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Articles Home » 1986 Articles » Benson, George - 1986 While The City Sleeps
Benson, George - 1986 While The City Sleeps

ARTIST: Benson, George
ALBUM: While The City Sleeps
LABEL: Warner Bros
SERIAL: 925 475-1 (LP), 925 475-2 (CD)
YEAR: 1986


LINEUP: George Benson - lead vocals, lead guitar * Paul Jackman Jr, Alan Glass, Corrado Rustici, David Jenkins, Chris Camozzi - rhythm guitar * Paul Pesco - guitar * Robbie Buchanan - keyboards, synthesizers, synth bass * Marcus Miller, Randy Jackson - bass * John Robinson, Yogi Horton - drums * Narada Michael Walden - drum programming, drums * Kenny G - saxophone * Paulinho Costa, Gigi Gonaway - percussion * Andrew Thomas, Preston Glass, Frank Martin - synthesizers, programming * Walter Afanasieff, Cory Lerios, Greg Phillinganes, Kashif - keyboards * Jerry Hey - string arrangements * Janey Clewer, Claytoven Richardson, Jim Gilstrap, Kitty Beethoven, Jennifer Hall, Suzanne Valentine, David Jenkins, Carolyn Hedrich, Bud Cockrell, Audrey Wheeler, Cindy Mizelle - background vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 While The City Sleeps * 02 Kisses In The Moonlight * 03 Shiver * 04 Love Is Here Tonight * 05 Teaser * 06 Secrets In The Night * 07 Too Many Times * 08 Did You Hear Thunder


George Benson has already featured here at GD, with Alun's view of 'In Your Eyes' and if you take a look at that article from 1983 and the subsequent discussion posts, George has a lot of friends ready to defend his appearance in these pages. So inclusion of another one of his albums may not be that much of a surprise and I doubt it will create as much as a stir as his first appearance. Many people seemed to get confused with where to place Big Bad George Benson, as I found out at a recent record fair, when another copy of this album was sitting in a box (as usual under a trestle table) marked Jazz and Soul. Of course George has history in these genres and while this album is not totally devoid of those two genres it is very much more sitting in the Westcoast arena. A genre much misunderstood, let's face it, when was the last time you saw a box labelled Westcoast? I've never seen one; in fact the only place I used to see an abundance of Westcoast vinyl was in Soho, at a long gone record shop called Cheepy Cheep Records.

Much of this confusion of where to put George is probably down to himself, he has had a long career and jumped between many styles, I suppose as skilled musician as George is, he goes where the mood takes him. From time to time over the recent years I have picked up the odd album by him, being the already mentioned 'In Your Eyes' and '20/20' (nice chunky jumper your wearing on that one George, Christmas present, birthday?). I've probably never invested enough time to appreciate his talents and set about increasing my knowledge. So after picking this album up quite recently at a charity shop, along with a lovely gatefold copy of an Earth Wind and Fire album from 1981 'Raise' (is their 'I Am' album due for a review?), I have set upon reappraising the situation.

The Songs
Quite a short album really, with only 8 tracks so it's quite appealing and unlikely to bore you with long musical workouts, no instrumentals either though. Plus the fast moving numbers outweigh the ballads by quite a margin. The opener being the title track really crossers over to hi-tech AOR, with some pedigree on drums being that of John Robinson (Bridge Too Far). Melodic blue skies are the rage and tripping over the heat haze on the westcoast horizon, a fine opening.

The little sticker on the front of the album mentions 'featuring the hit single' 'Kisses In The Moonlight', a wonder on which hemisphere that was, because in the UK it only reached number 60. Really it would find a good home on Michael Bolton's 'Soul Provider', actually it would improve that album, as this track is still not a disappointment, as its mellow whilst not a ballad, expertly carried out exercise in super smooth music. Lending a hand on this album is Narada Michael Warden, one never to be classed as a slacker, plus an array of musicians I would wager appear in your record collections as well, try Walter Afanasieff, Randy Jackson, Robbie Buchanan, Janey Clewer and Paul Pesco.

