Multi-instrumentalists are blessed when it comes to solo albums – they have so much to work with. In Randy George’s case this is even more true, as he is not just proficient on bass/guitar/keyboards but rather clearly excels on them. Having fronted several bands in his past – most notably Ajalon – George is best known as the bassist in the Neal Morse Band. Indeed, he’s been with Morse for nearly the entire time since the split from Spock’s Beard. Considering that Morse’s other bassist bandmates have been Trewavas, Meros and LaRue, George is clearly in good company. But unlike many others, labeling George as a bassist does a disservice to his capacities as a well-rounded musician. “Beyond Words” remedies that, revealing George’s impressive range not only in performance but also in taste and influences. The album is wildly diverse with no single track sounding like another, making for an engaging listen. NMB fans may be surprised at how far George can go beyond his customary bass spot on stage, even if they’ve witnessed the famous instrument exchange during live shows.
Despite its title, “Beyond Words” is not completely an instrumental album. “Make Me Real” is an inviting first single, being the only vocal performance offered via guest singer Simon Godfrey. It’s a catchy hard rock song which shows that George can lay down hooks with the best of them. However, with a fairly straight-forward arrangement and a guitar solo from guest slinger Eric Gillette, the casual listener may not realize George’s full scope if they don’t dig deeper than this one song.
Pick a style and George has you covered. Steely Dan seems an expansive influence to draw upon and the title track takes you right there to “Countdown To Ecstasy” era, from George’s guitar figures to the accompanying piano to the 70s groove, ably supported by Dan Lile on drums. “Three Sides To Every Story” is a breezy jazz piece with piano as the centerpiece along with its infectious bass line. “The Good World” goes even further down the smooth jazz road, complete with tasteful acoustic and electric guitar and synth leads from George and alto sax from Jimmy McElroy. It feels like George could write a full album in this genre which would go down quite easy & satisfying. But wait, there’s much more.
The rockers make several appearances, whether it’s towards a fusion direction like on “Cappuccino With Max” and “Foam Rubber Monsters” (with fun unexpected bassoon solos from Paul Hansen), or a riff montage in “Technical Difficulties” with guest Neal Morse on keys. A favorite is “Pool Toad Redemption” which brings in Steve Morse colors from George’s guitar before Gillette takes over for a little shred on the range.
Not to be ignored, George’s fretless bass does make an extended appearance on the experimental track “Soul Geometry”, supported by a range of synths and programming. It successfully walks the line of being adventurous while still accessible, compelling listening aside from the sudden fade at the end.
Fans of George’s previous solo album “Action Reaction”, released over a decade ago, will be familiar with the approach taken on “Beyond Words”, and delighted to find what this multi-instrumentalist has come up with this time around. Along with his songwriter side projects with his wife Pamela, it’s encouraging to see what George can do in his “spare time” away from the NMB career. For the uninitiated, the album may come as something of a revelation. Let’s hope George keeps dipping into these musical journeys beyond words.
Released By: Independent
Release Date: September 1st, 2023
Genre: Progressive Rock
“Beyond Words” Track-list:
1. Cappuccino With Max
2. Technical Difficulties
3. Beyond Words
4. Make Me Real
5. Pool Toad Redemption
6. Soul Geometry
7. Foam Rubber Monsters
8. Three Sides To Every Story
9. The Good World
10. My Technicolor World
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For a diverse musical outing ranging from prog to jazz to experimental to shred, don’t miss Randy George’s “Beyond Words”. George could just as easily have called the album “Beyond Bass”, as it quickly establishes the breadth of his performance and compositional skills far beyond the bass role for which he’s often associated.