Soul/R&B Review Vinyl

George Benson: one man and his guitar and that voice and far too much talent

Title: In Flight 

Label: Pure Pleasure

If I had a soundtrack to my (rather embarrassing) 70s-era disco dancing days, then Mr Benson would feature heavily. Give Me The Night (produced by Quincy Jones), just one of several hits issue around this period, introduced this supreme jazz guitarist to the larger, more commercial stage.

And he was just that, one of the best jazz guitarists that there has ever been with an impressive flexibility and adaptability that saw him succeed in straight ahead jazz, the smooth variety of the same, R&B and more. There has rarely been a jazz guitarist who could construct and delivery a guitar solo as Benson could while his rhythm guitar play was supreme.

It’s odd that it was not so much his guitar playing that broke him onto the wide stage but his voice. The Benson voice was smooth and easy and soulful which was immensely appealing to the general public at the time.

Discovered by John Hammond and appearing on albums from luminaries such as Miles Davis, it wasn’t until he passed through the A&M and CTi labels and landed on Warner Bros that he developed his new style in full with 1976’s Breezin’.

This rather funky album with orchestral insights appeared just a year later and featured Benson singing on four of the six included tracks giving a smooth soul performance on songs such as Nature Boy (Benson’s version has a smooth, swinging groove that resembles Stevie Wonder in its style of delivery) and The World Is a Ghetto (complex guitar constructions are to the fore complete with impassioned singing and Benson’s own signature scatting). The two instrumental tracks, including Valdez in the Country, showed the Benson brilliance on guitar.

An attractive album and an important step along the way to Benson becoming a fully fledged charting pop star.

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