George Benson is truly a legend; a guitarist of unparalleled chops and a vocalist with great emotional range and sophistication, and his latest release finds him at his very best! Songs and Stories is a collection of tune... more »s penned by some of the most prolific and enduring songwriters of the last half-century such as James Taylor, Smokey Robinson, Lamont Dozier, Bill Withers, Donny Hathaway, and several others. The album also includes guest performances by David Paich, Gerald Albright, Lalah Hathaway, Lee Ritenour, Norman Brown, Patti Austin, Steve Lukather, Tom Scott and many more.« less
George Benson is truly a legend; a guitarist of unparalleled chops and a vocalist with great emotional range and sophistication, and his latest release finds him at his very best! Songs and Stories is a collection of tunes penned by some of the most prolific and enduring songwriters of the last half-century such as James Taylor, Smokey Robinson, Lamont Dozier, Bill Withers, Donny Hathaway, and several others. The album also includes guest performances by David Paich, Gerald Albright, Lalah Hathaway, Lee Ritenour, Norman Brown, Patti Austin, Steve Lukather, Tom Scott and many more.
"Veteran smooth jazz guitar master George Benson is no one-dimensional purveyor of musical wallpaper. He is, without question, one of the few remaining true musical legends. Guitar is his genius, but it is George Benson's voice that is his fame and fortune. It is 30 years since Benson made a similar strategic decision to go with the smooth, choosing mass appeal over the affection of a chin-stroking jazz minority. It means that today the 66-year old is able to step sprightly forth to an introduction that describes him portentously as "ten-time Grammy award winner George Benson". Few musicians master even one style of writing and performing in their lifetime, but Benson has at least two under his belt - soulful R&B and authentic Wes Montgomery-style jazz guitar. The fact that he works in two camps should work against him, but it didn't. Jazz fans ought to be horrified that he sings pop songs, while the R&B fans should be scratching their heads when he starts playing be-bop guitar lines. Somehow he pulls everyone together, though, and gets roars of approval whether he's singing seductively a deep and velvety ballad, or pulling off the kind of guitar licks that Django Reinhardt would have been proud of. This recording is another snapshot of a career that has spanned nearly five decades and many successful albums, and it wires towads the smooth side. The beauty of the set is the band's ability to move between genres Soul, Jazz, Funk and back again. It's a mixed bag, older songs such as Donny Hathaway's "Someday We'll All be Free" matched by some new pop tunes such as Marc Broussard's "Come in From The Cold". "Songs and Stories" is wide-ranging enough to cover a swaying, uptempo version of James Taylor's "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight" - featuring the excellent Tonhino Horta on acoustic guitar and Paulinho da Costa on percussion - and Bill Withers' "A Telephone Call Away", a laidback, 80's style groove which features the ubiquitous (and sometimes over-rated) Lalah Hathaway on vocals. Another highlight is the gorgeous, anthemic "Someday We'll All Be Free", which receives a beautiful small jazz band treatment here, without reaching though the height of the masterful, prime jazz version by the incomparable Regina Belle on Baby Come to Me: The Best of Regina Belle, track # 9. But then, this is the good thing of this album, George Benson plays in such a relaxed fashion, never pretending to offer his audience the definitive versions or to strike it with masterpieces, and without being too formulaic and repetitive. Many guests join in: the Perri Sisters and Patti Austin on background vocals, Greg Phillinganes on keyboards, Tom Scott and Gerald Albright on sax, Marcus Miller -who co-produces with John Burk - on bass, Jubu and Lee Ritenour on guitar and more. George Benson is quite capable of providing a five-star masterpiece, which "Songs And Stories"" is not. Nonetheless, this release has more pluses than minuses. This is another winning number and a very strong selection of Smooth Jazz grooves that mixes in Funk and Fusion. As usual, Benson's playing is soulful, smoothly evocative and fluid. And very enjoyable. You will love this elegant, feel-good album. Enjoy! Update. The album debuts at # 1 of the Billboard Top Jazz Albums. Issue date: September 12, 2009."
Something Old, Something New
Dr. Feel | GA United States | 08/25/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"George Benson is back after being off the scene for a while with his new CD "Songs And Stories". Truly a musical legend and icon with is own inimitable style, Benson has covered nearly every musical territory around including jazz, R&B, pop and back to jazz again. After nearly fifty years in the biz, he still has the vocal chops and guitar licks that made him one of the best and most beloved jazz artists ever.
Produced by John Burk and bassist Marcus Miller, "Songs And Stories" offers good music from beginning to end, with an array of talented writers and guest musicians that are almost all household names to any music fan. Benson does several remakes of classic ballads here, including "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight" (James Taylor), "Someday We'll All Be Free" (Donny Hathaway), "Rainy Night In Georgia" (Brook Benton), and "Sailing" (Christopher Cross). His rendition of "Someday..." is just outstanding, both vocally and musically, with a great guitar solo.
But the highlight on this CD is "Living In High Definition", a 7-minute up-tempo instrumental perfectly suited for cruising, where Benson does his signature scatting-in-sync-with-guitar. This song is just awesome. I heard it on the radio a month prior to the CD's release and I was instantly hooked. I just had to buy this one! (Surprisingly, "Living In High Definition" was written by the legendary Motown composer Lamont Dozier).
The other highlight is "Exotica", also an instrumental where Benson cuts loose on his guitar, accompanied by Patti Austin on vocal fills. The aptly titled "Nuthin' But A Party" really funks it up with featured guest Norman Brown on guitar and of course, Marcus Miller on bass. "Come In From The Cold" has a bouncy Memphis soul feel to it, complete with that "Al Green-style" Hammond B3 organ arrangement. The downside to the CD is the bluesy yet uninspiring "A Telephone Call Away", featuring Lalah Hathaway. But overall, "Songs And Stories" is a very nice CD, with outstanding vocals and superb musicianship. This one should definitely be added to your George Benson collection. "
HE SET THE STANDARD AND KEEPS IT HIGH 30+ YEARS LATER
Alan Dorfman | DELRAY BEACH, FL United States | 08/29/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Although well-known and respected prior, George Benson's 1976 million-selling album "Breezin'," with its Record Of The Year Grammy Award winning cover of Leon Russell's "This Masquerade," almost single-handedly created the genre of contemporary/smooth jazz. Approximately 33 1/3 years later his new CD "Songs And Stories" proves he is still the master of the form and is still in top form both instrumentally and vocally.
Flawlessly produced and brilliantly recorded, "Songs And Stories" presents us with tunes by great writers such as James Taylor ("Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight,") Rod Temperton of Heatwave and "Thriller" fame ("Family Reunion"), Bill Withers ("A Telephone Call Away",) Tony Joe White ("Rainy Night In Georgia"), Smokey Robinson ("One Like You") and Christopher Cross ("Sailing"), all with those special, smooth George Benson vocals and guitar.
If George's presence alone is not enough for you, he has surrounded himself with a "who's who" of studio musicians and vocalists including co-producer Marcus Miller on bass, Greg Phillinganes and Rod Temperton on keyboards, Tom Scott and Gerald Brown on saxophones, Wah Wah Watson and Norman Brown on guitars, Paulinho Da Costa on perccussion and Lalah Hathaway and Patti Austin on featured and background vocals. Not surprisingly everyone is at the top of their game and George Benson is not afraid to step back and let them shine.
There is not a weak cut on the CD but my special favorites are "Show Me The Love" in which, for all intents and purposes, George becomes a member of Toto, the truly soulful rendition of Donny Hathaway's "Someday We'll All Be Free," the wonderful horn arrangement from Tom Scott on "Come In From The Cold," and the extended swinging tour-de-force "Living In High Definition" with its perfect cooling down successor "Sailing."
George Benson invented the formula and could just phone it in as some of his fellow smooth jazz artists sadly do and it would still work. But this is a vivid, engaging, energizing and delicious musical confection. Still breezin' after all these years - and we the listeners are the better for it."
Lacking in originality
Ritenour/Grusin fan | Singapore | 09/12/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Mr Benson can't make a bad album if he tried. But this album stops at just being "good" and not great. In my humble opinion, making an album containing covers is a tough act when the originals are already so great. Furthermore, I don't feel that he has added any creative twists or new perspectives to put the original songs in a whole new light. The other songs, newly penned by Mr Benson's favourite composers for the album, are nice... but do they stand out from the crowd? Are they slated to be evergreen hits to linger in our memory. Sadly, no.
After his long absence from the scene, I was hoping for some new direction in his efforts. His amazing, unique voice is still present, though lacking a bit in fire now compared to his legendary "Give Me The Night" or Rod Temperton masterworks like "In Your Eyes".
Finally, after repeated analysis of the session musicians' contribution to the laid-back album, I fail to sense any of the greatness usually demonstrated by greats like David Paich, Lee Ritenour, Patti Austin or Steve Lukather.
I tried really hard to love Songs and Stories, but despite the Emperor's trumpeted new clothes, my ears tell me he really isn't fully clothed."