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Pop - Released September 7, 1990 | Warner Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
This project had its genesis back in 1983 with a Benson promise to Count Basie that he would record an album in his style, a promise partially fulfilled the following year with 20/20's "Beyond the Sea." Focusing on standards that steer commendably clear from tunes normally associated with Basie, Benson takes on the dual challenge of big-band singer and lead guitarist and succeeds with authority in both roles. The robust playing of the Basie band under Frank Foster poses absolutely no problems for Benson's muscular guitar, for he punches out the notes and octaves in irresistibly swinging fashion (for prime mature Benson, check out "Basie's Bag"). As a vocalist, he sounds solid and debonair, blending well with Basie vocalist Carmen Bradford on "How Do You Keep the Music Playing?" There are two deviations from the format, though. "Baby Workout" starts out as an electronic dance number, augmented by horns, that harks back to his run of routine '80s albums. The sole Robert Farnon-arranged track, a lush orchestral treatment of "Portrait of Jennie" recorded in London, was salvaged from an aborted project that was promised back in 1988. Clearly Benson had wrestled control of his music from the accountants, and though the direction is conservative, it makes better use of his talents. © Richard S. Ginell /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 1986 | Warner Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
The transformation of George Benson, guitar icon, into George Benson, pop singer, is completed here, on While the City Sleeps, for there are no instrumentals at all on this hard-sell, synth-laden series of ballads and dance tunes. This is marginally better than 20/20, for at least Michael Walden's high-tech production (with added tracks by Kashif and Tommy LiPuma) has more punch, and the material, though still mostly lame, is easier to take. There is very little guitar to be heard, and what little there is can usually be found hidden behind Benson's scatting or the pulsating electronics. The best bet for ferreting out some strong guitar is on "Love Is Here Tonight," but it's deep within the mix. For those who care, an animated Kenny G turns up on "Did You Hear Thunder." © Richard S. Ginell /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1970 | A&M Jazz

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
This mysterious album was supposed to be A&M/CTI's last release but it lay fallow until 1984 when it came out on A&M's Audio Master series along with a bunch of A&M/CTI reissues. Why was it shelved? A subjective guess is that it just isn't that good; it's as patchy and disjointed as The Other Side of Abbey Road is brilliantly unified. Even the title seems like an afterthought 15 years after the fact. No personnel or arrangers are listed, but some of the tracks sound like outtakes from Tell It Like It Is; the charts have the same sharp reeds/trumpet attack. The best cut by far is Benson's own Latin-flavored instrumental "Durham's Turn." "Out of the Blue" has a rare acoustic/electric guitar duet under Benson's romantic vocal, and the great guitarist always comes through with something worth hearing when asked. Still, as Yul Brynner puts it in The King and I, a puzzlement. © Richard S. Ginell /TiVo
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Pop - Released August 29, 1988 | Warner Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
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Jazz - Released November 13, 2020 | Provogue

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Recorded at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in 2019, Weekend in London captures legendary singer/guitarist George Benson in an intimate performance that marks his first official concert recording in 30 years. Produced by Kevin Shirley, the album finds Benson framed in illustrious fashion, backed by a funky jazz ensemble, strings, and a horn section. In many ways, the record brings to mind his classic 1978 live album Weekend in L.A. and finds him reinvestigating many of his most beloved recordings. The album opens with an effusive take on his 1980 hit "Give Me the Night" that perfectly sets the tone for the vintage '70s and early-'80s soul-jazz vibes that follow. We get equally inspired readings of cuts like "Turn Your Love Around," "Nothing's Gonna Change My Love for You," and "Never Give Up on a Good Thing." Benson also dips into his varied catalog, offering a rendition of Dave Bartholomew's "I Hear You Knocking" off his 2019 album Walking to New Orleans: Remembering Chuck Berry and Fats Domino, as well as a stirring take on Donny Hathaway's "The Ghetto," which he first covered on 2000's Absolute Benson. Although 76 years old at the time of recording, Benson sounds as engaged as ever, even as his bright tenor croon has gained just a modicum of grit and gravitas in the years since Weekend in L.A. marked him as an R&B superstar. Weekend in London is a fitting showcase for Benson's smooth jazz skills and a further reminder of his soulful legacy. © Matt Collar /TiVo
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Pop - Released February 27, 2015 | Rhino - Warner Records

