ewerhard (Symphony X, Enchant, Ayreon), and you've got a classy package that probably would have made my best-of-2005 list had I experienced the pleasure of hearing it earlier.

Track Listing:
1) Ebb and Flow
2) Heaven On Earth
3) Koan
4) Worst Enemy
5) Sense of Static
6) Tremble
7) Love Goes 'Round
8) Mean Solar Day
9) Love Loss
10) Gnosis
11) Strange New Muse
12) Lost in the Moon

Added: February 1st 2006
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: Muse-Wrapped Records
Hits: 3441
Language: english

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