Musea Rec. Jack Foster III : evolution of jazzrapter (US?,2004)*
I expected a challenge for me seeing the cover of this new release with a dinosaur on front, a species that was thought to be died out. Mostly those who call themselves "dinosaurs of progressive rock", or critics that call some groups "the new dinosaurs of progressive rock", will get to raise my hackles when I confront myself with the mediocre taste they usually represent. Groups like Anekdoten, White Willow and such are usually not listed with this community, but groups like Arena, Ayreon, and any of the neo-symphonic bands are.
This group is Mattias Noren (Ayreon, Star One, Arena -here only for the cover!-), Robert Berry (Three, Hush, The December People), Trent Gardner (Magellan, Leonardo, Explorers Club). I am already very afraid! I'm sure this dinosaur will not bite me, but I guess criticism in any form will not be appreciated. I'm more afraid it will be music that is dead but does not know it.
And I immediately hear it starts like that, with camouflaged pop music from musicians wanting to be the big stars, self assured, but with nothing musical to say, with everything that real progressive music should NOT stand for. I hear bluesy empty posed pop with progressive rock excuses, under the illusion that it is special. After two tracks I HAD to put this aside.
Later I was very surprised to find very positive reviews on the net, so I decided I should go through this again.
The third track is much more rocking, produced well, and has some good ideas of some fucking rocking guitars. "The Shy Ones" following after this is a ballad, fittingly arranged and sung. Also "Dream with you" shows that the singer is able to create with his voice/singing a romantic mood. The music itself is still accompanying, more than creative, like in pop songs, but here still is fine to listen to, in let's say some kind of (symphonic) pop vein. Logically the group has to fall back, in the next track, on the pop kind of "prog" later, with more over-obvious rhythmic solutions, a metalblues like accompaniment, with even some brass synthesizer. Also the track hereafter, "Every time you smile" shows a poor musical foundation, starting with gothic keyboards, another pop like song, obvious bluesrock guitar improvisations, good vocals, mellow texts, as symphonic pop with sometimes a hard rock-like accompaniment. Last track has some enjoyable jazzy piano improvisation to stretch the basic pop song a bit. Since this is so well received I really wonder who is reviewing progressive rock these days and what are their perspectives if a "real" musical content in composition and rhythm is no longer of importance?
Although the singer sings nicely, for those who want Music still to belong to a philosophy, an art-form, and not put it into the category of whatever kind of entertainment, it becomes obvious this is to avoid.