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Geoff Tate (Self-Titled)

By Jeff Kerby, Contributor
Wednesday, June 26, 2002 @ 10:51 AM


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“This is Rocker Bill on FM 97.8, and if you can guess the artist on the following tracks, you’ll win yourself a dinner for two at Hooters.”

That sonuvabitch Rocker Bill knew that as soon as he mentioned a giveaway for Hooters that he was going to have the attention of every testosterone driven male within the immediate listening area -- including me. I put down my 40 Oz. on the park bench and listened closely to the radio blaring next to some volleyball players about fifty yards away. I tried to concentrate as foreign noises mingled with a familiar voice that I just couldn’t place. Shit, I don’t even know why I was bothering playing this damn game, it isn’t like I own a cell phone -- oh yeah, chicks in tiny shorts -- I remember now. Anyway, Bill finished playing the first snippet, and the incorrect guesses just rolled in---

“Uh, Bill dude, is that uh, I don’t know, Air Supply?”

“Excuse me, Jackass, but what would I be doing playing AIR SUPPLY? Next caller—“

“Goo Goo Dolls?”

“Heeelll. No -- next.”

“I dunno. Is it Jani Lane?”

“Haven’t you heard? He works in a kitchen, probably right next to you, fry boy.”

This went on for quite awhile. When Rocker Bill finally did play something else from the album in question, I started to get lightheaded. It was a strange feeling like I knew who the hell it was that was singing, but there was definitely something unfamiliar about the context. The situation was askew somehow, and I prayed for someone to call in with the right answer, so I could put my mind at ease and go back to drinking. The problem though was that no one did.

That’s when the idea hit me -- parts of the vocals sounded like… Geoff Tate, but the music was different than Queensryche. It couldn’t be. Well maybe. If I was right, Hooters girls awaited. The way things were going, I figured that as the music continued to play, I’d still have enough time to walk across the street, as the music played, to get to a pay phone before anyone called in with the right answer. Before I knew it, I had dialed the numbers, got a connection and said, “I don’t know who the band is, but it sounds like Geoff Tate.”

“Finally!!” Rocker Bill responded.

After he took me off the air, Rocker Bill said that he was fresh out of Hooters vouchers, so he gave me a copy of Geoff Tate’s solo album instead. I like Tate and all, but shit, look what he was up against -- girls in shorts and skimpy tops. I picked it up at the station anyway a day or two later, and let’s just say that if you are wanting an effort along the lines of “Operation Mindcrime II,” this isn’t it. Instead, his self-titled solo debut is an eclectic mix of sounds that may surprise or confuse many listeners just as it did that day on the radio. Come to think about it though, that may have been the design of record -- no one involved comes from a metal background -- and Tate doesn’t attempt to sound like Queensryche here. It’s simply an album where Geoff Tate sings what he wants to without worrying about adhering to the template created by his primary band. After all, if he wanted to sound like Queensryche, he could have just made another album with Queensryche.

Two major themes exist on this record -- the first deals with relationships and the problems that sometimes exist when trying to maintain one, while the second explores how hard it is to take that first step out into the area of unfamiliar experience. The introductory track, “Flood,” is moody and sets the understated tone of the disc. The danceable rhythms -- yeah, I said danceable -- are interspersed with Tate’s tenor to create and atmosphere that is both foreign and welcome at the same time. The following number, “Forever” continues to expound upon this sound while incorporating a memorable hook into the mix while asking the question of “who wants to live forever?”

The strongest tune in this collection, “Helpless,” manages to meld the drums with a bass that compliments the music perfectly. Tate’s ode to the imperfect male-female dynamic is satisfying on a variety of levels. All metal fans already know that Tate’s voice has the ability to clearly convey a variety of emotions in degrees most vocalists just can’t achieve. He may not be screaming in digital here, but from a listenability standpoint, it would be difficult to conceive of someone being able to interpret this music and lyrics more effectively. Even in the song, “Touch” where the tempo slows even more, the flow of the words and the sounds they make when uttered are soothing -- that may be a weird admission to make when discussing a rock release, but it seems appropriate here.

That isn’t to say that this record is perfect, “In Other Words” attempts to achieve the same degree of audio satiety as it’s predecessors, but misses the mark just slightly both lyrically as well musically. But just as soon as you start to think that the quality tracks have been loaded at the front, you hear something like the ‘50s sounding tune, “This Moment,” where it becomes obvious that Geoff Tate doesn’t just listen to old Iron Maiden discs when he hangs around at his house in between tours. In addition, the ninth selection, “Off the T.V.” is said to be the first single and is certainly the most immediately heavy song the disc and also marks the least amount of departure from his previous work. Many Queensryche fans may hear this and think of it as an extension of the legacy he built with DeGarmo and company. In truth, maybe that’s what this is --maybe it just isn’t what some people are ready for -- if not, that will be their loss.

Yeah, yeah, I know I was critical of Dokken a couple of months ago for making an album that deviated substantially from the band’s previous work. The primary difference here though is that Geoff Tate puts his OWN name on this record -- not his band’s. If Dokken’s last record would have carried the Don Dokken label, the criteria for judging it would have been different. That given, Tate has the right to release whatever it is that moves him primarily because at this point no one knows what to expect from a Tate solo effort. If you talk to most notable metal front men, they pretty much all express that they’ve had, at one time or another, a desire to move outside the genre, but most never do because they are either too immersed in their band or are afraid of doing something that would damage their credibility thereby hindering their ability to make money. That shouldn’t be what’s important here -- what’s important is that songs here are good. There may be times when you listen to this and feel as though you’re looking into the eyes of a stranger, but if you allow yourself to simply judge the songs on their own merit, you might just find that you like it -- I’m not saying you will enjoy it as much as a trip to Hooters, but it is a quality disc, and Tate needs to be applauded for having the fortitude to release it.


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