George Benson – The Other Side of Abbey Road

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1. The oddest thing happened to me yesterday. I listened to the few songs from Abbey Road that I have on my Ipod on the elevator ride down to the parking lot in the morning. Then, walking around Toronto around 9:30 imagining better lives, I stumbled into Doug Miller Books just west of Bloor and Bathurst because they had Kim Gordon’s memoir in the window. Practically every book on the left side of the store was marked “$1, $2 and $3” and amongst the unorganized shelves, I found one The Gramophone Jazz Good CD Guide, which has recommends several hundred jazz artists, most of whom I didn’t recognize – for a buck. (What really sold me on the book was that A Tribute to Jack Johnson was recommended and Bitches Brew wasn’t.)

I didn’t have any change on me, but Doug (the owner), was nice enough to give it to me for free (“pay me back next time; it’ll cost me more to ring the transaction”), and I came home flipping through the pages and going on a downloading spree. This wasn’t the recommended album by George Benson (who was the first person my finger flipped open to) (the recommended album was Breezin’), but it was the easiest I could find. So the odd thing was that I started the day listening to Abbey Road (not an album I listen to regularly) and finished the day listening to someone covering Abbey Road. I guess the other odd thing that happened was the fact that the bookstore owner let me have this thing for free – that never happens; Torontonians, I find, are generally assholes. Just assholes who say they’re sorry.

2. Anyway, this is what you expect it to be. Covering the Beatles – especially if you were a contemporary – is tricky business at best, and after typing this, I doubt I’ll ever spin this again. Not that it was bad (though “Here Comes the Sun” loses its shine under all those strings, and while George Benson’s voice is smooth, so is Paul McCartney’s, and McCartney deliberately avoided that smoothness for “Oh! Darling”; you’ll wish Benson did the same here). The best numbers are the ones where the rhythm section explodes and you forget – momentarily, until the main theme returns – that you’re listening to all these talented players covering a Beatles record (“I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” and “The End”).

3. It should be noted that this was recorded just three weeks after Abbey Road‘s release.

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