George Benson – Weekend In London
Live from Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club is this latest George Benson album entitled Weekend In London. It is a great compilation performance of Benson’s classics and several covers that George turns into that slick, smooth jazzy mélange of sound that he perfected. Released in November 2020, Benson’s live performances here still brings everything to the table that he’s famous for; he and his band are spot on and deliver fine renditions of these wildly popular tunes. This album made the circuit for the music awards in 2021 and was nominated for a Blues Blast Award for Best Live Album. Benson cut his musical teeth at this club in the 1970s and he returned there to record this set of 14 songs that are released on Provogue Records.
“Give Me The Night” opens the live set and it’s his great pop soul funk tune that lived on the Top 40 for a long time. George and the band really have fun with it. Originally produced by Quincy Jones, this cut was probably the top of the top of heights for Benson’s pop career. “Turn Your Love Around” continues in that vein with another Benson classic as no one else can do it. The 1980 tune “Love X Love” is next which also made the top 10. Not only Benson had great success with this; Michael Jackson and Mariah Carey also had good runs with it. “In Your Eyes” is another great Benson love song that is up next. “I Hear You Knocking” is George covering the NOLA Smiley Lewis classic; he takes it at a slow, cruising tempo and there’s lots of nice piano here to enjoy. Gerry Goffin’s “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You” first appeared in 1985 on Benson’s 20/20 album. Roberta Flack’s hit “Feel Like Makin’ Love” gets a nice cover; Benson first released this in 1983 and it still sounds cool.
“Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” is a sultry and George Benson-ified version of James Taylor’s hit song. It’s got the pop jazzy soul feel Benson gives to his work and it works here. Elvis Presley’s “The Ghetto” was first released on Donnie Hathaway’s initial album as a mostly instrumental soul funk tune and Benson stays true to that. Next is “Moody’s Mood” where Benson skats a bit and takes this 1949 James Moody and The Modernists’ sax filled jazz improvisation of “I’m In The Mood For Love” that Eddie Jefferson added lyrics to in 1952 and makes it his. “Love Ballad” is up next, something Benson first records for this album. A 1976 single by L.T.D., Benson expresses himself in this tasteful cover. “Never Give Up On A Good Thing” is a 1982 Benson original that still sounds great today. Next is “Affirmation,” Benson’s 1976 top instrumental hit. Written by Jose Feliciano, this song is how I was introduced to Benson right after I graduated college. Smooth, flowing guitar and backing instrumentals make this a classic. The album concludes with “Cruise Control,” his 1998 instrumental from his Standing Together album. Benson is known for his smooth jazz and here we get him laying all the licks out there to enjoy on this big instrumental.
Benson made jazz accessible to the masses with his popular style and easy to listen to phrasing. His guitar work remains impeccable. He’s got a superb band with him here and they deliver the songs that Benson’s fans will enjoy. It’s a great way for new listeners to see what George has done and can continue to do!