The Ultimate Collection is quite different from the two-disc George Benson overviews that preceded it, including The George Benson Anthology. Like that 2000-released set, this one was also issued through Rhino, though there are only 17 tracks of overlap. The Ultimate Collection has even less in common with Legacy's The Essential George Benson (2006), which naturally favors Benson's Columbia and CTI output. The heart here is 1976-1983, an era during which Benson recorded for Warner and was regularly listed in the Top Ten of the Billboard R&B singles chart. All of those tremendous major hits are here, as are some less popular but solid A-sides and deeper cuts from that period. Only one selection, "White Rabbit," predates the 1976 commercial breakthrough "Breezin'," while several of Benson's varied albums from 20/20 through Inspiration: A Tribute to Nat King Cole, released on Warner, GRP, and Concord, among other labels, are represented in some form. The smart selections, along with the liner notes, make for a fine representation of Benson's career from the late '70s through 2013. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Jazz - Released May 23, 2000 | Verve Reissues

George Benson is well embarked on the third phase of his career, and Absolute Benson, though unfortunately titled (it sounds like a compilation, but is actually an album of new recordings) is another in a series of consistently excellent CDs that characterize it. Benson excited traditional jazz fans in the 1960s and early '70s with his albums of inventive guitar playing on Columbia, A&M, and CTI, records that made him seem the logical successor to Wes Montgomery. Then, in 1976, he moved to Warner Bros. Records and recorded Breezin', featuring the single "This Masquerade," on which he sang, and suddenly he became a million-selling pop vocalist who happened to play guitar, seemingly the logical successor to Nat "King" Cole. That, of course, made him anathema to traditional jazz critics. After a decade, however, his pop success began to diminish, and by the end of the decade he was making another move -- to contemporary jazz. By the 1990s, he was restricting his vocal excursions to a few tracks on each disc, and his albums began to top the contemporary jazz album charts consistently. His move from Warner Bros. to GRP, a label devoted to contemporary jazz, confirmed the transition. Absolute Benson is his third GRP release, and on it he turns in a varied set, accompanied by Joe Sample on keyboards; Carlos Hernandez or Christian McBride on bass; Vidal Davis, Steve Gadd, or Cindy Blackman on drums; and Luis Conte or Luisito Quintero on percussion. Four of the nine tracks feature vocals of one sort or another. On the leadoff track, "The Ghetto," Benson (accompanied by five background vocalists) sings a few words, and on "Come Back Baby," he takes a real lead vocal, while on "El Barrio" and "Medicine Man" he only scats along with his guitar playing in his familiar style. But none of these performances is a conventional pop vocal performance. Similarly, Benson flirts with various pop music styles, covering Donny Hathaway's "The Ghetto," Stevie Wonder's "Lately," and Ray Charles' "Come Back Baby" for elements of R&B and blues, while "El Barrio" has a Latin feel. But he employs these styles as flavorings, the main course of which always remains his melodic guitar playing. His lead work in "Jazzenco" is particularly notable, but throughout the disc he plays with assurance in a manner his fans will recognize and appreciate. If it is difficult to crossover from jazz to pop, crossing back can be just as treacherous. Benson's oldest fans, who later became his detractors, still may not be satisfied with his current approach, but it has deservedly won him a secure place in contemporary jazz. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Blues - Released April 26, 2019 | Provogue Records

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From his origins as Wes Montgomery’s worthy heir to the funky Give Me the Night, his cover of On Broadway, his partnering with Al Jarreau, his participation on the Gorillaz’s The Now Now and his tributes to Nat King Cole, George Benson has always shown that he handles large tasks with ease. But above all, he remains one of the best jazz guitarists of his generation, whatever the style. At 76 years old, the funky virtuoso from Pittsburgh pays homage to the Mecca of music, New Orleans, and two pioneers of rock’n’roll that were lost to the world in 2017, Chuck Berry and Fats Domino. The record features ten covers by the two geniuses that George Benson performs with a sense of refinement. His bluesy style and ferocious skill are even held back slightly. In its place the guitarist offers a tribute of class, temperance and subtlety. ©Max Dembo/Qobuz
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Jazz - Released April 12, 2011 | Masterworks Jazz

