Weekend in London
Surprises Around Every Corner.
I was pretty damn excited to receive this a few weeks ago, as when I was something of a Soul Boy back in the 1980’s his Livin’ Inside Your Love, In Your Eyes and Give Me The Night LP’s were a major part of my weekend soundtrack; and the relevent singles were bonafide dancefloor fillers at the clubs I haunted too.
Times move on and my music tastes changed; but every now and again these albums or more likely The Collection (now on CD) still get played at Casa Pica Pica; as my wife was and is a big fan too.
Now; as ‘real’ fans know this was only a very short period in George Benson’s career, having started out playing guitar ‘for money’ as an 8 year old and cutting his first discs a year later!
I also re-discovered him via Francis Wolf’s amazing photography book; Blue Note, as the guitarist is there in the mid 1960’s laying down licks on tracks that have become household names!
So; without this turning into a history lesson; let’s leap forward to a ground breaking weekend in 2019 at the legendary Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in the heart of London.
Although he could probably sell out a month of gigs in Vegas; George pays homage to his beginnings by returning to the scene of one his first ever gigs outside the USA.
Now; ‘spoiler alert’ ….. FAO Soul Boys and girls; what follows is a heady brew of Benson’s hits, misses and more; and while Soulful …….. this is George and Band tripping down their Jazz path; and the arrangements may confuse the casual listener (e.g Mrs Magpie!), but steady your nerves as what comes out of your speakers has the capacity to blow your mind!
The Classic and classy Give Me The Night opens proceedings; and in all of the best Jazz traditions ‘features all of the right notes; just not necessarily in the right order;’ to paraphrase Eric Morecombe esq.
In the liner notes George says that they go out with a set list and some melodies; and the rest is down to the ‘mood of the room’ and that brings out some glorious reworkings of songs that featured heavily in my younger life; Love X Love, Turn Your Love Around, In Your Eyes and of course, the absolutely glorious Feel Like Making Love; which is now tempered in such a way it certainly now suits the elderly among us again.
But; and here’s the real reason you should buy this album, their are surprises around every corner …….. none more so than the way he turns I Hear You Knocking into a late night slice of sexy sleaze; and his guitar playing while as exemplary as you’d expect on every song; but on Love Ballad and Affirmation it’s quite extraordinary at times …… really, really showing why he’s often referred to as a ‘Guitarist’s Guitarist’ …… slinky, intricate and sounding like liquid gold in every note.
Gosh; how on earth am I expected to select a Favourite Song here? But I must; and I’m torn between two absolute belters.
The hit Never Give Up On a Good Thing goes off in 100 different directions during its 4 minutes and 41 seconds but never loses that hypnotic melody and beautiful sentiment.
The other comes from the pen of another; originally written by Donny Hathaway in 1969, was just as relevant 50 years later in the Summer of 2019.
Sad but true.
For me it just sounds the perfect song for George Benson (and band) to play the funk out of inside a tiny Jazz Club as the world around us seemed to be going to Hell in a handcart. Everything about it, from Benson’s feisty guitar playing, the impassioned keyboards, potent drums and nothing more so than the female backing singers’ Gospel singing combine to make for a beautifully intense 6 minutes of raw and soulful Jazz Music for the masses.
The album closes with the delightful Cruise Control, which allows everyone on stage a chance to shine in the spotlight.
As I said at the beginning, WEEKEND IN LONDON will be a ‘considered purchase;’ as it’s not just a re-working of Benson’s Greatest Hits just for the sake of it; this is the guitar player George Benson at his absolute finest and taking some of his most famous songs on a joyous ride at the same time.
Released November 13th 2020
BUY DON’T SPOTIFY