ARTIST: George Benson
YEAR RELEASED: 1976
CHART ACTION: #1, #1 R&B, #1 Jazz
SINGLES: This Masquerade (#10, #3 R&B), Breezin’ (#63, #55 R&B)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: In the background at the dentist’s maybe?
LINEUP: George Benson, Jorge Dalton, Ronnie Foster, Phil Upchurch, Ralph MacDonald, Stanley Banks, Harvey Mason
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Long time jazz guitarist who had dipped his toe into pop and R&B in the past plunges full force into that market.
SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: There are a lot of George Benson records out before this one. I decided to move all of his Prestige, Columbia, A&M and CTI label stuff to my jazz playlists for futher exploration down the road, and am reviewing his stuff when he focused on the pop charts.
First off, you KNOW “Breezin’”. How many media outlets have used that as filler music? Benson no doubt made serious coin just for that. But the next track, “This Masquerade” introduces Benson as a serious R&B crooner with the added benefit of him being able to play a mean jazz guitar and scat the notes during the solo. It sounds impressive.
Yet, this is part of the dumbing down of what smooth jazz became. Nice, pleasant, but no risk taking or any desire to take you into places you’ve never been before. (See the fusion records of Miles Davis or the Mahavishnu Orchestra). Soon, it became almost a necessity for jazz musicians who wanted record sales to smooth it out a bit (like Weather Report post Heavy Weather).
The performances are slick, tight, well produced. After the hits, it’s kind of the same routine as the first two cuts and nothing was challenging or exciting – not even the guitar workouts. It sounds like elevator stuff, or things for the bachelor pad when wearing Sex Panther.
NOTES & MINUTIAE: One of Benson’s jazz albums was a jazz rendition of Abbey Road – much like Booker T. & the MG’s.
IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Some bonus cuts and what not.
GRADE: C+: Just kind of meh. Well played meh and the two hits are nice to hear. But meh. (At least to me – Ron Burgundy probably loved it).