George Benson
Songs and Stories

1.5 out of 5 stars
Reviewed for Coffeerooms by Mike Jefferson

Listening to George Benson has always been an exercise in frustration for me. He has an attractive, mellow voice; the problem is it's as flexible as King Kong's underwear. George has an infuriating penchant for scat singing, the vocal equivalent of running your fingers down a dust-covered chalkboard. He's also likes to run rampant on the guitar and scats while playing. I'm all for multi-tasking, as long as it doesn't constitute two heinous acts at once. George hasn't been that creative with his style either. If you've heard his epileptic rendition of the Drifter's "On Broadway" or his sway by the numbers fakery in Leon Russell's "This Masquerade," then you've sampled his playbook.

"Songs and Stories," takes jazz's version of Scatman Crothers and let's George try to reinvent a few classics to see what he scats up. Unfortunately, like most kool kat jazzbos looking to crossover, George keeps coughing up hairballs.

How does George fair with familiar fare? Well, less than fair. Only one of the dozen tracks, "Come in from the Cold," will warm your heart. Joni Mitchell wrote a great song with the same title that was one of her few listenable tracks from her post "Court and Spark" period. George needed more material like "Come in from the Cold," even if George borrows heavily from Al Green's persona. Then again, maybe that's why it succeeds.

It's a sad story as far as the rest of the album goes. James Taylor's "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight" is hallowed ground for me and George is a grave robber. Altering a line to "sho' nuff good to see you" wasn't necessary, George. It makes it sound as if you're patronizing the homies and the Pigmeat Markham set. (C'mon, I know your're out there, or at least George does.)