Personnel: George Benson (guitar); Sonny Fortune (alto saxophone); Jerome Richardson (tenor saxophone); Don Ashworth (baritone saxophone); Mel Davis, Bernie Glow, Marvin Stamm (trumpet, flugelhorn); Freddie Hubbard (trumpet); Wayne Andre (trombone, euphonium); Phil Bochner (flute, oboe); Hubert Laws, Jerome Richardson (flute); Raoul Poliakin, Max Pollikoff (violin); Emmanuel Vardi (viola); George Ricci (cello); Herbie Hancock, Ernie Hayes, Bob James (piano, organ, harpsichord); Ron Carter, Gary Jemmott (bass); Idris Muhammed, Ed Shaugnessy (drums); Ray Barretto, Andy Gonzalez (percussion).
Recorded at Van Gelder Studios, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey in October & November 1969.
Tributee: The Beatles.
Just three weeks after the U.S. release of the Beatles' swan song, Abbey Road, Creed Taylor ushered George Benson into the studio to begin a remarkably successful pop-jazz translation of the record (complete with a parody of the famous cover, showing Benson with guitar crossing an Eastern urban street). It is a lyrical album, with a hint of the mystery and a lot of the cohesive concept of the Beatles' original despite the scrambled order of the tunes. Benson is given some room to stretch out on guitar, sometimes in a bluesy groove, and there are more samples of his honeyed vocals than ever before (oddly, his voice would not be heard again by record-buyers until he signed with Warner Bros.). Don Sebesky's arrangements roam freely from baroque strings to a full-throated big band, and Freddie Hubbard, Sonny Fortune, and Hubert Laws get some worthy solo space. Yet for all its diversity, the record fits together as a whole more tightly than any other George Benson project, thanks to his versatile talents and the miraculous overarching unity of the Beatles' songs. One wonders if the Fab Four liked it, too. ~ Richard S. Ginell