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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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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 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 January 21, 2011 | Masterworks Jazz

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Jazz - Released January 1, 2006 | Concord Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
Givin' It Up finds crossover jazz icons guitarist George Benson and vocalist Al Jarreau teaming up for a breezy, enjoyably melodic session that highlights both artists' long careers. Technically a duo album, it is Benson's first since signing with Concord Records. As such, it works as a nice reintroduction to both artists and even finds them reworking the Bobby Womack classic "Breezin'," which Benson originally covered on his 1976 album of the same name. Here listeners get Jarreau adding lyrics and vocals on a version that really evokes the classic '70s jazz-meets-R&B sound that was an original hallmark of smooth jazz. In that sense, Givin' It Up is a true joy for fans of that more organic, song-oriented approach to crossover music, with Benson and Jarreau digging in to such great songs as Seals & Crofts' "Summer Breeze," John Legend's "Ordinary People," and Darryl Hall's "Every Time You Go Away." Also adding some unexpected fun and celebrity sheen to the proceedings is an impromptu appearance by Paul McCartney, who joins in on Sam Cooke's gospel-inflected "Bring It on Home to Me." Throw in appearances by trumpeter Chris Botti, vocalist Patti Austin, pianist Herbie Hancock, and bassist Marcus Miller and Stanley Clarke, and Givin' It Up proves music is always fun with a little help from your friends. © Matt Collar /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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Pop - Released January 1, 1978 | 143 - Warner Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - The Qobuz Standard
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Jazz - Released March 1, 2001 | Rhino - Warner Records

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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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Funk - Released January 1, 2005 | LRC Ltd. - Groove Merchant Records

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

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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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Jazz - Released January 1, 2007 | A&M Jazz

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
This A&M/CTI debut album by George Benson signaled the arrival of a true star in the jazz scene. Creed Taylor signed Benson immediately after Wes Montgomery's passing in 1968 -- he was being groomed for it by Verve's house producer, Esmond Edwards, and arranger, Tom McIntosh, before he ever came to CTI. Taylor paired Benson with arranger Don Sebesky (who had done plenty of work on Montgomery's A&M sides) and engineer Rudy Van Gelder. Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter (both members of the Miles Davis Quintet with whom Benson had guested earlier that year), bassist Richard Davis, and pianist Hank Jones were all guests. Benson's core band for these dates included organist Charlie Covington, drummer Leo Morris, and conguero Johnny Pacheco. The usual strings, supplemental horns, and backing voices in certain places (all Sebesky trademarks) are in place as well. All the stuff is here for Benson to fit neatly into the Montgomery mold -- except for one thing: Benson is a strong-willed artist. He wasn't going anywhere he didn't want to go and insisted on a certain amount of control on the date, and it's all for the better. This is one steamy little album that starts innocently enough with a lithe soul-jazz tune called "Footin' It," written by Benson and Sebesky. The flutes and cellos answer the head played by Benson. The strings fall in exotically as Benson begins to stretch and Covington answers with funk. Benson's guitar is not as smooth as Montgomery's; there is a defined edge in it and it's deep in the cut. Another interesting move was an experiment by Benson to use the Varitone device with Les Paul-like variable speed overdubs on his guitar. Covington alternately talks back and drones as Davis digs hard into the changes and keeps it simple but pronounced. Pacheco, like Benson, just goes nuts. By the time the strings and flute enter near the end your mind is already blown. Barry Mann wrote the cut as the theme song for a teensploitation flick called Wild in the Streets, and it was performed by Davie Allan & the Arrows. Benson turns it into a solid psychedelic soul-jazz number -- no grooves get lost; they just get under your skin. And so it goes through this set, from the radical revision of "Chattanooga Choo Choo" to Teddy White and Aretha Franklin's "Don't Let Me Lose This Dream," a sweeping, slightly Latinized soul number given full jazz treatment -- the only facsimile concession that Benson makes to the Montgomery memory on the disc. Sebesky's huge brass arrangements pump the tune into something really progressive and tight. Covington soars on it as well, but leaves plenty of space for Benson's righteous solo. Benson contributes his own nocturnal jazzy blues with "Shape of Things That Are and Were," as if to say "I'm not Wes; that was yesterday." Sebesky's horn chart is punchy and underscores the blues in the tune, and the guitarist plays a killer solo in a relaxed, open manner, seducing the listener for the closer. Introduced by a lonesome, blues-drenched harmonica playing solo, as if in a freight yard, Benson and Sebesky turn in a funky jazz rave-up of Boyce & Hart's hit "Last Train to Clarksville." Other than the overly familiar melody line, this cut just takes off, with big bright horns, Morris double-timing the band, Carter half-timing it, and Benson digging into both multi-string chord leads and single-string leads that he twins with Covington's organ about halfway through his break -- this is the sendoff this brilliant album deserves. Shape of Things to Come is the true signal of Benson's arrival, not only as a major soloist, but as an artist who refuses to be pinned down four decades later. He's a pop star, a genius guitarist, a singer, a songwriter, and even now his own man. This is an album that deserves its classic status and wears it well these many years later. © Thom Jurek /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 June 18, 1993 | Warner Records

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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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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, 1970 | Warner Records

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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, 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