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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Songs and Stories

Concord 0888072303645



1. Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight
2. Family Reunion
3. Show Me the Love
4. A Telephone Call Away
5. Someday We'll All Be Free
6. Nuthin' but a Party
7. Come in from the Cold
8. Exotica
9. Rainy Night in Georgia
10. One Like You
11. Living in High Definition
12. Sailing 

Collective personnel
George Benson - Vocals, guitar
Gerald Albright, Tom Scott - Saxophones
Toninho Horta, Jubu, Paul Jackson Jr., Steve Lukather, Wah Wah Watson, Lee Ritenour, Marcelo Lima - Guitars
William Magalhaes - Fender Rhodes
Greg Phillinganes - Fender Rhodes, keyboards, piano
Rod Temperton, David Paich - Keyboards
Bruno Cardozo, Bobby Sparks II - Hammond B3 organ, keyboards
Steve Porcaro - Synthesiser
David Garfield - Piano, organ, keyboards
Marcus Miller - Bass, Fender Rhodes, marimba, keyboards, vibes, percussion, vocals
Butterscotch - Beat box
John "JR" Robinson, Maguinho Alcantara - Drums
Paulinho Da Costa - Percussion
Noel Lee - Wind chimes
Lalah Hathaway - Vocals
Patti Austin - Vocals, background vocals
Norman Brown - Vocals, guitar
Carolyn Perry, Lori Perry, Sharon Perry - Background vocals


Many jazz fans regret the fact that (like Nat "King" Cole) George Benson seemed to be gradually drifting away from the jazz world when he started doing vocals more and more and playing the guitar less and less. The shift is exemplified in the sleeve listing of "George Benson - Vocals, guitar" - not the other way round. Yet he still plays the guitar, although we are unlikely to hear any jazz as forthright as the thrilling stuff he played on early albums like The George Benson Cookbook in 1966.

This new CD is not much different from many of George's previous albums, but at least he chooses quality songs by such composers as James Taylor (Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight) and Smokey Robinson (One Like You). The opening track betrays the influence on Benson's vocals of Ray Charles, although that's a pretty good model. In Show Me the Love and several other tracks, George does his distinctive trick of scatting along with his guitar - either in unison or in harmony - and it's a bewitching sound. A Telephone Call Away has Lalah Hathaway guesting on vocals and sounding mellifluously like Randy Crawford.

Benson's version of Someday We'll All Be Free underlines the resemblance between his vocal style and that of the song's composer, Donny Hathaway. Despite the large number of contributors to this album, Come in from the Cold is marred by a thick, thudding bass. Like several songs on the albums, this is basically a routine funk outing. The worst example is Nuthin' but a Party with an unsubtle drum loop. However, George's personal mix of voice and guitar often adds a touch of class to even a mediocre tune - and brings out the best in a good one. Although very different in many ways, George Benson is similar to B. B. King in having a guitar style that perfectly fits his singing.

The album ends with Sailing (the song by Christopher Cross, not the Rod Stewart anthem), which - because it is mainly an instrumental - hints at what jazz devotees lost when Benson put his emphasis on vocals instead of guitar. The result is an album that is more likely to be filed under "Easy Listening" than "Jazz" - but it is still very agreeable.

Tony Augarde 

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