Preceding Breezin', his crossover smash for Warner in 1976, Bad Benson shows the guitarist still hanging on to his Wes Montgomery roots in places while stretching his soul-jazz persona into even funkier arenas. CTI had a formula for making funky, accessible jazz and fusion records that in 1974 still held true. Arranged by Don Sebesky, Bad Benson is a collection of delicious, varied, and sometimes confusing choices. Benson's own playing is precise and smooth as always, and guitarist Phil Upchurch keeps a large color palette for him to draw from, as in the funkified version of "Take Five." Other notables are the stellar "My Latin Brother," which begins as a Debussy-ian impressionistic string study before becoming a heavily arpeggiated variation on the samba. Kenny Barron's pianism here is the driving force behind a rhythm section that also includes drummer Steve Gadd and bassist Ron Carter. They give Benson a harmonic floor for one of the most inspiring solos of his career. These intensely meaty cuts -- along with Upchurch's stellar swinging in the pocket groover "Full Compass" -- are juxtaposed against ballads such as "Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams" and "The Changing World," a pair of ballads that ape Montgomery's later snore-fest session for A&M. Not a great album, but a very, very good one.
Benson, George - Take Five - Used
Sleeve and vinyl: G+ (sounds good but plenty of noticeable crackle in quiet moments--especially the last cut. Sleeve has notched corner and lots of wear, nothing extreme. If you're looking for pristine, look elsewhere, but if you're looking for a good listening copy, this will do.
Before going all out commercial in the 1970s, Bensons had a pretty amazing run on the CTI label, starting with 1969's The Shape of Things to Come, and including The Other Side of Abbey Road (1970) and Beyond the Blue Horizon (1971). This 1979 release is actually a straight reissue of 1974's Bad Benson, which was the bookend of his classic era, heavily influenced by Wes, but also offering his own flavors, with Don Sebesky, Creed Taylor and his band members obviously deserving notice. This doesn't match the previously mentioned three albums, especially when comparing the more reflective moments, but it's still a worthwhile grab from this classic era, features plenty of power and drive thanks to all parties involved, side one nearly filled two standout cuts, a funked up version of the Paul Desmond number, and a Benson essential called "My Latin Brother." While the first side sandwiched the ballad with the two smokers, the flipside does a reversal on this formula, two reflective numbers sandwich the seriously funky "Full Compass" composed by Phil Upchurch and powered along with Kenny Barron's driving piano.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek: