If you were a fan of George Benson’s output in the 1980’s including his Grammy award winning “Give Me The Night” album, then this new album might be for you. According to a press release by Rhino Entertainment, a subsidiary of Warner Music Group, in 1989, Benson collaborated with celebrated composer-arranger Robert Farnon and his orchestra to create “Dreams Do Come True”.

A pre-release track “Love Is Blue” is already available on many streaming platforms and can be played below The full album will be available on June 14th and is available for pre-order now [1]https://rhino.lnk.to/DDCT. Rhino have the pre-order for both vinyl LP($24.98) and CD($14.98).

According to the Rhino press release, the album was recorded in 1989, but delayed and later lost. They were recently unearthed in Benson’s own archive. The album was recorded with Robert Farnon, a Canadian-born composer, conductor, musical arranger, and trumpet player. Farnon’s work had mixed both classical and popular and included titles like “Sensuous Strings Of Robert Farnon” (1962, Philips), “Pop Makes Progress” (1970, Chapter One) and “Sketches Of Tony Bennett” (1975, Pye Records) alongside symphonies and other classical pieces.

As well as living in London, UK – where Farnon worked with various BBC Symphony orchestras, Farnon also recorded the soundtracks for “The Road To Hong Kong” (1962), “Shalako” (1968), “The Prisoner,” which featured work recorded in the mid-1960s but wasn’t released until 2008, after Farnon’s death in 2005. Farnon also contributed to many other film scores and BBC TV scores [2]https://robertfarnonsociety.org.uk/farnondocs/robertfarnondiscog_pdf/Rffilms.pdf.

In 1987, Benson told Howard Mandel [3]the current Jazz Journal Association President https://news.jazzjournalists.org/ in an interview published in Downbeat:

“We’re going into the studio with the Basie band, hopefully, and do some on-the-spot, no-nonsense guitar playing; maybe a vocal or two, to enhance the album; Angel’s orchestral arrangement, and maybe one or two others. I might go to England, to speak to Robert Farnon; his writing might remind you of Nelson Riddle—excellent, masterful arrangements, music that defies categorization, just beautiful music. Neshui Ertegun is going to produce this album, we hope—he’s so enthusiastic, and that’s the kind of cat I like to work with, somebody who’s into it.”

George Benson Interview with Howard Mandel, May 1987 Downbeat magazine.

The sessions with the Basie band were released in September 1990 on “George Benson & Count Basie Orchestra – Big Boss Band”, also on Warner Brothers. The track list includes “Portrait of Jennie” featuring the Robert Farnon Orchestra, and co-produced by Benson and Al Schmitt. The track is NOT included on this new Benson/Farnon album [4]https://www.rhino.com/article/george-benson-details-rediscovered-lost-album-dreams-do-come-true-when-george-benson-meets. “Portrait of Jennie” certainly suggests a slightly different performance by Benson, as he himself says, a more Nelson Riddle feel.

Writing in the “All Music Guide To Soul”, Richard Ginell described the Benson/Farnon project as “abandoned”. Ginell says “Benson had wrestled control of his music from the accountants and though the direction is conservative, it makes belter use of his talents.” Ginell describes “Portrait of Jennie” as a “a lush orchestral treatment.” Bob Karlovits, writing in the Pittsburgh Press took a different view, describing the track as “so cliched it’s hard to believe the Basie band would have anything to do with it. But then the credits explain. The Robert Farnon Orchestra was the backup unit on that piece.” [5]The Pittsburgh Press – Thursday Dec. 27th, 1990 – Page 48

Earlier in 1987, touring to promote his 1986 album “While The City Sleeps”, Benson was playing with the orchestra of Brian Farnon, brother of Robert Farnon [6]Mark Crawford, Gannett New Service – The El Paso Times, The San Bernardino County Sun and others, Jul 19, 1987[7]https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/171318872/brian_felix_james_farnon.

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Benson Is Into a New Phase in an Old Way

Prior to a September 1989 performance at Paolo Soleri Amphitheatre in Santa Fe, New Mexico – Benson was interviewed by David Steinberg, Journal Staff Writer [8]Sunday September 24th, 1989 – Albuquerquye Journal – Page-G5. George Benson’s album “Tenderly” had only been out for nine weeks and was already No. 1 on Billboard’s jazz chart. “Highlighting the record are such perennials as “Stardust,” “I Could Write a Book” and “Stella by Starlight.” – Steinberg said “Benson is, in effect, pouring old wine in new bottles.”

In the interview, Steinberg also reported “Benson is currently working on two orchestral albums. One will contain a set of ballads (“Autumn Leaves,” “Portrait of Jenny”) with 52 members of the London Symphony. Robert Farnon did the arrangements. The other, still in the planning stage, is a record with Frank Foster and the Count Basie Orchestra.”

