Wednesday, August 23, 2017

George Benson – This Masquerade (Warner Bros.)

Classics: George Benson – This Masquerade (Warner Bros.)

George Benson taking on where Leon Russell left with his cover version of the 1972 released ‘This Masquerade’. His unique style allowing him to bring it to another dimension. Eventually enhancing the intrinsic power of its message.

Strange to see how, more than 40 years after its release, and despite the change of our environment, it remains so up to date. With obviously more and more of us taken, if not stuck in a lonely game we play in an everyday more virtualized world. Bittersweetness most likely appearing once again as the key to spread realism.

‘This Masquerade’ in a Benson way is an undeniable piece of art. The man reaching a rare emotional level on his vocal delivery, in a progression adding much to his own trademark. Alterning sung parts with sequences. Therefore leaving the necessary space to his guest musicians to sort of respond him. From Phil Upchurch on rhythm guitar to Ronnie Foster on piano and Harvey Mason on drums.

Produced by Tommy LiPuma, the mellow ‘This Masquerade’ would mark the start of Benson‘s most successful period.

Eventually released as a 7 inch single, although better havin’ the 8 minute + album version…

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 succesful 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 the aforementioned.

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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