Monday, May 01, 2017

George Benson – Nature Boy (Warner Bros.)

Classics: George Benson – Nature Boy (Warner Bros.)

On the heels of the 1976 classic ‘This Masquerade’, George Benson evolving once again in a jazzy quite storm mood. And delivering once more a cover version. This time, taking on ‘Nature Boy’ which Eden Ahbez wrote for Nat King Cole back in 1947.
The result is outstanding with the man here as well literally appropriating the song for himself like no other. Therefore, turnin’ it into another classic of his with producer Tommy LiPuma. In that typical style which became his signature… In other words as if he’d come up as a duet. With Benson (the singer) responding with his voice scats to Benson (the guitar player)…

Strangely enough, Warner never gave ‘Nature Boy’ a 12″ release Stateside, but the Brits did thankfully. Quite surprising as well to notice Wikipedia didn’t mention it among the countless cover versions which have surfaced along with time.

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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