"Geoff Tate" (Sanctuary Records; 2002)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Although it will take at least several listens to fully absorb the impact of this, Geoff Tate's first solo project apart from the mothership (the "progressive" heavy rock giant, Queensryche), it IS somewhat what you might have expected based on the powerhouse vocalist's proclivity for artistic experimentation, not to mention his own assessment, last fall, of the work-in-progress. "Elegantly beautiful" and "touching music" is how the typically eloquent Tate had described it - and he could not have been more correct on those counts. 

But, yes, there are still some big surprises here, too, like the fact the none of the songs closely resemble each other stylistically, making it difficult to pigeonhole the overall sound of the CD. But of course, that is undoubtedly part of what the nonconformist in Tate was looking to accomplish with this record, along with a healthy dose of not wanting to reprise the work the he has done (and will continue to do) within even the ever-evolving perimeters of QR. And certainly, it is not a bad thing that Tate has taken QR's renowned, confident musical envelope-stretching two steps further when what he winds up with is something that is this intense, dynamic, and aurally compelling (definitely get out the headphones for this one), especially when it is also guaranteed to be unlike anything you've ever heard before - a latter day Security/"Shock The Monkey" in more ways than one. 

In a nutshell, the sounds here vary wildly from the dance-rhythm loops on the hauntingly passionate "Helpless" (replete with Spanish-inspired guitars), to the R&B flavored, downright sensually evocative "Touch" and "This Moment," to the jazzy "A Passenger." However, at least two common threads run throughout the collection: 1) the (seemingly) first person, relationship-oriented subject matter, which examines, from beginning to end, the complex and fleeting nature of modern love (with an intriguing, avant garde-like minimalism and fragmentation), and 2) Tate's distinctive vocals and phrasing which, though still familiarly dramatic and rich, also take on a much more subtle and uncharted path on many of the songs like "Every Move We Make." 

While I'm not sure if I "smell a hit" here on the level with "Silent Lucidity" (the QR tune that this work most closely resembles overall), strong contenders would certainly be the above-mentioned "Helpless," the opener, "Flood," and the wrenching beauties, "In Other Words" and "Over Me." And, yes, while it may take more than the customary three spins for Geoff Tate's ear Manna - and patently new, futuristic fusion of red-hot passion and art - to sink under virgin skin in its entirety, rest assured, it will move, mesmerize, and haunt (in the best kind of way) when it does. 

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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 2002 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.