With all of the random sounding band names and album titles thrown around in popular music, this album has a weird sense of irony in that it actually sounds like what the title suggests, a Jazzy sounding Rock monster. And it isn’t the really cooking sort of Jazz played at really fast tempos that actually are quite conducive to being mixed with Hard Rock. Instead we are actually treated to a stylistically bipolar melding of heavy riffs that occasionally cross into DREAM THEATER territory with Lounge Jazz and the occasional Pop Ballad section. Combine this all to song writing that avoids being overlong and convoluted and you have something that would be burning up the AOR stations if the DJs of today had any good sense.
For all of the obvious chops that he possesses, JACK FOSTER III is not what you’d call a textbook shredder, but more of a stylistic showman who mixes up his solos and comes off sounding like 4 or 5 different people doing impressive improvisations in their preferred genre. “The Corner” definitely shows heavy Alex Lifeson influence, with perhaps a hint of Tommy Shaw, when the lead starts blazing away. “Outbreak Monkey” goes into Neo-Classical territory during the solos and sounds like a vintage Uli Jon Roth with a hint of Yngwie Malmsteen, although the ballad sections sound like an interesting Michael McDonald homage. “God And War” gets really creative and meshes some really beautiful church choir vocalizations with what is otherwise a near perfect homage of DREAM THEATER’S “Images And Words” sound.
The only thing that really holds this album back at all is that FOSTER gets just a little too ambitious at times and things sound a little forced. A particular example is the closing song “Sometimes When You Win”, which goes overboard on the Jazz emulations and puts in scat singing at the end, one aspect of the genre which tends to detract most Hard Rock fans, even and including Progressive ones. On the opposite side of the equation, “To Have And To Hold” and “Inspiration” listen like really tired Top 40 easy listening knock offs that just sort of coast along and don’t really do much. They aren’t necessarily grating or bad per say, but definitely fall into skip worthy territory.
If you like Progressive Rock with a lot of really sudden stylistic shifts and twists, this will probably be a good pick up for your collection. Most fans of DREAM THEATER and even better known non-Metal Progressive outfits might have a little bit of a hard time with the really ballad oriented stuff on here as it definitely has a Pop/Soft Rock vibe to it. It’s very consonant and loaded with radiant textures and catchy melodies, but a lot of the time it seems to lose its center and even occasionally its own identity amongst all of the varying ideas bouncing off of each other.
(Online December 26, 2008)