George Benson: Absolute Benson
This is George Benson's most satisfying albums in years! It should stand out as a highlight in his discography for years to come. The focus here is on Benson's guitar playing - and he is in fine form throughout! I don't mind his singing, I just think he's a good singer but a great guitarist. As expected, he employs those Wes Montgomery octaves in some spots, and scats and solos in tandem in others, but he's full of new ideas. The album concept and the song selection allow him to explore each tune more deeply than on many of his more commercially-oriented releases.
The disc opens with two Latin numbers. "The Ghetto" (by Donny Hathaway and others) is based on the Carlos Santana Secret Chord Progression (as Frank Zappa once called it) - the two-chord vamp, A minor to D. The tempo and percussive energy pick up on "El Barrio." A major contributor to the success of this album is Joe Sample, both in terms of his always tasteful, elegant playing and his four compositions. Sample's "Deeper Than You Think" and "One on One" are relaxed, contemplative numbers that encourage stretched-out, well-developed solos. "Hipping the Hop" is a light-on-its-feet, tasty, up-tempo jazz number with a touch of light funk (it's not hip-hop as the title suggests); Sample is particularly impressive on piano here. The program takes a soulful turn near the end with the inclusion of Stevie Wonder's ballad "Lately" and Ray Charles' gospel-flavored "Come Back Baby."
Track Listing: The Ghetto; El Barrio; Jazzenco; Deeper Than You Think; One on One; Hipping the Hop; Lately; Come Back Baby; Medicine Man. (48:36)
Personnel: George Benson - guitar, vocals; Joe Sample, Ricky Peterson - piano, Hammond B-3 organ, Wurlitzer, synthesizers; Christian McBride, Carlos Henriquez - bass; Steve Gadd, Cindy Blackman, Vidal Davis - drums; Luis Conte, Luisito Quintero - percussion; Claudia Acuna, Lisa Fischer, India, Roy Ayers, Richard Shade - background vocals.