One of last year's most impressive musical debuts came from former Grenadier Guards bandsman Andy Foster who still works as a musician on cruise liners. However, launching his Kite Parade Prog project, the first album The Way Home, really made a lot of people sit up and listen.
Just a year later, he's back with Retro, another very confident collection of songs on which Foster is assisted by the likes of Big Big Train's drummer Nick D'Virgilio and sound engineer Rob Aubrey together with the enigmatic Steve Thorne, who provides the lyrics for two of the songs here. His decades spent in music have given Foster the gift of melding sometimes complex ideas and song structures with compelling, often catchy melodies hinting broadly at It Bites for the most part. Spoken voices and a pulsating beat get the title track off to a rousing start as Foster's vocals cut through, the huge synth melody line and D'Virgilio's drums pushes it along at a brisk pace.
With its big bass and guitar opening, Speed Of Light has an interesting underlying sci fi theme to it. It's fabulously catchy, the melody line, close vocal harmonies and sung hook-line, all seamlessly working together. There's even a little Eastern motif woven into it.
Wonderful is a more measured, acoustically driven song on which again, Foster's resonant voice comes to the fore, accompanied by some smooth guitar solos. This is almost a love letter to planet earth, promising to do something wonderful for the future.
Church bells and bird song start Shadows Fall, that begins acoustically, the gorgeous melody drifting along with a certain wistfulness and nostalgia. There's even a soulful saxophone from Foster and a distinct change of intensity midway, a punchy synth groove kicking in before the song rises and falls towards a fitting climax.
Thorne provides the lyrics for Under The Sun, a meditation on the human condition, Foster's voice again soaring high in the mix, while Daz Atkinson delivers a blistering guitar solo followed by a funky Hammond organ passage from Steve Bradford.
The longest track is closer Merry-Go-Round, again with lyrics from Thorne. Its slow, haunting guitar-dominated introduction sets a sombre mood. There's a recurring chiming motif over which voices come in and there's at least two more distinct changes of pace, Jessica Chambers providing backing vocals and Foster's back with another passionate saxophone solo and chiming guitar that brings it all to a satisfying denouement.
Foster's musical stock is rising quickly, and Retro will put him on the radar of many more listeners who like their prog silky, sophisticated, and melodic.
***** Alison Reijman
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