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George Benson "Irreplaceable"
Produced by Joshua P.Thompson and various producers

I'm a big fan of George Benson and his amazing ability to make great music in different genres.  His amazing guitar and vocal talents create wonderful possibilities for the producer willing to charter new territory by fusing in George Benson's timeless style. Jazz purists will diss George's latest foray into R&B but don't be dissuaded.  This is one of George's best albums ever.  Joshua Thompson (who's impressive resume includes producing JOE, Alicia Keys, and Luther Vandross) does a masterful job of making George more accessible to today's young audience without sacrificing any music integrity.  Every song is a winner.  "Irreplaceable" kicks off the album with a smooth mid-tempo groove and features the lovely vocals of Nakiea.  I particularly love "Six Play" - an amazing ballad combining George's vocals and electric guitar with Joshua Thompson's surprisingly good acoustic guitar.  On "Strings Of Love", you'll hear George playing acoustic guitar for the first time on record.

Unfortunately, some really good cuts did not make the US version of this album.  There's "Loving Is Better Than Leaving" (co-written and co-produced by JOE), "Whole Man", and "Reason for Breathing" (the remake of the Babyface hit which George brings to a brand new level).  I can only guess the suits at GRP thought would be too radical for the US audience.  Luckily, you can download these songs from iTunes and still get the full "Irreplaceable" experience.


More 2004 Albums:

Al Jarreau - "Accentuate the Positive"
Produced by Tommy Lipuma
Jarreau says this is his first truly jazz album - all his previous efforts were really R&B.  Wow!  Even "We Got By" or "Tenderness"?  Anyway, I've never heard a bad Jarreau album and this is no exception.  Jazz as defined by Jarreau suits him well as he performs jazz standards with a live band.  As he's done in the past (with Brubeck's "Blue Rondo a la Turk" on 1981's "Breakin' Away"), Al injects his own lyrics into some classic instrumentals like Dizzy's "Groovin' High".  One of my favorite track's is a new song he co-wrote with Freddie Ravel (how come Freddie isn't a mega-star by now?) "Betty Bebop's Song".  After all these years, Jarreau has still got it!
Anita Baker - "My Everything"
Produced by Anita Baker & Barry Eastmond
Anita Baker makes a most welcome return to the music business after a 10 year absence.  She left on top of her game with 1994's fantastic "Rhythm of Love" (see my review) to tend to raising family and taking care of ailing parents.  I saw Ms. Baker in concert last summer and let me tell you, the lady can sing!  One of the best voices live I've ever heard!  This album does not disappoint.  My favorite tracks are "Serious" and her duet with Babyface "Like You Used To Do" (one of the best tracks he's ever performed!).
Jill Scott  - "Beautifully Human"
Just because the second volume of "Words and Sounds" doesn't quite measure up to "Who Is Jill Scott", don't let that dissuade you from picking this CD up.  Jill Scott is making some of the best and freshest music today.  My favorite track, "The Fact Is (I Need You)" might send chills up your spine like it did to mine - worth the purchase for that experience alone!
Boyz II Men "Throwback"
 I rip all my CDs to put on my iPod so I was very unpleasantly surprised to find this CD had the MediaMax copy protection. Google "MediaMax" and you'll find instructions on how to defeat this silly copy protection (it's very simple). As for the music, the Boyz once again show off their immaculate voices and don't seem to miss the services of Mike "Bass" McCary. However, the musical arrangements don't quite measure up to the fine vocal performances. While their faithful interpretation of "Close The Door" overcomes the overuse of synthesizers, "Let's Stay Together" doesn't do it for me. Definitely a mixed bag.