You'll have a good reaction to what Randy George has put in action over the past two decades...
Artist: Randy George
Label: Threshing Floor Records
Length: 11 tracks / 55:59 minutes
You knew that Randy George was a stunning bass player from his work both live and in-studio with Neal Morse and his own prog group, Ajalon. What you might not have known is that George is also a formidable guitarist and keyboardist, well able to hold his own with the more well-known players of those instruments, several of whom appear alongside the multi-instrumentalist on this album.
The eleven songs on Action Reaction are all instrumentals, written by the bassist over a 20 year period. Don't let titles like "Death by Chocolate," "Riff Raff," "Who Threw My Kitty in the Pool," and "All Y'all" fool you – this is serious stuff for fans of prog, jazz/pop and jazz fusion. Often spiced with an appropriate dose of rock, these instrumental pieces are set in a tasty bedrock of bass but generously give space to the fine guitar work of not just George, but such guests as Neal Morse (Transatlantic, ex-Spock's Beard), who also guests on synth and organ on "Split Decision," Dave Beegle (Fourth Estate), David Wallimann (Glass Hammer), and the legendary Phil Keaggy - "Gentle Rain," the acoustic duet between Phil and Randy (where have I heard those two names paired before?), is an absolute delight. Another match made in guitar-heaven has Morse and Beegle trading solos on "Riff Raff," supported by George and drummer Paul Kilkenny.
Among the supporting cast on this project are Ajalon's Dan Lile and the aforementioned Kilkenny on drums, and Kansas' David Ragsdale on electric violin ("All Y'all"). Still – despite the stellar line-up - the foundation of the music here is the fine work of George on keyboards, bass, and guitars performing tight, well thought-out arrangements of jazzy funk and leaving room for his friends to have some fun.
Occasionally sounding like the Dutch art-rockers, Focus, in their prog-jazz mode, the music on Action Reaction never goes on too long but always delivers a satisfying, well-rounded listening experience. George (also acting as producer) avoids the excesses that sometimes characterize instrumental projects by keeping the solos tight and tasty and apparently encourages his sidemen to do the same. The music is never pretentious and certainly sounds fully-realized, despite George's modest implication that these are songs pulled together in a patch-work of ideas gathered through the years. The performances are delightful and well worthy of repeated listening.
Let's hope we don't have to wait another 20 years for a follow-up!