1980, Music

Give Me the Night (1980) by George Benson

Who is this album for, exactly? Is it for fans of scat singing? Is it for fans of smooth soul? Is it for fans of soul jazz? Is it not stupid to assume those groups of people overlap? Apparently it’s not as this album topped both the Soul and Jazz charts (ugh) and went to #3 on the main chart. What was wrong with everybody?

This is an album that genre hops, which might be a cool thing if everything wasn’t so unbelievably slick. Instead of genre hopping from soul to jazz and so on, it hops from disco to smooth soul to something I guess it’s fair to call “smooth jazz”. It’s innocuous and that makes me mad.

It’s clear Benson is a talented singer, both as a traditional soul vocalist and as a jazz vocalist. As far as I can tell, he’s also a talented guitarist. (I know he’s famous for being a guitarist but some sources claim he only plays lead guitar on one of the tracks here. Other sources claim it’s all him. I have no idea. This is the first music of his I’ve ever heard.) But he and Quincy Jones have collaborated to try to make money, apparently, rather than show off his talent.

This thing is produced to death. There are a million people on this record and a string section for good measure.  Everything is immaculate. (What else would you expect from Jones? This is his MO.)

Is this not a betrayal of the spirits of soul and jazz? It is to me. When I want to listen to good soul music, I want to hear raw passion and emotion. When I listen to jazz I want to hear improvisation. To extent that I get either on this, its’ all watered down so that it can be played on the radio.

It’s albums like this that helped the population at large believe that jazz is essentially muzak. And it’s albums like this that helped remove all the actual soul and the blues in R&B.


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