There are two George Bensons in my opinion. We have the FM radio smooth jazz George that gave us the hit “On Broadway”. On the other side of the coin is George the Wes Montgomery clone. The later named guy is the musician that gave us albums like “Giblet Gravy” and “Witchcraft”. When Benson’s latest release “Songs and Stories” hit my desk I was hoping to hear the latter George. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case.
Let me premise this by saying “Songs and Stories” isn’t a bad disk. It is a formula disk. It is classic R&B with great musician ship and beautiful vocals. George even has some great guitar licks on the album. Still I find myself longing for George to let the guitar do the talking for him.
The album is wall to wall with 70’s instrument tones. Fender Rhodes and bass guitars with phase shifters are all over the funkier tunes. The arrangements even seem a bit dated. This includes the three instrumental songs on the album “Exotica”, “Living in High Definition” and “Sailing”.
“Exotica” is the one song that features George’s guitar prominently. The gritty bluesy runs of the past are replaced with standard sugary sweet runs; you get the felling George is phoning this in.
“Living in High Definition” makes you feel like you should be in a roller disco. The guitar is much more imaginative. It is not enough to distract me from what sounds like the Tijuana Brass in the background with the porno wah-wah rhythm guitar. Then the scat singing begins and I am all set with this song.
The bright spot on the CD is the cover of 70’s hit “Sailing” by Christopher Cross. The guitar is fantastic. The mix is stripped down of those huge synth sounds and horn blasts. “Sailing” actually sounds like jazz.
If you are Billy Dee Williams or “Ladies Man” Leon Phelps slip on your velvet smoking jacket, light the fireplace and pop this CD in the stereo. Then get ready for some sweet lovin’.
Me I think I am going to dust off my copy of “Giblet Gravy” and enjoy some classic George Benson.