'Shiver' actually raises the temperature, and yes Kool And The Gang could had got themselves a hit single with this, more funk oriented and first display of jazz. Although still looming large on the Westcoast threshold, parts of the verse reminds me of the same rhythm and vocal technique as Stevie Wonder's 'Master Blaster'. It has that video feel of dancers with lots of straight backs and moves, with robots arms spraying out in all directions.

'Love Is Here Tonight' can be possibly classed as the first ballad, very smooth, but bordering on Johnny Mathis, which is abit too much for my liking so let's quickly step onto the second half, and this showing is more enjoyable and probably will appeal to those with a melodic fire in their hearts.

The grooving 'Teaser' is only a thread away from Toto. Yes it includes some vocal improvisation, which doesn't always sit comfortably in the rigid melodic rock format but the verses are pure gold melody.

While 'Secrets In The Night' is a great example of Westcoast, lots of plinky keyboards, performed in a true Clif Magness spirit. So really George can be found even sneaking up to be included in the AOR community. Still name dropping, as keyboards are supplied on this track by Greg Phillinganes, whose release a couple years before, called 'Pulse' included tracks from the likes of Richard Page, John Lang, Brock Walsh and Robbie Nevil. So if George needs a bit of inspiration he has many people to call upon to help.

I suppose in this game it's the ballads that ring-fence the majority of record buyers so 'Too Many Times' is the one trying to force the cash. Well I love to take the chance to get the knives out and cut this one to shreds, but it's just so nice to hold a grudge against. A very good chorus helps of course and forces you to keep listening.

The stand out track is 'Did You Hear Thunder', and I agree while the lyrics are considerably cheesy it really can't put me off enjoying this great melodic tune. Even though it is pretty much delving into soul and pop, anyway even at my age it helps in practising my moves, yes I still have them.

In Summary
In essence it is a very pleasant album, which had me pulling out my other George Benson albums to reacquaint myself to consider if I had missed any other beauties, ignored by me over the years. I might even start the process of checking out the George Benson timeline of albums to see what happened next, did he continue in this vein, or fall off the edge in a jazz or worse become a full time balladeer. Whatever this is a fine collection of songs and musicians and has the appeal to brighten up any winter evening listen session.

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#1 | gerard on January 28 2013 14:21:38
Nice to see this here, and I am one of those people who really likes to see artists like GB on this site. Another one I'd like to read more about is Ray Parker Jr. Not too familiar with his records (know the song Ghostbusters of course...) but he appeared on a number of westcoast records as well (Bill Champlin, Boz Scaggs etc). Come to think of it, people like Moon Calhoun, John Robinson, ''Hawk'' Wolinski were part of Rufus as well, and Martin Page wrote for Earth, Wind and Fire, and Richard Page worked a lot with Al Jarreau etc etc. So soul, jazz etc: very nice to see them included here alongside AOR and westcoast!
#2 | Eric on January 28 2013 18:00:59
I remember liking Benson's 1980 album although the title escapes me at the moment. Ray Parker Jr.'s band Raydio released two or three albums and put out some great singles. Worthy of coverage here.
#3 | Eric on January 28 2013 21:43:16
'Give Me The Night' was the Benson album and the title track was a big hit in 1980.
#4 | Eric on January 28 2013 21:48:40
YouTube Video:
#5 | englandashes on January 28 2013 22:03:36
Yep, The Raydio would be interesting Eric, seen them about, but never bothered to investigate further, sure they have been re-released.

Give Me The Night, is probably the Benson album I'm missing during his best period, we have to pick it up, always see it about in charity shops and cheap boxes.

Been thinking about doing some stuff on Boz Scaggs...maybe play them over the next week.
#6 | jeffrey343 on January 29 2013 23:22:51
Call it what you will, this is good stuff. I hear Benson more on smooth jazz or soft rock stations, and it is great music for when I'm in a mellow mood.
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