Category: George Benson

George Benson – The Ultimate Collection

ARTIST: George Benson             bensonult

TITLE:  The Ultimate Collection

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: #53

SINGLES: Top 10: This Masquerade (#10 US, #3 R&B), The Greatest Love of All (#24 US, #2 R&B, #27 UK), On Broadway (#7 US, #2 R&B), Love Ballad (#18 US, #2 R&B, #29 UK), Give Me the Night (#4 US, #1 R&B, #7 UK), Love X Love (#61 US, #9 R&B, #10 UK), Turn Your Love Around (#5 US, #1 R&B, #29 UK), Inside Love (#43 US, #3 R&B, #57 UK), In Your Eyes (#7 UK), Let’s Do It Again (#8 R&B, #56 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Breezin’

LINEUP: George Benson + Session Players galore

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: “Ultimate” collection is only for his pop and R&B sides, not his vastly superior jazz selections. Just a bunch of chart pablum.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: I’ve given up on reviewing all of the pop George Benson albums separately – they’re basically the same. It’s all goop for the masses that only is differentiated by the scatting of the guitar solos that Benson does on several tracks.

This was popular as smooth jazz for a while. Benson is a talented guitarist and a very fluid jazz player, but his pop and R&B sensibilities ran to the very safe and timid, really. Yeah, some sound good on the radio but they’re just, well, flaccid when compared to his jazz work.

I don’t know, really. I’m disappointed that he turned to so many formulaic love songs in his pop career. At least he’s got jazz guitar, he can still play that. Go find those records.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: I had no idea…none…that “The Greatest Love of All” was originally performed by George Benson. I only knew it as a Whitney Houston song. But here it is. It’s the main theme of the movie The Greatest, which was a biopic of Muhammad Ali released in 1977.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: D+: There are only a couple of songs I really like that aren’t just nostalgia trips. It’s a worse grade than I gave his other two albums because the hits just became worse and worse. If you like Benson, be my guest, but there’s no jazz here, except if you coun’t “Breezin’”

George Benson – In Flight

ARTIST: George Benson 220px-Georgebensoninflight

TITLE:  In Flight

YEAR RELEASED: 1977

CHART ACTION: #9, #2 R&B, #1 Jazz

SINGLES: Nature Boy (#26 UK), Everything Must Change (#106 US, #34 US R&B), Gonna Love you More (#71 US, #41 US R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: The World Is a Ghetto

LINEUP: George Benson, Phil Upchurch, Ronnie Foster, Jorge Dalton, Stanley Banks, Harvey Mason, Ralph MacDonald

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: More smooth, smooth jazz, so smooth that there’s nothing challenging or adventurous about this, unless you count Benson scatting along with his guitar solos.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Smooth strings, smooth 70’s arrangements, smooth jazz guitar, smooth crooning. Man, this is one record that has all of the grit and grime of jazz and rock sandblasted away.

While that means it’s tasteful, for sure, it’s not anything that excites you, or even wakes you from a stupor. It’s the music they play when you turn to a cable channel that’s not broadcasting at the current time (you know, the alternate channels they have for some sporting events…).

Benson is a talented guitarist. The trick of scatting along with a solo doesn’t really work in the studio, because, he may have cut the vocal track later, though. Just me, I’d rather have seen this live, with an umbrella drink, in a singles bar like the Legal Beagle.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This record was platinum selling. Too many lounge lizards during the 70’s, no doubt.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: YES! It has a disco version of a song and a 45 edit of another.

GRADE: C-: I appreciate the talent. I can’t deal with the vanilla nature of the music. EXILED.

George Benson – Breezin’

ARTIST: George Benson  220px-Breezin_GB
TITLE: Breezin’
YEAR RELEASED: 1976
CHART ACTION: #1, #1 R&B, #1 Jazz
SINGLES: This Masquerade (#10, #3 R&B), Breezin’ (#63, #55 R&B)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: In the background at the dentist’s maybe?
LINEUP: George Benson, Jorge Dalton, Ronnie Foster, Phil Upchurch, Ralph MacDonald, Stanley Banks, Harvey Mason
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Long time jazz guitarist who had dipped his toe into pop and R&B in the past plunges full force into that market.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: There are a lot of George Benson records out before this one. I decided to move all of his Prestige, Columbia, A&M and CTI label stuff to my jazz playlists for futher exploration down the road, and am reviewing his stuff when he focused on the pop charts.

First off, you KNOW “Breezin’”. How many media outlets have used that as filler music? Benson no doubt made serious coin just for that. But the next track, “This Masquerade” introduces Benson as a serious R&B crooner with the added benefit of him being able to play a mean jazz guitar and scat the notes during the solo. It sounds impressive.

Yet, this is part of the dumbing down of what smooth jazz became. Nice, pleasant, but no risk taking or any desire to take you into places you’ve never been before. (See the fusion records of Miles Davis or the Mahavishnu Orchestra). Soon, it became almost a necessity for jazz musicians who wanted record sales to smooth it out a bit (like Weather Report post Heavy Weather).

The performances are slick, tight, well produced. After the hits, it’s kind of the same routine as the first two cuts and nothing was challenging or exciting – not even the guitar workouts. It sounds like elevator stuff, or things for the bachelor pad when wearing Sex Panther.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: One of Benson’s jazz albums was a jazz rendition of Abbey Road – much like Booker T. & the MG’s.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Some bonus cuts and what not.

GRADE: C+: Just kind of meh. Well played meh and the two hits are nice to hear. But meh. (At least to me – Ron Burgundy probably loved it).