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1969 | A&M

Just three weeks after the U.S. release of the Beatles' swan song, Abbey Road, Creed Taylor ushered George Benson into the studio to begin a remarkably successful pop-jazz translation of the record (complete with a parody of the famous cover, showing Benson with guitar crossing an Eastern urban street). It is a lyrical album, with a hint of the mystery and a lot of the cohesive concept of the Beatles' original despite the scrambled order of the tunes. Benson is given some room to stretch out on guitar, sometimes in a bluesy groove, and there are more samples of his honeyed vocals than ever before (oddly, his voice would not be heard again by record-buyers until he signed with Warner Bros.). Don Sebesky's arrangements roam freely from baroque strings to a full-throated big band, and Freddie Hubbard, Sonny Fortune, and Hubert Laws get some worthy solo space. Yet for all its diversity, the record fits together as a whole more tightly than any other George Benson project, thanks to his versatile talents and the miraculous overarching unity of the Beatles' songs. One wonders if the Fab Four liked it, too. © Richard S. Ginell /TiVo
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Pop - Released July 14, 2009 | Rhino - Warner Records

In order to produce what it thought would be a definitive two-LP retrospective on George Benson, Warner Bros. raided not only its own archives but also those of A&M, Arista, and CTI. For added sales appeal, Warners inserted two new recordings, one of which ("Turn Your Love Around") became another huge hit single, rising to number five on the pop charts. As of 2008, Collection remained the most inclusive Benson sampler, though far from a definitive one due in part to the scarcity of instrumentals. Of course, the big Warner Bros. vocal hits are here ("This Masquerade," "On Broadway," "Give Me the Night"), plus an artistic triumph like "Moody's Mood," but only one WB instrumental ("Breezin'") can be heard. From Arista, it's strictly pop: "The Greatest Love of All" and the duet with Aretha Franklin, "Love All the Hurt Away." The A&M choices "Last Train to Clarksville" and "Here Comes the Sun" could have been better, but the two CTIs, "White Rabbit" and the great "Cast Your Fate to the Wind," are excellent representatives. Unfortunately, when it came time to squeeze Collection onto one CD, Warners in its corporate wisdom chose to delete one cut -- and wouldn't you know, it was "Cast Your Fate"! In other words, hunt for the LPs. © Richard S. Ginell /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2011 | Concord Jazz

Guitar Man, George Benson's second offering for Concord stands in contrast to 2009's Songs and Stories, though is not an about face. While the earlier album focused on Benson's proven, decades-long formula for pop and smooth jazz -- a group of of easy grooving tunes featuring his silky voice and shimmering guitar work -- this set focuses (primarily) on Benson as a contemporary jazz guitarist. While slickly produced by John Burk, this full-length is an ambitious but readily accessible collection with lithe, languid grooves and stellar playing. Primarily arranged by musical director/keyboardist David Garfield, Guitar Man contains eight instrumentals, which include beautiful solo readings of the standards "Tenderly," which opens the disc, and "Danny Boy." There is a lush, balladic, string-laden arrangement of the Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand" -- a consciously chosen reminder of Benson's work at A&M. Another highlight is his very contemporary but digified reading of John Coltrane's "Naima," which is simply gorgeous. It begins largely solo before the band enters halfway through, led by Harvey Mason's empathic drumming. The reading of "Tequila" here is warm, funky, and fun, with fine piano work by Joe Sample and percussion by Lenny Castro. Likewise, the reading of Arlen's and Harburg's "Paper Moon" displays beautiful interplay between Benson and Sample. Of the vocal tunes, the cover of Stevie Wonder's "My Cherie Amour" is the standout, but "My One and Only Love," with a long solo guitar intro, is very fine too. The set ends with two vocal tunes that contrast nicely. First is a very soulful treatment of the Buddy Johnson nugget "Since I Fell for You," with his voice and guitar accompanied only by Garfield's piano. Guitar Man finishes with Ronnie Foster's Latin-tinged groover "Fingerlero." Sample, Mason, and Castro star on the tune and Benson scats in trademark tandem with his guitar lines, sending it off in a contemporary jazz mode. As a guitarist, Benson is still at the top of his game; his musical eclecticism and his on-target accessibility are refined and equally reflected here. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2009 | Concord Records

