George Benson and Al Jarreau – Givin’ It Up – George Benson, vocals, guitar/Al Jarreau, vocals – Concord Records/Monster Music Super Disc
Published on November 19, 2006
When you take these two jazz giants and put them together for the first time on an entire recording, you get nothing less than a musical explosion of creativity and artistry. The sheer anticipation and buzz about this recording meant that any less than a stellar performance would have disappointed their legions of fans and opened the door for a critical avalanche. Thankfully, the music is just what the doctor ordered, and everyone can just relax, listen, and really enjoy the musical artistry of these two masterful performers. This disc is absolutely first class in every way. The artists manage to take some well-known songs and add their own special touch. The familiar “Summer Breeze” takes on a new flavor, thanks to the fresh rhythmic and harmonic elements on this CD. The new offerings are just as entertaining. “All I Am” is a beautiful ballad that expresses the straightforward sentiment of someone who loves another with all his heart. I found myself unable to sit still during the title track and admit that it caught my fancy as well as stimulated my imagination. My favorite track, though, was “Don’t Start No Schtuff.” It is clever, engaging, and put me in a happy mood almost immediately.
If these two were not enough to make this recording worth the wait, their guest artists and backup band members make it even better. The list reads like a “Who’s Who” of the popular music world, and they each contribute their own special brand of magic to this CD. Jill Scott’s ultra smooth performance on “God Bless the Child” makes me want to listen to her all night. Patti Austin’s sultry singing on “Let It Rain” has just the right amount of invitation in the sound, and it captivates the listener. I can’t say enough about Chris Botti’s playing – he gives new meaning to romance. Paul McCartney’s impromptu singing on “Bring It On Home” surprised me in the best way possible – is there anything he cannot do these days?
This is a limited edition 2-disc issue by Monster Music. Their press release describes the High Definition Surround Sound recording as like being in the middle of the sound, as if you are there as the music is created. It has most realistic sound of a guitar I have ever heard on a recording, immediate and natural. I felt as if I am sitting there listening to a live performance in the same room. All the musical elements on this recording are the same way. In fact, I think the (instrumental) percussion sounded much less intrusive and much more a part of the overall sound on this disc, a great benefit in my mind. It definitely brings the music to the listener in a new, intimate way. (And yes, I do have Monster cables on my new sound system at home.) The company claims that the enhanced sound can even be heard on my iPod; and I actually had to turn down the volume on my Nano. Monster Music says that the DVD can be played on any DVD player, so I tested that theory out on my new Sony; and it produced a very satisfying listening experience. [However, if your DVD player automatically downsamples the 96K to 48 or 44.1 you will not be hearing the highest definition of which it is capable…Ed.]
The look on both of the stars’ faces on the CD cover says it all. They look like they are very pleased about the result of this project, as well they should be. It is truly a gift to their listeners.
Tracklist: Breezin’, Morning, Long Come Tutu, God Bless The Child, Summer Breeze, All I Am, Ordinary People, Let It Rain, Givin’ It Up For Love, Every Time You Go Away, Four, Don’t Start No Schtuff, Bring It On Home To Me
– Ann Stahmer