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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sophisticated and musical, 30 Mar 2002
By 
This review is from: In Flight (Audio CD)
Benson's 1976 album 'Breezin'' saw him put his jazz guitar into a pop context to enormous success. 1977s' 'In Flight' continues what 'Breezin'' started (including using the same band and producer) and is, in my opinion, the pinnacle of his crossover career (before he became too pop).
The overall feeling is one of mellow jazz-funk (a term which nowadays evokes one of two responses in most people: either laughing loudly or vomiting profusely) but remember that this is before jazz-funk became the fairlight synthesiser and chorused guitar led pap of the 80s or the overtly derivative funk-pop of 90s groups like Incognito.
The opener, Nat 'King' Cole's 'Nature Boy' is taken into entirely new territory sporting a wonderful vocal, seductive clavinet-based groove and a brilliant rhodes solo.
'The Wind and I' and 'Valdez in the Country' are both instrumentals (the latter being, in my opinion, a big improvement over the Hathaway original).
WAR's 'The World is a Ghetto' is the centrepiece of the album at nearly ten minutes long and features some incredible playing from all concerned (Harvey Mason on drums must get a mention here).
It would not be stretching the ear-magination too far to describe 'Gonna Love You More' as a 'Breezin'' with lyrics and the final track is a laid-back ballad a la 'This Masquerade' except with fairly meaningless lyrics. It has a pleasant enough tune and ends the album well, if somewhat schmaltzily.
Anyone into soul or sophisticated, instrumental-based pop should definitely check this album out, not least because Benson's singing is absolutely superb (think Donny Hathaway without the melancholy) with plenty of his characteristic scatting (which has never been better) but the musicianship throughout is exemplary, especially considering the constraints of the style intended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars timeless, 17 Oct 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: In Flight (Audio CD)
Bought it on Vinyl and it was cool in '77. Nearly 30 years later on CD and I still know the words. Life is a Getto is a timless track and nothing, nothing compares with the Nature Boy track pure class. Benson is a class act and priceless...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remastered......Finally !!, 5 Sep 2011
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Just to point out that this USA Release is remastered and contains 2 extra bonus tracks.

Sounds superb.....

Apparently further remastered George Benson CDs will follow.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure heaven, 21 July 2011
This review is from: In Flight (MP3 Download)
This is without question Mr Benson's finest work.
Every track is just simply mindblowing. This has to be one of the best music album's ever made
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5.0 out of 5 stars Ran out of stars...., 15 Mar 2014
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This review is from: In Flight (Audio CD)
I had forgotten that the first time I ever heard George Benson this was the album that introduced his music to me - in 1977. I heard it on YouTube recently and it hurt to listen to the whole of it and think of the years that had passed and the young hopeful memories his album evoked. Benson is the finest artist in his category ever. Whether it's long instrumental tracks like the long version of "Love for Sale" - "White Rabbit" - which are not actually on this album - or any of the many albums he produced in the 80s and 90s - no other artist can touch him. Others here clearly know more about music than I ever will, but to anyone who is just dipping a foot in Benson's musical history - In Flight is one of the best to start with. My own personal favourite (though with him it's difficult as I love so much) is "You can do it baby" which featured on NuYorkan Soul and then on one of his albums.
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5.0 out of 5 stars When the stars align, who cares about labels?, 14 Jun 2013
By 
Sebastian Palmer "sebuteo" (Cambridge, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: In Flight (Audio CD)
It's intriguing that for fellow reviewer Olukayode Balogun 'this is not 'real' jazz', whilst to Egap Lliw it's 'Stereotypical Jazz... It's just jazz'. I mean no disrespect to either view, it's just that, for me, this disparity points up an issue that is, to my mind, something of a red herring: if music is great, who really cares what labels might attach to it?

In Flight just so happened to be the first George Benson album I ever heard (thanks dad, that was a shrewd buy). That might be one reason I have such a soft spot for it. But I think it goes beyond that. There have been many artists and bands I've discovered over the years whose best works I didn't necessarily encounter first. But with George Benson, I believe I lucked out.