George Benson's sound is so recognizable that, in its way, it's quite comforting to hear his voice or his guitar come across on the radio or in a club. His recordings have been polished and extravagant in many cases, but there are those signature elements -- his relaxed delivery and silky touch on the strings and his voice, as evocative as a cool breeze floating across a hot summer night. Songs and Stories doesn't deviate from his formula a great deal, but it doesn't have to. He's chosen ten ubiquitous pop tunes from a variety of songwriters (and one by a relatively new kid on the block), and with the help of producers John Burk and Marcus Miller, he puts them across in fine style. The set opens with James Taylor's "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight," with the great Brazilian guitarist Toninho Horta on acoustic to contrast with Benson's electric. The tune simply eases down into the listener, and more than a desperate plea as it was in Taylor's case, this version is a request that offers plenty of rhythm -- courtesy of a beatbox by Butterscotch and Paulinho Da Costa's percussion. Another standout on the set is the slow strolling version of Bill Withers' "A Telephone Call Away," with guest vocalist Lalah Hathaway in duet, Gerald Albright's saxophone, and Bobby Sparks II's B-3 all adding to the band's textural palette. Following it is an intimate small-group setting of a cover of "Someday We'll All Be Free" by Lalah's late father, Donny Hathaway. Young Southern soul singer/songwriter Marc Broussard contributes "Come in from the Cold" to the mix. Benson is accompanied by Tom Scott on saxophones, guitarist Jubu, Miller's bass, and Sparks' Hammond, embellished by some nice Rhodes work by Greg Phillinganes. The reading of Tony Joe White's "Rainy Night in Georgia" is unusual, and laden with strings, but it works because Benson doesn't try to create a definitive version of anything; he simply creates his own. There are also two fine surprises at the end of the disc: an excellent version of Smokey Robinson's "One Like You" with a large ensemble; and a downright funky take on Lamont Dozier's "Living in High Definition," which is sure to be a hit at contemporary jazz radio. Benson, Jubu, and Wah Wah Watson all contribute electric guitars, with Miller playing vibes as well as laying down layers of beats atop his own string arrangements. Benson fans should have a ball with Songs and Stories. It's consistently smooth in texture, its arrangements are elegant, and it's sequenced beautifully. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2013 | Concord Records

George Benson's place as one of the greatest and most successful guitarists in the history of jazz is secure, but what's easy to forget sometimes is that he began his career as a vocalist, and if this release, a tribute to Nat King Cole, comes as any kind of surprise, it shouldn't. Benson's and Cole's careers are remarkably similar, both becoming known first as instrumentalists, Cole as a pianist, and Benson, of course, as a guitarist, with both eventually easing into the pop mainstream because of their voices. Cole was a one of a kind vocalist, of course, and even Benson wouldn't claim to equal him as a singer, but Benson has a similarly soothing and lush tenor voice that more than holds its own on these familiar songs. The album is bookended by two versions of the Cole classic "Mona Lisa," the first a rare recording of Benson at the age of eight singing it sweetly and charmingly while playing ukulele, while the album closes with a full big-band, Nelson Riddle-arranged orchestral version that also features some sweet guitar from Benson. In between are warm, smooth, and soothing versions of "Walking My Baby Back Home" and "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter," a bouncing and bopping "Route 66," and nice takes on "Unforgettable" (featuring Wynton Marsalis), "When I Fall in Love" (featuring Idina Menzel), "Smile" (featuring Till Brönner), and "Too Young" (featuring Judith Hill), all given the full big-band orchestral treatment from the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra conducted by Randy Waldman (Waldman also arranged several of the pieces here). It all adds up to a sweet and very impressive album, full of warmth and heart, and it swings where it should. © Steve Leggett /TiVo
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Jazz - Released November 10, 1995 | Warner Records

