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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 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
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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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Jazz - Released January 1, 1970 | Warner Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
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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 January 1, 1978 | 143 - Warner Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - The Qobuz Standard
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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 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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Jazz - Released January 1, 1981 | Hollywood Records

The Best covers the years 1969-1970, the years A&M was affiliated with Creed Taylor's CTI. Often with Taylor productions, an individual player's style was muted due to the overpowering and often overly orchestrated productions. To make matters even more curious, young Benson stepped into the production scheme and style that typified Wes Montgomery's last three recordings. If anything, the differences between Benson and Montgomery were clear. Montgomery was more vivid and swung harder, and the lows were more extreme. The Best shows that Benson, in contrast, was all but a blank canvas, with his style evolving on some of these very tracks. That being said, this is hit-or-miss stuff. On "Shapes of Things to Come," Benson's quick playing works great in contrast to the song's spacy and oh so "groovy" production. As for mind-blowing concepts, The Best takes the finest songs from Benson's surreal but fun 1969 album, The Other Side of Abbey Road ("You Never Give Me Your Money" fares the best). Other tracks like "My Cherie Amour" and "Footin' It" benefit from stronger production that enlivens his playing. The album's last track, a cover of Aretha Franklin's "Don't Let Me Lose This Dream," has Benson making a great impression, despite the ridiculous horn charts. No doubt this 1981 release was designed to piggyback on Benson's sales and success at Warner Bros. From the perspective of obtaining relatively early work from one of the finest guitar players, The Best isn't half bad. © Jason Elias /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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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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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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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, 1987 | Verve Reissues

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Jazz Fusion & Jazz Rock - Released March 24, 1988 | CBS Associated

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
In Concert -- Carnegie Hall is George Benson's final recording for Creed Taylor's CTI label, and was mostly recorded on one night in 1975. There was some additional recording done at Rudy Van Gelder's studio in 1976, where Taylor replaced the original rhythm section of Wayne Dockery on bass and Marvin Chapell on drums with Will Lee and Steve Gadd, for whatever reason Taylor had at the time. Regardless, this is a solid "live" effort with Benson cooking on all burners, beginning with a monster version of Dave Brubeck's "Take Five," which had been cut on an earlier album and had become a staple in the live set. Organist Ronnie Foster's backing skills here are indispensable, as they keep Benson talking to the other members of the band. The version of "Summertime" here could have been recorded by Phil Spector. The concert version of the tune -- on which Benson takes a vocal -- has been added to with the substitution of the rhythm section and the later addition of a string orchestra in the studio. (Perhaps Taylor understood Benson's crossover appeal; he would cross over into the pop charts on Warner the next year with "This Masquerade.") The crowd dug it, but it's simply OK over the test of time. Hipper is the long snaky groove of Benson's own "Gone," with begins with the steady pulse of Hubert Laws playing a counterpoint foil on flute. The entwining harmonic interplay between the two is gorgeous and goes on for over ten minutes. The band then takes on Freddie Hubbard's "Sky Dive" with real aplomb. The Latin rhythm and slippery guitar by Benson pull the rhythm section up a notch before he begins the head. His funky articulation of fifths and then eighths in his break is mesmerizing. The way Chapell rides the cymbal like a bell is particularly satisfying. The album closes on another Benson original with Laws popping in again. It's called "Octane." Over ten minutes in length, it begins with Benson in full roar before the time signature changes and triples, feeling like a bebop tune more than anything else. Foster keeps it all grounded, but this baby swings so hard it threatens to lift off. In retrospect, listening to this record in the 21st century, it's difficult to imagine Benson making the switch from a classy guitar firebrand to a pop star so quickly. Mosaic Contemporary has brought out a fine remastered edition on CD. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Pop - Released August 29, 1988 | Warner Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
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Jazz - Released August 22, 1989 | CBS Associated

Released in 1989, this anthology is a generous cross-section of tracks from Benson's CTI period, where he consolidated his jazz/soul guitar credentials just before striking gold with Warner Bros. All of the albums except Benson & Farrell are touched upon with one or two tracks, and CBS is enterprising enough to reach a bit further for "I Remember Wes" (from the anthology CTI Masters Of The Guitar) - an octave-laden theme that soon enough turns into pure Benson - and a gentle solo outtake from Bad Benson, "From Now On." The only "unrepresentative" track per se is the vocal on "Summertime," in the sense that there were hardly any vocal tracks to pick from in the CTI catalogue. © Richard S. Ginell /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1990 | Fantasy Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
George Benson was only 21 when, on May 1, 1964, he recorded his first album as a leader, The New Boss Guitar of George Benson. At that point, the guitarist had yet to become a huge name in jazz, although many of those who knew him for his work with Jack McDuff's group (which he joined in 1962) agreed that he showed great potential. Benson still had some growing to do in 1964, but even so, this is an impressive debut. The guitarist had developed a distinctive, recognizable sound on his instrument, and he plays with both feeling and technique on five Benson originals (including the sly "Shadow Dancers," the exuberant "Rock-A-Bye," and the earthy blues "I Don't Know") as well as interpretations of "Easy Living" and "Will You Still Be Mine." Benson, of course, had an insightful teacher in McDuff, who plays both organ and piano on this hard bop/soul-jazz date. Tenor saxophonist Red Holloway, another member of McDuff's early-'60s group, is also on board, as are bassist Ronnie Boykins and drummer Montego Joe. In 1964, Benson's best work was yet to come; nonetheless, this album is historically important as well as rewarding. © Alex Henderson /TiVo
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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 June 18, 1993 | Warner Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard