"Fossil Poets" (Inner Knot; 2006)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

When I saw that Roger Powell’s “Fossil Poets” had arrived in my mailbox for review I somehow instinctively assumed that Powell was Supertramp’s keyboardist. So much for instincts – I had confused Supertramp’s Roger Hodgson with Roger Powell. But I still quite couldn’t place the Powell name (and I was certain I wasn’t confusing him with drummer Cozy Powell). Delving deep into the promo materials provided by the record and PR companies, I was able to orient myself to Roger Powell’s involvement with Todd Rundgren’s Utopia and Meat Loaf’s “Bat Out of Hell” album. All this means is even if you’re not familiar with Powell you’ve probably heard his work.

Which just happens to be one of those funny happenstances in life. I have managed to ignore Todd Rundgren’s place in musical history all these many years. And it was just last week that I finally had the opportunity to delve into Rundgren’s “Something/Anything?” double CD release. Granted, “Something?/Anything” is not a Utopia album, but it did give me some relevant perspective regarding Rundgren’s mindset and expectations from his backing musicians.

“Fossil Poets” is keyboard-driven progressive rock yet it has a push/pull effect – is it retro (analog, free-form) or forward thinking (digital, structured)? I couldn’t quite make up my mind. So I did a little research and it turns out that one of the major guiding principles of making “Fossil Poets” was to create something that was ‘retro-futuristic.’ A more apt description you could never find.

Much of the ‘rhythm section’ is nothing more than computer programming, albeit done in a way that is inventive, progressive, and non-sterile. All of the keyboard sounds are much more organic – obviously designed to sound warm and much like you’d find on older prog-rock albums. Today’s recording technology allows artists and bands to literally cut and paste their parts together – clearly that was done here and I think it served the overall impact of “Fossil Poets” quite well.

The pace of the music rarely rises above the pulse of a resting heartbeat. But I think “Fossil Poets” is best served by allowing one’s mind and intellectual framework appreciate the disc, rather than literally feeling the music through one’s gut.

Additionally, the title of “Fossil Poets” is taken from a quote from one of my favorite authors: Ralph Waldo Emerson. The quote is “… language is fossil poetry.” Take what you want from that quote, but I think it sets up each individual to perceive “Fossil Poets” in their own way.

For someone who’s been out of the music scene for the better part of two decades Roger Powell’s “Fossil Poets” is a strong album. “Fossil Poets” is for fans of keyboard-based progressive rock and other forward-thinking ambient artists.

“Fossil Poets” was produced by Gary Tanin and Roger Powell.

Roger Powell is joined by Gary Tanin on synthesizers and Greg Koch on guitars and bass.

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright © 2006 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 28 Aug 2022 15:32:20 -0400.