Online since August 2002

The greatest bore of all

From the Summer 2003 issue.

The Greatest Hits of All
The Greatest Hits of All
By George Benson

Rhino Records: 2003

To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.

This reminds me of why I quit listening to pop music on the radio in the late '70s: Slick, laughably overdone production, unctuous vocal styles and songwriting that was, for the large part, completely bereft of any discernible depth.

From 1976's "This Masquerade" to 1998's "Standing Together", that was George Benson.

Benson started his career as a straight-up jazz man, putting out a couple of fine albums for the small but prestigious Prestige Records, and even recording a couple of tunes with Miles Davis, adding some stinging guitar lines to "Side Car II" and "Sanctuary," available now on Davis's "Circle in the Round" CD.

Benson's move toward the "pop" end of the music spectrum paid off with huge commercial success – the heights each of these tunes achieved on the pop and r&b charts are included in the liner info here, if you need any reminder. The songs "This Masquerade" and "Breezin'", off the "Breezin'" album, set the tone for the rest of Benson's career to date. This was disco time, and the influence is there, in your face.

Quincy Jones, the producer who burdened the airwaves and our ears with Michael Jackson's "Thriller" album, also worked with Benson in 1980, with similar results: android music, completely devoid of life. "Gimme the Night" and "Love X Love" are his two contributions to this disc. I know Benson must play guitar on these, but the production is so overwrought you'd never notice it. And on Benson's duet with Aretha Franklin, "Love All the Hurt Away," producer Arif Mardin figured out how to leach the soul out of the Queen of Soul's voice – no small feat – making her sound as if she's singing with her head in a metal bucket.

None of which will matter to Benson fans, those who have bought millions of his records. These are, after all, his "Greatest Hits of All," seventy-seven minutes' worth. Those fans will have to have this one.

Review by Dan McClenaghan. Dan is a writer living in Oceanside, Calif. Read his biography on his AllAboutJazz.com page.

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