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MUSIC REVIEW: GEORGE BENSON – Weekend In London

| 13 November 2020 | Reply

Label: Provogue Records/Mascot Label Group

Release Date: November 13, 2020

Rating: 85%

Reviewer: Todd “Toddstar” Jolicoeur

Jazz master extraordinaire George Benson took to a small stage at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London and recorded the amazing performance and has released it so his fans and jazz fans in general could join in the fun of the show and 14-tracks culled from his catalog, going back as far as 1976’s “Affirmation” and wrapping up with 2019’s “I Hear You Knocking.”  The show kicked off with two very recognizable tracks when George and his more than capable band worked their way through the one-two punch of “Give Me The Night” and “Turn Your Love Around.”  These songs demonstrate not only the sheer talent of the man as a singer and guitarist, but also the staying power of his musical chops.  The latter being co-written by another guitar virtuoso Steve Lukather.  “In Your Eyes” drips adult oriented radio and I have a fond appreciation for the track I didn’t when I was 14 and hearing it for the first time.  Another favorite of mine made the setlist when the band pulls out “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You,” allowing fans to hear the song as interpreted by Benson, who was the first to release his version of the track.  “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” is a song that was unknown to me before listening through this live recording.  This one showcases Bensons vocals and also has an amazing stretch of guitar work on the bridge and some cool vocals runs as the songs wraps up.  “Moody’s Mood” slows the pace and gives us another look and listen to George’s vocals.  At 76, he doesn’t seem to have lost a step… more than 40 years after originally recording this jazz masterpiece.  The drum fills, piano, keyboards, and other instrumentation swirl together perfectly beneath his voice on this version.  Be sure to sit back and enjoy the duet as percussionist / vocalist Lilliana joins Benson on this track.  “Never Give Up On A Good Thing” has all the components of great performance, from the solid playing to the  layered lead and background vocals to the poppy groove of the music itself.  This is one of the tracks that I feel has a special something woven into it that the original doesn’t have, making it my favorite version of the song.

Another recognizable Benson classic “Love X Love” reflected the staying power of George’s music.  This 1980 track is one of eight featured from that decade.  The most recently recorded track, “I Hear You Knocking” from 2019’s Walking To New Orleans, is a phenomenal cover of the Pearl King & Dave Batholomew track and features a lot of the same swagger and swing the original and the fun that many other covers have had over the years.  “Feel Like Makin’ Love” is another track that I remember from my radio listening days as a teenager trying to find the balance between my love for rock, my recognition of pop, and my enjoyment of most music genres.  This is but one of many songs on this disc that prompted me to dig deep into my collection and listen to some of the original recordings.  “The Ghetto” was the first track I heard from this collection and the reason I decided to take the whole thing for a spin.  The Donny Hathaway classic gets song has a great vibe woven into the performance and production that give this a great groove that begs to put a drink in your hand, a summer breeze in the air, and friends around to enjoy the moment.  “Love Ballad” is an interesting track.  It was originally released by Benson in 1997, but the song could have been lifted sonically from any of his 80’s classics.  The foot tapping cadence and vibe of this track combined with George’s ad lib vocals that run through the bridge with his guitar work make this a great track to just sit back and enjoy.  Benson dipped deepest into his catalog as the show was coming to an end with “Affirmation” showing up one song before the finale.  This instrumental track helps tie together the various pieces of the show, allowing the band to step up and highlight each player and instrument including the the various percussion pieces, the bass and drums that have anchored the show, and the swirl of keyboards and supporting guitar that helped being these songs to life for this performance.  Disc and show closer “Cruise Control” has a funk woven into the instrumental jazz groove that kicks the track off and helps send the show to its end with style and energy, give us as strong two track close as we had open to the show a little over an hour ago.  Do yourself a favor – check the release and the originals out and be your own judge.

Tracklisting: Give Me The Night – Turn Your Love Around – Love X Love – In Your Eyes – I Hear You Knocking – Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You – Feel Like Makin’ Love – Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight – The Ghetto – Moody’s Mood – Love Ballad – Never Give Up On A Good Thing – Affirmation – Cruise Control

Live Lineup: George Benson (vocals, guitar) – Randy Waldman (keyboards) – Stanley Banks (bass) – Thom Hall (keyboards) – Michael O’Neill (guitars) – Khari Parker (drums) – Lilliana De Los Reyes (percussion) – Daniel Mifsud, Jade MacRae, and Mahalia Barnes (backing vocals)

GEORGE BENSON LINKS:

OFFICIAL SITE

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

WEEKEND IN LONDON – ITUNES

Category: CD Reviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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