Affirmation, How George Benson recorded it, By LiPuma
Affirmation by George Benson
A review by '70s for Breezin LP
Though Side One of Breezin' had the hits, Side Two was a creamy, seamless masterpiece unto itself. It unfolded with "Affirmation," a song composed by Jose Feliciano, the international superstar singer/guitarist/composer who had recorded it on his album, Just Wanna Rock 'N' Roll (RCA), from the fall of '75. "Affirmation" was the sole instrumental on that Feliciano LP, providing the blind Puerto Rican wunderkind a golden opportunity to showcase his skills on acoustic Spanish guitar, electric rhythm guitar (with a wah-wah effect), electric bass, congas and as a string arranger! LiPuma was enchanted with the melody of Feliciano's relatively brief (3:33) recording. When material was being prepared for Breezin', he presented it to Benson, who liked it immediately. The band worked up an arrangement that loosened and elongated the vibe of the original. Like Feliciano's version, George begins "Affirmation" alone, caressing an introduction of choice notes and a smooth rendering of its signature run down the frets. But when the rhythm section eases in, led by MacDonald's congas, the groove is more relaxed and funky in a way that is quite different from Feliciano's more insistent arrangement, which throbbed with forthright Latin pride. Where Feliciano had his rhythm section drop out for the soaring bridge, Benson's band rides it like the wind, drummer Mason liberating the rhythm by opening up on his cymbals. Benson tickles the strings with a tasty solo that leads into the killer breakdown section, with Upchurch dipping into his effects bag. And then, in what has to be one of the all-time classiest hand-offs in music, Benson makes way for Dalto's wistful electric piano (complete with soulful little comps) before Benson takes it home, getting in a few final signature licks. Benson's "Affirmation" is seven minutes of masterful musical heaven.