Love Wants To Dance

Poor George Benson. Like Dylan before him who shocked and divided his fans by going electric, Benson’s full on move into popular music on Breezin’ in 1976 sent his jazz fans angrily heading for the exits; though truth be told, if you were listening closely, Benson had been moving toward a soul jazz fusion on CTI as far back as Body Talk in 1973. I remember my jazz fan father trying to convince me this was drivel and a girlfriend who closed her eyes and swayed when “Love X Love” came on. Guess which way that decision went.

After Breezin’ Benson’s well-known fondness for James Brown funk broke out into the open and he grew more and more focused on slinky soul music and outright funk stomps like the killer live set Weekend in L.A. This phase of Benson’s career flew into overdrive when he and Quincy Jones hooked up for a single record, Give Me The Night which has now been reissued in a beautiful sounding and nicely packaged 180 gram LP on the U.K.’s Pure Pleasure label. The remastering by Ray Staff at Air Mastering is rich in the extreme and the pressing at Pallas in Germany is clear and quiet.

From the opening two drum beats followed by Louis Johnson’s super smooth bass line (as befits the one and only “Thunder Thumbs”) on “Love X Love” it’s clear that this is gonna be a funky, sexy affair. Rarely has the bass guitar been this well recorded throughout an entire record.

After Benson and Jones, the other key to this record is the British songwriter Rod Temperton, the co-writer of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and “Rock With You” among many others, who supplied “Love X Love,” the instrumental “Off Broadway,” “Star of a Story” “Turn Out The Lamplight,” and the album’s hit single title track. Another standout track is the Kerry Chater and Glen Ballard co-write, “What’s on Your Mind” which may be the record’s sneakiest, hookiest number, one nevertheless marred by those keening synthesizers that every producer in the 80s seemed to think was such a great idea. But then this was the era of spiky haircuts, skinny ties and cultural “waves,” all of which were new.

While the B side of Give Me The Night isn’t quite the blockbuster that the first side is, it’s a quiet masterpiece in its own right with a knockout performance of the Ivan Lin, Vitor Martins, Paul Williams tune “Love Dance,” which ranks high among the most covered songs in all of music history, being somehow irresistible to female jazz singers from Sarah Vaughan, Betty Carter to Shirley Horn and Diana Krall. Best of all ,Jones restrained the worst aspects of the typically overly brittle and overly bright 80s production style here. The record has always sounded better than its era. Very possibly the best record of either the jazz or the pop sides of Benson’s long career.

Allen Fant's picture

Thanks! for sharing- RB.
I enjoyed both phases of GB- his excellent Jazz from the 60's into the early70's and his move to go more main-stream!