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The evolution of an artist

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  • The evolution of an artist

    Today I was listening to an album, George Benson's White Rabbit (CTI Records 6015). My copy happens to be on vinyl and sounds great. The notes show it was recorded at Van Gelder Studios, Rudy Van Gelder, Engineer. November 1971.

    While enjoying this I began to realize how much Benson's style has changed over the decades. "White Rabbit" is so very different, IMO to anything else that follows. Then you look at a band like "Steely Dan" who IMO really doesn't steer away from what has worked (and works well).

    I have followed both artist since the seventies and couldn't imagine not having their music in my collection. For some however, if a group or artist goes in one direction or the other, they will no longer purchase their music. I have fallen out of love with some for the same reasons. But George and the Dan's can do no wrong with me.
    "I have come here, to chew bubblegum and kickass. And I'm all out of bubblegum!!!"

  • #2
    George is a fellow native from Pittsburgh & a musician whose iconic work “Breezin” came out during my high school senior year of 1976.

    George, like many of his jazz contemporaries of the time were finding it a hard row to hoe in the record business. Sales of traditional jazz was at a low point. Producers would only back jazz artists who were willing to ‘cross the line’ to a more ‘Pop-centric’, “Smooth” style of Jazzz which was heavily produced with mass string background, WaWa guitar & often the cheesiest of chorus back-ups. All this done in an effort to achieve the required common denominator to appeal to the masses & make it onto the Billboard chart & thus received air time on the major radio airwaves.

    Sadly, there was some really BAD jazz produced during this period by some V good Jazz musicians. Alas, one must eat, or at least provide for ones’ family. So while some artists may achieve national recognition, at times it does not wholly or even in part reflective of the major body of their work. This can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you come to know the particulate artist.

    As for Steely Dan, I recently read a comment on another forum (do not tell Lex, our forum owner, I will not admit to it anyway if he asks) stating that they felt from Goucoho on was trite drivel in comparison to the earlier work. Somehow, I can not quite find the validity in that. I quite like SD, though as I have aged, I find their studio recordings do not hold up quality-wise against the more acoustic jazz that dominates my listening. Still, compared to other pop groups in their genre, they sound quite good, & that was of the things that drew me to them 30 years ago.

    Still, as any artist or group matures, change is inevitable. And a group or artist may have a vast portfolio prior to them becoming ‘discovered’. What they become famous for may not be reflective of the majority of their work. Then there is case of coming out fresh & young, with a new & unique characteristic that grabs people turns the new ‘sound’ into a trademark. And the pressure of satisfying the demand for more of the same thing that made you different. How do you top the one-hit-wonder? Under pressure to please the current fan base they may feel obligated to come up more of the same, thus becoming repetitive. Yet to venture off to a new inspiration will leave many fans feeling abandoned.

    It is a tough business. The artists who can maintain are far & few. Groups like the Stones, or artists like Paul McCartney are once in a generation rarities. And those who can evolve as they follow their artistic inspirations in new & diverse directions like Brian Eno or David Byrne seem just a scarce.


    Practicing Curmudgeon & Audio Snob
    ....just an "ON" switch, Please!



    • #3
      I'll be interested in hearing where he is musically these days when George Benson performs at the Montreal Jazz Festival on Sunday, June 30, 2013, possibly to a sellout crowd.

      What you DON'T say may be held against you...


      • #4
        Georges latest is not very good sadly. I bought it hoping it would be as good as his prior "Song's and Stories" but alas.....It just doesn't do it for me!. On "Songs and Stories", he sings quite a bit and believe me, Benson is quite the singer and has an exceptional voice!. Check out his song off of that album called "Someday, we'll all be free" and you'll see what I mean. Impeccably recorded CD as well!!.

        Steely Dan has, and always will be for me a 'go to' person when I want to groove out to VERY EXCEPTIONAL performance and sound!. It's truly Ear candy honestly!!.
        Dan Madden :T


        • #5

          Great stuff! Nice to have the inside track (so-to-speak) on Benson. I do agree with your overall assessment, it's a tough business.
          "I have come here, to chew bubblegum and kickass. And I'm all out of bubblegum!!!"


          • #6

            I haven't heard Songs and Stories. Have to make time to check it out.
            "I have come here, to chew bubblegum and kickass. And I'm all out of bubblegum!!!"


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