Unlike Collection, Warner Bros.' second George Benson compilation Best of George Benson only draws from the label's own catalog, so by definition it is a less representative sampler. And even then, it does not give a thorough overview of Benson's 17-year tenure at Warner Bros. Understandably for a best-of album, it concentrates on such hot-selling Benson vocal hits as "This Masquerade," "Give Me the Night," "Turn Your Love Around" and "On Broadway." Yet there is not so much as a single instrumental -- which borders on the criminal -- nor anything from Benson's last five Warners albums, the last three of which (Tenderly, Big Boss Band, Love Remembers) contain a good deal of his best mature work, if not any hits. For those only interested in George Benson, chartmaker, this will do. Otherwise, pass right by. © Richard S. Ginell /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1968 | Verve Reissues

No, you're not in Creed Taylor country yet, but you might as well be, for many of the ingredients that would garnish Benson's albums with Taylor are already present in this often enjoyable prototype. The immediate goal was to groom Benson as the next Wes Montgomery (who was about to leave Verve) -- and so he covers hit tunes of the day ("Sunny," "Along Comes Mary," "Groovin'"), playing either with a big band plus voices or a neat quintet anchored by Herbie Hancock, and the sound is contoured to give his guitar a warm mellow ambience. But the eclectic Benson is his own man, as his infectious repeated-interval rhythm trademark tells us on his self-composed title track, and despite Tom McIntosh's mostly lame arrangements, George's work is always tasty and irresistibly melodic. © Richard S. Ginell /TiVo
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Jazz - Released June 15, 1984 | Verve Reissues

Most of the tracks from Benson's two Verve albums, Giblet Gravy and Goodies, were deposited here in one of the label's earliest CDs. As such, it exists to plug a small hole in the collections of Benson fans, for it is hardly a prime choice if you want a representative Benson sampler. © Richard S. Ginell /TiVo
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Funk - Released January 1, 2005 | LRC Ltd. - Groove Merchant Records

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Pop - Released November 10, 1995 | Warner Records

Anyone who despaired about the total lack of instrumentals on Warners' unrepresentative The Best of George Benson will be overjoyed by this sequel, Best of George Benson: The Instrumentals, which contains nothing but instrumentals (that may have been the game plan all along). Admittedly, the instrumental pickings in the Warner catalog are slimmer than, say, those for Benson's pre-"This Masquerade" recordings on CBS/CTI and A&M/Verve, and the style is often slanted toward the kind of easy jazz heard on "The Wave" radio format. But Benson could still create funky fireworks with his guitar on tunes like "Dinorah, Dinorah," "Affirmation," and "Weekend in L.A.," and Benson's off-the-cuff fluency is shown off to stunning effect all alone on "Tenderly." The range of albums is more inclusive than that of the earlier set, spanning Benson's long Warner period and even reaching out to the funky-butt title track from his first GRP album, That's Right. If you combine this album and the vocal Best Of collection, you'll get an excellent summary of George Benson over a span of 20 years. © Richard S. Ginell /TiVo
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Jazz - Released December 3, 1968 | Verve Reissues

Verve needed one more album from Benson after he signed with A&M/CTI, and ended up with a strange grab-bag in which Benson plays superbly throughout, whatever the odd goulash of sounds in back of him. Horace Ott's string arrangements are overbearing in scope and undernourished in tone; at times they don't even seem in sync with Benson's group. The big band tracks -- "Song For My Father" in particular -- are more tolerable, and the gospel singing of the Sweet Inspirations is harmless. There is one high-spirited Benson vocal, "That Lucky Old Sun," and it strikes fire. Perversely perhaps, the choice cut is a surprisingly hard-driven "Windmills Of Your Mind," in which Benson fights off the cheesy arrangement with some powerfully rhythmic work (watch out for the shattering psychedelic ending!). © Richard S. Ginell /TiVo