Younger fans may not be familiar with George Benson, but he is definitely someone who placed their stamp on the gene of music. Born March 22, 1943 in Pittsburgh, Pa., Benson got his start as a musician early, playing the ukulele and the guitar during his formative years and cutting his first song, "She Makes Me Mad," at the tender age of ten, under the name "Little Georgie."
His teenage years would see him be taken under the wing of jazz legend Jack McDuff, who would further help cultivate Benson's skill as a multi-instrumentalist and set the foundation for the music-man he would ultimately evolve into. Making the jump to lead with his debut album, The New Boss Guitar, featuring McDuff, before working with jazz icons Lonnie Smith and Miles Davis on subsequent releases.
Signing a record deal with jazz powerhouse CTI Records, Benson would truly hit his stride at the house Creed Taylor built, releasing several albums throughout the 1970s. Making a switch to Warner Bros. Records, Benson would finally hit the big time, particularly with his 1976 album, Breezin', which featured the single, "This Masquerade," which would become a huge pop hit and earned him a Grammy Award for Record of the Year. Breezin' would become the first jazz album ever to go platinum and set the stage for Benson's ascension to the top of the food chain and afford him the opportunity to work with A-List stars like Minnie Ripperton and Stevie Wonder.
But George Benson's career would reach its zenith after linking up with producer Quincy Jones' Qwest record label, on which he would release his landmark album, Give Me The Night. The album's title track was a smash success and carried the album past the million copies sold mark, as well as playing a big part in earning Benson three Grammy Award wins, including Best Male R&B Vocalist Performance, while Moody's Mood" and "Off Broadway" nabbed trophies in the Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Male and Best R&B Instrumental Performance, respectively. George Benson would go on to record a plethora of albums in the decades after, but Give Me The Night stands as his finest moment.
Thirty-five years later, we take a look back at the album and highlight the five songs that make it the essential album that it is.
"Moody's Mood"Featuring Patti Austin
George Benson gets a little sensuous on the dreamy Give Me The Night offering, "Moody's Mood." Featuring Patti Austin, the duet is actually a rendition of jazz great James Moody's 1949 recording of "I'm in the Mood for Love," which was also lifted by Eddie Jefferson for his 1952 take on the piece, titled "Moody's Mood for Love." While countless artists and music have turned in renditions of this oldie-but-goodie, Benson and Austin turn in an inspired effort that manages to stand up to the original and more than do it justice.
"You can never know what's sleeping in someone else's mind / Looking at you, I hope to find what's happening in your head," croons George Benson on the Give Me The Night sleeper-cut, "What's On Your Mind." Co-produced by Glen Ballard and Kenny Chater and arranged by Quincy Jones, the layout of the song is nothing short than flawless, not to mention the horn-heavy soundbed, which lays the perfect template for the soulful soloist to paint over with his smooth tone and subtle nuance. Getting straight to the nitty-gritty, Benson engages in a little mind sex on "What's On Your Mind" and flourishes with yet another.
Benson sticks to the script with "Midnight Love Affair," a smokey tune that sees the guitarist-vocalist playing the man in the shadows to a female companion. Produced by David "Hawk" Wolinski, the beat is powered by delicate drums, guitar riffs, with additional horns and synths. On the song, Benson performs an impassioned testimonial of love. It's a stellar composition that will certainly make you replay it over and over again.
Give Me The Night instantly proves its worth with its opening song, "Love X Love." It's a delightful ditty that captures Benson's silky vocals. Written and composed by Rod Temperton, the beat is a jubilant affair, employing everything from saxophones and flutes to keyboards and guitars, making for a rollicking soundscape. Singing, "Remember the days when we never had a dime / And our dreams seemed a million miles away / But me made it, baby / Facing the bad times with a smile / Here we are and we're growing stronger day by day," the crooner shines brightly on this funky album cut that fits snug in his catalog of hits.
Certain songs transcend eras and are destined to live until the end of time. Benson's "Give Me The Night" is one of those songs and a hallmark groove when speaking of dance floor classics. Written and composed by Rod Temperton and produced by Quincy Jones, the track is superb from top to bottom with a refined sound that rings in listeners ears and never fails to get your tapping and your body moving. Benson also does his share behind the mic, his crisp voice commanding you to get down and boogie the night away. While already accomplished and lauded by critics, "Give Me The Night" scored his biggest hit of his career, peaking at the No. 4 slot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.