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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 July 8, 2016 | Columbia - Legacy

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Jazz - Released May 29, 2001 | Rhino - Warner Records

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - The Qobuz Standard - Hi-Res Audio
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Pop - Released July 16, 1980 | Rhino - Warner Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - The Qobuz Standard
This is the peak of George Benson's courtship of the mass market -- a superbly crafted and performed pop album with a large supporting cast -- and wouldn't you know that Quincy Jones, the master catalyst, is the producer. Q's regular team, including the prolific songwriter Rod Temperton and the brilliant engineer Bruce Swedien, is in control, and Benson's voice, caught beautifully in the rich, floating sound, had never before been put to such versatile use. On "Moody's Mood," Benson really exercises his vocalese chops and proves that he is technically as fluid as just about any jazz vocalist, and he become a credible rival to Al Jarreau on the joyous title track. Benson's guitar now plays a subsidiary role -- only two of the ten tracks are instrumentals -- but Q has him play terrific fills behind the vocals and in the gaps, and the engineering gives his tone a variety of striking, new, full-sounding timbres. The instrumentals themselves are marvelous: "Off Broadway" is driving and danceable, and Ivan Lins' "Dinorah, Dinorah" grows increasingly seductive with each play. Benson should have worked with Jones from this point on, but this would be their only album together. © 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 May 29, 2001 | Rhino - Warner Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
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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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Pop - Released June 18, 1993 | Warner Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
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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 August 29, 1988 | Warner Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
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Jazz - Released March 28, 2006 | Columbia - Legacy

The Essential George Benson covers 28 years and spans two discs, so it lives up to its claim of having the widest scope of all the Benson compilations that surfaced before it. While it's impressive that Columbia/Legacy didn't merely mine Columbia and CTI dates, and licensed material from Warner Bros. and Prestige as well (the brief Verve period is unrepresented), you could also say that the label also spread itself thin, with several crucial moments in Benson's career unable to fit. If Columbia/Legacy were honest, they'd position this as more of a sampler with a few curve balls. No matter what era you prefer, you're going to come up short, and it's not as if most people who are curious about Benson are going to be open-minded enough to appreciate both "Clockwise" and the vastly different "Give Me the Night." Some of the surprise selections, which almost outnumber the obvious ones, include an alternate take of "Ode to a Kudu," "Hip Skip" (from Tony Williams' late-'70s Joy of Flying), "Rock Candy" (from Brother Jack McDuff Live!), and "Paraphernalia" (a bizarre pick for any form of anthology, from Miles Davis' Miles in the Sky). Even casual fans won't have to think too hard about essential cuts that aren't here -- "Durham's Turn," "Nature Boy," "The World Is a Ghetto," "Love X Love," and on and on, but the majority of what's here cannot be challenged. This is a way to begin -- not wrap up -- your fascination with Benson. It is representative of the breadth of his career from 1963 through 1980, but it could have just as easily been done a dozen other ways. The sound is vibrant, and Benson's track-by-track commentary adds a nice touch. © Andy Kellman /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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Pop - Released March 15, 1979 | Warner Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
The success of Weekend in L.A. no doubt prompted producer Tommy LiPuma and Warner Bros. to give George Benson another double album (now on one CD) -- and this, like its three Warner predecessors, also went Top Ten. It is also, alas, slicker, more romantic in mood, and more bound by perceptions of formula than the others, fussed over in three different studios in earnest search of another hit single (the dance-tempo cover of L.T.D.'s "Love Ballad"). Most of the touring band, including Ronnie Foster, Ralph MacDonald and Phil Upchurch, is back, and Claus Ogerman's soft symphonic touch provides most of the backdrops, with Mike Mainieri supplying the orchestra on three tracks. Even at this point, the great guitarist is still given much room to burn -- the balance between instrumentals and vocals remains close -- and Benson comes up with some tasty stuff when the rhythm section pushes him on "Nassau Day" and "You're Never Too Far from Me." Ultimately there is just enough jazz content amid the velvet soul to keep guitar buffs interested. © Richard S. Ginell /TiVo
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Pop - Released May 18, 1983 | Warner Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
In search of more platinum, Benson turned to one-time Atlantic Records ace producer Arif Mardin for support. Yet Mardin's best days seemed to be behind him, as this mostly routine package of period R&B backbeats, synthesizer rhythm tracks, and love songs indicates. Any competent soul vocalist could have fit in comfortably here. For jazz fans, Benson's albums at this point became a search for buried treasure, for his guitar time was extremely limited. But when you do encounter a Benson solo, hang on tight. "Love Will Come Again," otherwise a routine soul bumper, concludes with a magnificent solo in octaves that Wes Montgomery would have envied, breathtaking in its economy and swing. Also, check out the instrumental "In Search of a Dream" for proof that George Benson could still burn. © Richard S. Ginell /TiVo
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Soul - Released July 19, 2018 | HHO

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Pop - Released January 15, 1985 | WM Japan

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
George Benson certainly is a good soul vocalist, fervently turning every phrase as if he meant every lovelorn syllable. Here on 20/20, though, he is shackled by stale pop/soul sentiments and one hack arrangement after another, assembled in no less than 17 studios! Russ Titelman, who shows only a flickering awareness of Benson's huge talent, is the producer, spelled twice by the even more commercial Michael Masser. The only bright spots are the tense high-tech title track and -- surprise -- an elegant Count Basie-like treatment of "Beyond the Sea," and with several jazz luminaries in the all-star band and Frank Foster and Ralph Burns handling the chart. There's only one instrumental, "Stand Up," and it ain't much. © Richard S. Ginell /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 May 27, 2008 | Rhino - Warner Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1996 | GRP

George Benson may have changed labels with That's Right, but he didn't change his approach. Like his other '90s albums, That's Right is jazz-inflected quiet-storm soul. It's quietly funky and always grooving, whether he's playing a light uptempo number or a silky ballad. As always, Benson's tone is smooth and supple -- it's a pleasure to hear him play, even if the material he has selected doesn't always showcase his ample skills. In fact, the unevenness in material is the very thing that keeps That's Right from being on par with Benson's early '80s contemporary soul records. Although the sound is right, and Benson's heart is clearly in it, he just doesn't have quite enough memorable melodies to make the album thoroughly engaging. Still, the joy that is readily apparent within his performance makes That's Right a worthy acquisition for fans of Benson's latter-day recordings. © Thom Owens /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