Geyster – Knight Games, Vols. I-III (2015)

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Imagine an alternate world where you’re listening to 70s FM radio for nearly two hours, hearing songs from the likes of England Dan and John Ford Coley, Pablo Cruise, Todd Rundgren, Alan Parsons Project, Player, Steely Dan, America and Ambrosia. The ‘alternate’ part comes from the songs themselves, songs that these acts didn’t make in real life, but could have very well done so.

That’s kind of what it’s like to listen to Geyster’s Knight Games trilogy.

Gaël Benyamin — the brains, blood, sweat and tears behind Geyster — is having a love affair with vintage West Coast music and is taking us along for the ride. His affinity for the older stuff goes back at least to the first Geyster album, revealingly titled I Love 1984 made with vocalist Pernilla Grönlund, and they had a big European hit with “Bye Bye Superman” in 2003. Geyster’s done nothing but step back about another six or seven years since then, cranking out record after record of the melodic, uplifting and soulful stuff that defined those times.

Only this time, one record at once just wasn’t enough. Knight Games Vol. I-III is twenty-nine songs over a hundred and eight minutes, and the multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter producer-engineer from Paris put it all out at once this week from his Somekind Records imprint. Even within these parameters, Knight Games feels diverse enough to avoid into the ‘sameness’ trap: the acoustic folky jaunt “A Long Goodbye,” recalling “Ventura Highway”, is immediately followed by the funk-rock of “When The Night,” for example.

There’s a light, analog groove that runs through nearly every song that ties it all together, ranging from the sunshine of “I Won’t Let You Down” and “Oh David,” the short, spaced-out jazz-rock jams of “Extra Time,” “Knight Games #1” and “Night Class” and the urgent rock of “Hyper Individual People” and “Do It.” “Over You” even suggests Led Zeppelin.

Benyamin’s voice is plaint enough to adjust to any mood he throws at it. That didn’t keep him from bringing in Brazilian soul star Ed Motta to lend a hand on the vocals for “Not An Ordinary Girl,” and Motta ends up taking complete ownership of Benyamin’s sultry, deep soul number that you could have sworn topped the RnB charts in 1979.

As Europe’s answer to Lenny Kravitz, Geyster’s less slick but much more diverse alternative to The Beauty Room hits the sweet spot for bell-bottomed music that’s not too rough nor too mushy. Guilty pleasure? Heck no. With Knight Games, Vol. I-III, Geyster counters the critics of classic West Coast rock, daring to make catchy, expressive music from which no one should feel guilty about getting their listening pleasure.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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