Some guys have “sax appeal,” and no one has more of that than Geoffrey “GI” Blythe. Fans of Black 47 know that Blythe is to Larry Kirwan what Clarence Clemmons was to Bruce Springsteen. Blythe has added soul, funk and ragtime flourishes to the zig-zags of Black 47 for many years, and now he has made a sharp turn of his own on Lost in Space, his first solo album.
The songs on Lost in Space have the swagger of the Saturday Night Live Band from the seventies...big, bouncy fun played by expert musicians that have one eye on what they’re doing at the moment, and another eye on the wrap-party after the show.
“Folk singers sleep at the Hilton/and jazz man, too/no bed for the poor boy/who sings the blues/too old to rock and roll/too young to die/only my girlfriend to keep me alive,” sings band member Archie Brown. His lead vocals are so deep they make Leonard Cohen’s growl feel like a thin choirboy’s soprano.
“Obviously, it was a tongue in cheek song,” Blythe says when asked about that lyric. “Like life, there is humor all over the album.”
Blythe is a veteran player that has used his vast contacts within the music industry to assemble a crackerjack band with members from each chapter of his career.
After graduating from Coventry School of Music in the U.K., Blythe became a founding member of Dexy’s Midnight Runners. During this time he was responsible for all the horn arrangements that gave Dexy’s their signature sound.
After leaving Dexy’s he went on to form the Bureau, a band with more modest success that toured the U.S. with the Pretenders. He soon jumped to TKO Horns, touring and recording on the Punch the Clock tour with Elvis Costello as well as Nick Lowe, The Fixx and Difford and Tilbrook.
Blythe’s foundation is provided by drummer Crispin “The Pump” Taylor and Black 47 bassist Joe “Bear Claw” Burcaw, “Big” Jim Paterson from Dexy’s days, keyboardist Pete Levin and the guitar of Larry Baeder.
Bear Claw’s slinky, sexy bass lines on “Fine Mess Rag” flirt shamelessly with Blythe’s brash sax riffs, creating a funky block party by way of the Big Easy.
“A lot of it was finding these people again,” Blythe explains when asked why he decided on a solo album now.
“Big Jim Patterson was someone I was trying to get hold of in a recording studio for a while. We’ve been friends for years, since the Dexy’s days, and there is something to our playing when he gets on trombone and I’m on sax.
“I found some old friends on Facebook. I wanted to get the right crew together and it wasn’t easy to do.”
Blythe says that his time in Black 47 formed the gender-bending genres that run gloriously amok on Lost in Space.
“The style isn’t like Black 47 because we don’t do Irish, but I learned a lot from running through the reggae and rock beats in that band,” he says.
“I’m there as a sax player -- I just play, I’m not writing songs.
“I love that gig so much -- Black 47 is just heaven for a saxophonist. It’s not just straight down the line soul music. It has flourishes of funk and other things in it.
“That’s what it’s like recording for Black 47 -- Larry (Kirwan) comes in with a general idea of the song and then it goes off in a different direction once it gets in their hands. The recording of this album was like that. You have to trust that you have good musicians that can handle that. I have that dynamic with the great folks I have on this record.”
“I was a fan of Dexy's and the Bureau and GI Blythe is up to their standard,” says Kirwan. “But even more, standing next to Geoff on stage over the last 20 years and hearing his brilliant musicianship first hand, I know that any band he fronts will be both original and rockin'.”
Blythe is pleasantly surprised with how well the album has gone down so far.
“The reaction is absolutely stunning -- we are on 60 broadcast radio stations right now and it is being added on stations in Canada and Spain,” he enthuses. “It’s very gratifying. I’m really, really proud of it.”
When asked to explain the success, Blythe reckons that people are responding to what he calls “real” music.
“I know that people want this music -- not something corporate owned, synthesizers, synthetically produced.”
It’s easy to get Lost in Space when the person driving the spaceship is so saxy!