THE STORY SO FAR:
George Benson is truly a legend; a guitarist of unparalleled chops and a vocalist with great emotional range and sophistication, and his latest release finds him at his very best! Songs and Stories is a collection of tunes penned by some of the most prolific and enduring songwriters of the last half-century such as James Taylor, Smokey Robinson, Lamont Dozier, Bill Withers, Donny Hathaway, and several others. The album also includes guest performances by David Paich, Gerald Albright, Lalah Hathaway, Lee Ritenour, Norman Brown, Patti Austin, Steve Lukather, Tom Scott and many more.
1. Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight – (James Taylor)
2. Family Reunion – (Rod Temperton-Catero Colbert)
3. Show Me the Love – (David Paich-Steve Lukather)
4. A Telephone Call Away – (Bill Withers)
5. Someday We’ll All Be Free – (Donny Hathaway-Ed Howard)
6. Nuthin’ But a Party – (Roger Troutman-Larry Troutman-Marlon McClain-Robert Harris-Christopher Lomax)
7. Come in From the Cold – (Marc Broussard-Radney Foster-Justin Tocket)
8. Exotica – (Marcus Miller)
9. Rainy Night in Georgia – (Tony Joe White)
10. One Like You – (William “Smokey” Robinson-David Garfield)
11. Living in High Definition – (Lamont Dozier)
12. Sailing – (Christopher Cross)
For Songs and Stories, Benson selected songs that spoke to him lyrically. James Taylor’s Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight gets a sultry makeover, while Donnie Hathaway’s classic Someday We’ll All Be Free also benefits from Benson’s jazz-influenced version. His cover of Rainy Night in Georgia fits right in with his ’70s output, recalling the seamless jazz and soul fusion of Breezin’ and This Masquerade. While his guitar skills still impress (check out the extended solo on this song), his voice sounds even better on this track, with Benson exploring his range and interpreting the lyrics.
Although Benson covers many well-known classics, he also performs compositions written specifically for him. Soul legend Bill Withers came out of retirement to pen A Telephone Call Away; while not among his best compositions, it still bears his trademark of pure romanticism. Guest vocalist Lalah Hathaway provides a lovely counterpoint for Benson’s voice. Better is the excellent Rod Temperton’s Family Reunion, which suits Benson’s jazz leanings perfectly. This piece of smooth, laid back, gentle soul should be the lead single for Songs and Stories.
Final Score: 90% – B