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George Benson

Warner Bros. 2919
Released: March 1976
Chart Peak: #1
Weeks Charted: 78
Certified 3x Platinum: 10/22/84

George BensonThough purists may accuse this respected jazz guitarist of having sold out by scoring with a platinum album of mood music, none could deny that Breezin' contains superior mood music. Its six medium-length cuts are extended song arrangements which don't allow daring improvisation yet show off Benson's flawless technique. All sound pretty much the same -- vaguely wistful and vaguely Latin American -- due to the grafting of gossamer strings onto quietly cooking rhythm and instrumental tracks. But this homogenization is a big step up from "Theme from 'A Summer Place,'" the refrain of which is heard in Bobby Womack's title cut.

George Benson - Breezin'
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Leon Russell's "This Masquerade," the only cut on which Benson sings, features fine scatting on top of the guitar part and an interpretation that pleasantly apes Stevie Wonder. If the success of Breezin' tells us very little about the state of jazz, it indicates a great deal about present influences on the popular mainstream. Here is a comfortable but sophisticated jazz, R&B and MOR blend, whose light romantic style ultimately derives from and dilutes the spirit of Stevie Wonder's ballads.

- Stephen Holden, Rolling Stone, 11/4/76.

Bonus Reviews!

Delicate, safe, unobtrusive music. That's what Benson delivers on his debut LP for the label. The emphasis is on light, airy material, rather than on any heavy concentration of soul or funky jazz. Consequently, Benson's light touch on electric guitar weaves in perfectly with a sweet string section working with Claus Ogerman's charts. Benson doesn't sweat on this disk at all; his long, single note lines are very relaxed and easy to take. He phrases like Stevie Wonder on his one vocal outing: "This Masquerade." Best cuts: "Breezin'," "Six To Four."

- Billboard, 1976.

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Just in case you're beguiled by his Stevie Wonder imitation (I prefer Carl Carlton's, Chaka Khan's, even Buddy Miles's) on "Masquerade" (I prefer Helen Reddy's, Aretha Franklin's, even Leon Russell's), be hereby informed that Benson is not primarily a singer, but rather a jazz guitarist of the tasty variety. And that most of what he spices up here is mush. C

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

This was the definitive Benson album commercially and also the best of the crossover batch from an artistic standpoint; counterpart to Wes Montgomery's pop works of the 60s. Platinum Album.

- Ron Wynn, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

Start your day in the right mood and breeze on through the afternoon with this mellow master's pop crossover, a pivotal album in mainstreaming jazz. Though people knew the man could play, most didn't know he could sing, but this disc convinced them. A showcase for Benson's singular guitar talent and flirtatious vocals, it combines quiet fire and smooth soul in one fabulous package of light hits. * * * *

- Zagat Survey Music Guide - 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.

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