On the liner notes for the “Count Basie Orchestra – Big Boss Band” Benson says thank you for “Robert Farnon contribution (as well as that of the extraordinary U.K. musicians) to this album is much appreciated. Because of Robert’s status and reputation as one of the greatest arrangers of our time, I look forward to a future album with this great orchestrator and friend whom I have come to love.” – And that was that for essentially 25-years.

Except for “Portrait Of Jennie”, which Rhino themselves re-issued including the rest of the tracks from “Big Boss Band” on a 2009 5x CD set called “Original Album Series” [9]https://www.discogs.com/master/442041-George-Benson-Original-Album-Series.

Dreams Do Come True – 2024

Benson credits his “genius friend”, Randy Waldman, for bringing the album back to life. Waldman, himself a Grammy-award-winning pianist, composer, and arranger, is the co-producer for the album [10]https://www.discogs.com/artist/321196-Randy-Waldman. They’ve added overdubs and choral arrangements to update the 1980s sound.

The full track list for the vinyl album follows. The tracks in italics were known to have been recorded originally with Robert Farnon and the Farnon Orchestra at the CTS Studios in Wembley in north London in November 1988, not 1989 as asserted by Rhino [11]George Benson appeared on the TV/theater show “Live From The Palladium” (ITV) on October 30th performing a medley of his hits; he was billed with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the … Continue reading.

Side A: At Last; A Song For You ; Pretend You’re Happy; A Long Time Ago; Love Is Blue
Side B: My Romance; Autumn Leaves; Can’t We Be Friends; My Prayer; Yesterday; One Goodbye

One additional track, “Country Girl (Farnon/Raskin)” is listed as recorded with Benson, but absent here. [12]a footnote in history, I used to work on a market stall across the parking lot from CTS Studios selling vinyl records and fake pub mirrors on Sundays in 1974.

In 1996, Robert Farnon won the Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Arrangement for “Lament” performed by J. J. Johnson & the Robert Farnon Orchestra, released on Taylor’s former label, Verve.

This new Benson album may have some great tracks. I’d love to hear your opinion if you hear the album. Leave a comment or “Contact us“.

Further Information

Robert Farnon Biography [The Canadian Encyclopedia]

Fantastic radio interview with Robert Farnon, with contributions from Gene Lees and Roger Kellaway as well as many others.

References

References
1 https://rhino.lnk.to/DDCT
2 https://robertfarnonsociety.org.uk/farnondocs/robertfarnondiscog_pdf/Rffilms.pdf
3 the current Jazz Journal Association President https://news.jazzjournalists.org/
4 https://www.rhino.com/article/george-benson-details-rediscovered-lost-album-dreams-do-come-true-when-george-benson-meets
5 The Pittsburgh Press – Thursday Dec. 27th, 1990 – Page 48
6 Mark Crawford, Gannett New Service – The El Paso Times, The San Bernardino County Sun and others, Jul 19, 1987
7 https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/171318872/brian_felix_james_farnon
8 Sunday September 24th, 1989 – Albuquerquye Journal – Page-G5
9 https://www.discogs.com/master/442041-George-Benson-Original-Album-Series
10 https://www.discogs.com/artist/321196-Randy-Waldman
11 George Benson appeared on the TV/theater show “Live From The Palladium” (ITV) on October 30th performing a medley of his hits; he was billed with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Wembley Arena on November 4th and 5th – in the same location as CTS Studios; at the National Exhibition Centre Birmingham on November 9th and 10th. It is hard for many to understand but travel companies were offering package tours to see Benson from all over the UK. For £62 circa $100 you would get coach transportation, a ticket to the concert, one night’s stay in a London Hotel, Breakfast(continental) and transport home. Not only was the price nuts by todays standards, but the idea of travelling on a motor coach and staying overnight – definitely one for the “lovers”
12 a footnote in history, I used to work on a market stall across the parking lot from CTS Studios selling vinyl records and fake pub mirrors on Sundays in 1974

Updates: May 30th, 2024 – Usual morning-after typos and other minor corrections

3 Replies to “New (old) Album From George Benson”

  1. Thanks for the info on this new release. In 1976, I saw George Benson and Phil Upchurch play in a bar in Houston, Texas. It was a phenomenal performance and the highlight was Take Five from the Bad Benson album.

      1. Right before Breezin (I think). I was 17 and had my older brother’s ID to get into the bar. He sang a few songs but it was mostly instrumental music. We drove a long distance just to see him. We were listening to all of the CTI albums from Benson, Carter, Laws, etc. back in the day. it was a great night.

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