There is no other Benson abum that I adore in it's entirety. For me, this incredible band, Phil Upchurch, Harvey Mason, Jorge Dalto, Ronnie Foster, Ralph MacDdonald and co., and the guys around them, like Tommy LiPuma and Claus Ogerman, not one of these tremendously talented people puts a foot wrong. I have albums by other artists, for example Hutson, by LeRoy Hutson, where there are individual tracks that are utterly note perfect - you couldn't add or take away anything without upsetting the perfection of what was waxed - but a whole album at that level! That's pretty damn rare.

All the other Benson albums are a disappointment to me. Sure, there are good moments, sometimes even great moments. Breezin', for example: a great track in itself, but I actually prefer Gabor Szabo's definitive version on High Contrast, which is the source of Benson's version; overall that album is, to my ears, disappointing, and not a patch on, for all that it is ostensibly similar to, In Flight. I'm not a believer in astrology but, when I interviewed drummer Matt Johnson for Drummer magazine, and asked him about recording Grace with Jeff Buckley, his response was, 'sometimes the stars just align'.

For me that's what In Flight is like. Maybe the cynic in Olukayode Balogun is right, and Benson and co. we're attempting to do 'more of the same', and cash in on the success of Breezin'. But to my ears, whether they knew it or not, they tapped a magical vein of pure musical gold. Music at it's best is like alchemy, something amazing is conjured our of the air, with a load of wood, metal, and some electricity. That's what these musical alchemists are doing here. As Kool of Kool & The Gang said, in their terrific consciousness rap, at the beginning of 'Heaven At Once', on their splendid Wild and Peaceful album, "Well, you see we are scientists of sound / We're mathematically puttin' it down". Amen brother Kool, amen.

As I type this, my eyes are bleary with tears. Not because I'm sad, but because brother Benson and his wonderful band are three minutes into The World Is A Ghetto, and they are constructing a musical cathedral of unbelievable intensity and beauty. It's over four minutes before the vocals begin. That's hardly pop! What have they just been playing, if not jazz? Ok, jazz with an R'n'B backbeat, and jazz with a whole lot of soul... and then when Benson scats and solos... that's surely some of the greatest jazz, right there? Whereas I'd settle for Szabo's reading of Womack's Breezin', Benson and crew take WAR's Ghetto and make it totally their own. Boy do they ever own it! But jazz, schmazz... Forget labels, this is just great music.

Perhaps tracks like The Wind And I, or I'm Gonna Love You More are, when compared to the sublime heights attained by The World Is A Ghetto or Nature Boy, filler. But good God, when even the filler is perfect, who's to complain? If that's filler, you can give it to me by the truck load. Many musicians pass entire lives and never touch such heights. Nature Boy and Valdez In The Country are two more instances where, for me, this band cut the definitive versions. I love Donny Hathaway (his live recording of Marvin Gaye's What's Going On - on Donny Hathaway Live - shows he too could turn in a definitive version of someone else's song), but I'll take Benson's Valdez over Donny's.

Everything Must Change is the obvious counterpart to This Masquerade, and, as popular as these numbers are, neither are the peak moments of either album for me. But it is a beautiful song, beautifully played, and a great way to end a great album. But just to wind up this reverie: a sure fire sign that not even the band quite knew how they'd achieved this alchemy, if you watch any of the YouTube versions of Nature Boy, for example, none are a patch on this version (most are to fast for a start). As far as I'm concerned this is Benson's best album, and one of the great albums of the C20th. Sorry if that sounds like hyperbole. But that's just how I feel!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Lacking a bit of grit, but otherwise a classic, 4 Mar 2012
By 
Julian Stevens (BRISTOL, UK United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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I used to own this on vinyl back in the late seventies (but sold it) and then had a very long wait for it to be reissued on CD with the benefit of digital remastering (for the second time, having missed the first reissue).

Despite it being a bit ultra-smooth in all respects, presumably to make it as radio-friendly as possible, this is a great album and, upon hearing it again after many years, I seem to be playing it several times a week, like an old friend from that particular era.

George Benson was and still is a fine guitarist, whilst the musicians and technical crew (Tommy LiPuma producing, Al Schmitt engineering, digitally remastering by Joe Reagoso at Friday Music, Huntingdon Beach, CA)) are first class. Here, we find the great Harvey Mason (drums), Stanley Banks (bass), Jorge Dalto (clavinet & piano), Ronnie Foster (electric piano & mini-Moog), Phil Upchurch (rhythm guitar) and Ralph McDonald (percussion). If the relative lack of kick and dynamics aren't too important to you, then the fine songs and and playing will be all that matter.

Tacked on at the end are a couple of bonus tracks in the form of a disco mix of The World Is A Ghetto and a 45 RPM edit of Everything Must Change, neither of them particularly noteworthy, but they augment the otherwise fairly short running time of the album proper and do no harm. Definitely recommended.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Benson bends over backwards, 2 Dec 2007
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This review is from: In Flight (Audio CD)
I take the cynical view: After the comparatively phenomenal success of the previous year's "Breezin'", I believe Benson and the people behind him figured they'd cash by giving the people even more of what they'd concluded they wanted. And let's be honest; although the instrumental title track of that album was all over the radio too, it was the vocal track "This Masquerade" that was the real big hit. A Grammy winner, no less.

So this time, Benson goes for not just one vocal track, not just two, not three but a whole FOUR! - "Nature Boy", "The World Is A Ghetto", "Gonna Love You More" and "Everything Must Change" - launching the album (and his career) fully into pop territory. The balance felt all wrong and I heard that a lot of long-established fans went running.

Benson probably drew in some new ones though and in fairness, "Nature Boy" is a brilliant track; the album probably went double platinum on the strength of that song alone. It's pure soul and it's on this track and on this album that he starts to emphasise his trademark - scatting along to his guitar improvisations. Of the other vocal tracks, "The World Is A Ghetto" is my favourite and while the other two are okay, they are nothing really special. The man is a fantastic singer though, it has to be said.

When it comes to the two instrumental tracks, Benson pays homage to his spiritual mentor Donny Hathaway by doing an interesting cover of "Valdez In The Country" (which Hathaway wrote) and Ronnie Foster-penned "The Wind And I" is again, pleasant enough. But this is not 'real' jazz and it's not Benson at his best either. The album's saving grace in the end, is the brilliant contribution by the session band: Phil Upchurch on rhythm guitar, Ronnie Foster on electric piano & mini-moog, Jorge Dalto on clavinet & acoustic piano, Stanley Banks on bass, Harvey Mason on drums and Ralph MacDondald on percussion. Also playing a huge part in elevating this album are Tommy LiPuma's excellent production and Claus Ogerman's lush orchestration. Collectively, everyone involved succeeds in elevating the album to something really special and definitely worth having in spite of its weaknesses. Put it this way: if you take the view that this is a soul/r&b album with jazz influences then it's a five star album all the way.

But, if like me, you view it as a jazz album by a jazz artiste that is bending over a bit too far backwards to appease the masses, then it falls short. Four stars is the best I can do.
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stereotypical Jazz, 30 Oct 2009
This review is from: In Flight (Audio CD)
This album is one of the best examples of mainstream contemporary jazz I've ever heard. I would argue that this is in fact the very definition of jazz, a defining statement in its genre and time.

This recording is from the period where George was hailed by the Jazz Police as the saviour of Jazz and it is clear from the first track, "Nature Boy" that "In Flight" hasn't dated at all. The production is fantastic and the drums sound crystal clear, all of which is punctuated with Benson's startlingly original vocals. The only problem comes from the band itself which is looser than your mum on a friday night. The guitar playing is also substandard, heavy, unsoulful and totally totally rigid.

It's just jazz, but who cares?
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In Flight by George Benson (Audio CD - 1987)
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