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George Benson - Irreplaceable


Review: Jack Foley

YOU can teach and old dog new tricks, it seems.

Having sold over 40 million albums worldwide, during which he was awarded eight Grammys, as well as a MOBO Lifetime Achievement Award last September (2003), George Benson now turns his attentions to contemporary R&B and soul, with his latest long-player, Irreplaceable.

The result has been described by some as 'the one we've been waiting for', and it certainly moves slickly into the modern mainstream, while also eschewing the values that have helped to make Benson one of the world's greatest living legends.

The urban feel of the album comes courtesy of composer/producer, Josh Thompson, whose credits include songwriting and production for Aretha Franklin, Babyface and Tyrese, among others, and who wrote or co-wrote all of the ten tracks.

The result is very smooth indeed, boasting that much-needed modern style, necessary to appeal to a younger generation of listeners, while also retaining Benson's silky vocal style, and his guitar-playing expertise.

Hence, the original love machine can be heard to serenade listeners with lines such as 'it takes half a man to break a heart, but a whole man to put it back together', on Whole Man, and, later on, 'though she's gone without a trace, I'm seeing visions of her face, kisses by the fireplace, we're on the strings of love', on the flamenco-based Strings of Love.

And the themes of love and betrayal are rife throughout, with Benson equally adept as sounding scorned and hurt during tracks such as Loving Is Better Than Leaving, which features heartfelt lyrics such as 'never thought I'd see by baby dirty dance, with another man'.

Helping to ensure that things remain smooth throughout is Joshua Thompson, whose platinum touch has graced the albums of R&B stars ranging from The Temptations, Aretha Franklin and Luther Vandross, to Alicia Keys and Tyrese, and who credits Benson with 'always growing and always learning' and seldom afraid to try new things.

Hence, singles such as Cell Phone, a mid-tempo, bluesy duet with Andrea Simmons, appear tailor-made for Kiss FM's Smooth Grooves crowd, while title track, Irreplaceable, features a deeply seductive cameo lead from Nakiea, which makes it the perfect sort of background track for a night of romance.

Benson may be one of the oldest swingers in town, but this latest effort will help to ensure that he remains one of the coolest customers to boot, an R&B king capable of transcending all generations.

Track listing:
1. Six Play
2. Whole Man
3. Irreplacable
4. Loving Is Better Than Leaving
5. Strings of Love
6. Cell Phone
7. Black Rose
8. Stairway To Love
9. Reason For Breathing
10. Missing You

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