Friday, June 23, 2017

George Benson – Love Ballad (Extended)

Classics: George Benson – Love Ballad (Warner Bros.)

I’ve ended up considering cover versions as demonstrations of intellectual laziness along with time. If not obvious intends to capitalize on other people’s work. And I’m not even talkin’ about sampling which has become the trend. Therefore coming up as an artifice to hide poverty in terms of songwriting on countless current productions. But, as usual, there are exceptions. These things you come to have a listen to, feeling they bring you to a different territory. And then, here we find another way to showcase the talent. And most likely the ability for some rare artists to reappropriate songs for themselves. Which is pretty much the case regarding George Benson‘s interpretation of L.T.D.‘s ‘Love Ballad’

Vocally speaking, and apart from his scat parts along with his Ibañez guitar which are a part of his signature, Benson sounds quite close to Jeffrey Osborne who sang the lead on the original. Therefore showing much respect to it, although bringing the whole to a way different direction rhythmically speakin’. Strangely enough, and although turned into something away from the slow dance, ‘Love Ballad’ remains what it is. A ballad! But a ballad sounding like an irresistible travelling into groovier territories. With polished arrangements and orchestration under the direction of Michael Mainieri and production work courtesy of Tommy LiPuma.

One of the definitive highlights from the man’s 1979 ‘Livin’ Inside Your Love’ album. N’Dinga Gaba and DJ Spen eventually sampled a fragment of it on ‘Until You’ featuring Marc Evans back in 2008…

Overview
Much of a prodigy, Pittsburgh, PA-born George Benson started playing ukulele in a corner drug store where he got paid a few Bucks at the early age of 7. A year later, he would play guitar in an unlicensed nightclub on Friday and Saturday nights before it got closed down by the police. Two years after, he released his first single record – ‘She Makes Me Mad’ – on RCA-Victor as Little Georgie

He got to prominence in the 60’s playing Soul/Jazz with organist Jack McDuff, before launching his own career, evolving from Jazz to R&B. He defined what would become a unique signature style along the years. A style which one can summarize as singing and scatting in collusion with his unique kind of play inspired by Gypsy Jazz. As if his voice and guitar (an Ibañez) were coming together as one…

The mid-70’s happened to be a turning point for him. Beginning with his arrival on Warner. His partnership with producer Tommy LiPuma, and the release of ‘Breezin’, his debut-LP for the label. An album which marked the beginning of his most successful period commercially speaking. It eventually got him to win a Grammy Award for “Record Of The Year” in 1977. Meanwhile it was also nominated for “Song Of The Year” and for “Best Pop Vocal Performance (Male)”, spawning 2 hit singles: its title song and ‘This Masquerade’.

From then, Benson would embark on an continuous series of successes. Delivering classics such as ‘Nature Boy’, ‘The World Is A Ghetto’ and ‘Give Me The Night’. But also ‘Love Ballad’ or ‘Love X Love’ among others. And eventually working with Masters At Work in the mid-90’s on cuts such as ‘You Can Do It’, ‘Song For My Brother’ and ‘El Barrio’.

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