Thursday, August 30, 2012
George Benson - Breezin' (1976)
Famous for the tune "This Masquerade," Benson's 1976 release Breezin' catapulted Benson into the pop spotlight. Despite this album being released it's hard to not notice a connection to Benson's long-time label CTI Records. Keeping in mind Creed Taylor's seeming philosophy of mixing the artistic with the commercial seems to really apply to this album to a degree. In many ways Breezin' is a softer side to his work with CTI and Benson definitely "crossed over" more to achieve his pop success. The title track was written by Bobby Womack and the arrangement of Breezin' closely resembles an earlier version by Gábor Szabó, who disdained Benson's commercial success with his work. However, "This Masquerade" is the real commercial success of the album featuring vocals by Benson and his impressive ability to sing in unison with his guitar while soloing. An arrangement of José Feliciano's "Affirmation" is a personal favorite of mine because compared to the rest of the album it is a more intimate track without the massive instrumentation on the majority of the album. This track also meshes well with Benson's cool, lyrical approach to guitar and probably is the best example of the extremes of his technique. Breezin' really is an album of its time with orchestral accompaniment, electric piano, and a cool, laidback feel that is so intimately tied with the mid-1970s in music. However, the album is some of Benson's finest commercial work without compromising his identity as a jazz guitarist. Breezin' was the harbinger of Benson's real pop success to come like "On Broadway" and "Give Me the Night."