Music

George Benson: Absolute Benson

Ben Varkentine

George Benson

Absolute Benson

Label: GRP
US Release Date: 2000-05-23
Amazon
iTunes

George Benson's music has always been eclectic. He's had many agreeable R&B and pop hits, including a cover of "On Broadway," by the Drifters, which was memorably used in the opening sequence of Bob Fosse's film All That Jazz.

This instrumental (mostly-only three songs have vocals) album mixes and matches Benson's pop, R&B, and jazz influences to create something which is only, merely nice. At some point, someone is going to have to write at length about where and when "contemporary jazz" crosses the line between being mellow but interesting, and being sonic wallpaper. Tastefully played, impeccable in all ways, but lacking in fire.

One hesitates to fault Benson. His guitar playing flashes with electricity, and he is possessed of a fine, bluesy voice that compliments it superbly. It is a joy merely to hear Benson play guitar and sing in many ways; he's that good. But even more I'd love to hear what he could do within a more up-to-date framework. Alternatively, a true Benson solo album, with nothing but his voice and guitar, could be great. If you are a Benson fan, or just one who appreciate good guitar playing and singing, you'll find this album works as a feature for both, particularly the latter. Even when not singing, Benson is melodic, but the instrumentation behind him doesn't give the grounding to really soar.

Good accompaniment for a soloist can be hard to find. If the parts don't mesh well, it's not going to be as good (there's a metaphor which I could have gone for there, but I'm trying to keep this tasteful). The keyboard and groove settings here, even with the keyboards soulfully played by Joe Sample, cross that line between being ethereal and vanishing into thin air.

If you could separate the guitar parts and singing from the backing tracks, it would be like watching a close-up magician dazzle you with sleight of hand. As it is, it's like watching that same magician try to do his stuff while Siegfried and Roy do their glitzy tractor pull of a show around him. You can still tell how good he is, but you can't help but be distracted and overwhelmed by the white tigers and fireworks going on around him.

This album, finally, inspires what is probably the worst of all reactions to an artistic effort. Yeah? So?

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.


20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta


Keep reading... Show less
Film

Hitchcock, 'Psycho', and '78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene'

Alfred Hitchock and Janet Leigh on the set of Psycho (courtesy of Dogwoof)

"... [Psycho] broke every taboo you could possibly think of, it reinvented the language of film and revolutionised what you could do with a story on a very precise level. It also fundamentally and profoundly changed the ritual of movie going," says 78/52 director, Alexandre O. Philippe.

The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene (2017) denotes the 78 set-ups and the 52 cuts across a full week of shooting for Psycho's (1960) famous shower scene. Known for The People vs. George Lucas (2010), The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (2012) and Doc of the Dead (2014), Philippe's exploration of a singular moment is a conversational one, featuring interviews with Walter Murch, Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Osgood Perkins, Danny Elfman, Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Neil Marshall, Richard Stanley and Marli Renfro, body double for Janet Leigh.

Keep reading... Show less

The Force, which details the Oakland Police Department's recent reform efforts, is best viewed as a complimentary work to prior Black Lives Matter documentaries, such 2017's Whose Streets? and The Blood Is at the Doorstep.

Peter Nicks' documentary The Force examines the Oakland Police Department's recent reform efforts to curb its history of excessive police force and systemic civil rights violations, which have warranted federal government oversight of the Department since 2003. Although it has its imperfections, The Force stands out for its uniquely equitable treatment of law enforcement as a complex organism necessitating difficult incremental changes.

Keep reading... Show less
6

Mary Poppins, Mrs. Gamp, Egyptian deities, a Japanese umbrella spirit, and a supporting cast of hundreds of brollies fill Marion Rankine's lively history.

"What can go up a chimney down but can't go down a chimney up?" Marion Rankine begins her wide-ranging survey of the umbrella and its significance with this riddle. It nicely establishes her theme: just as umbrellas undergo, in the everyday use of them, a transformation, so too looking at this familiar, even forgettable object from multiple perspectives transforms our view of it.

Keep reading... Show less
7
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image