Friday, April 9, 2010

Boz Scaggs My Time: A Boz Scaggs Anthology 1969-1997

Boz Scaggs has had an interesting history in contemporary music, and has made many excellent records in several styles. Always a consummately smooth and tasteful R&B singer, and a gifted songwriter, much of his best work has been criminally neglected.

His debut solo record from 1969, Boz Scaggs was a mix of blues, country blues, and the sweet ballads he delivers so well. While not a great album, it contains the classic Loan Me A Dime, featuring Duane Allman on slide guitar. (It's not really his debut. He recorded a record in 1965, called Boz, which may have been released only in Europe, and he played and sang on the first two Steve Miller Band records.)

His early seventies records were excellent. Moments 1971, Boz Scaggs And Band 1971, My Time 1972, and Slow Dancer 1974, were all solid records. Carefully arranged, well-written R&B with a horn section and female backup singers and Boz's fine singing, they are still good today, even if they sound a little dated. They all contain moments of driving R&B, heartfelt ballads, and wonderful mid-tempo rock with horns.

In 1976 Silk Degrees was Boz's biggest hit record and contained the single most people remember him for, Lowdown. Recorded with the musicians who would become Toto, and others, it made it's way to the Disco dance floor. Follow-ups Down Two Then Left 1977 and Middle Man 1980 attempted to repeat the Silk Dgrees formula, and Middle Man came close.

After an eight year hiatus, Scaggs returned with Other Roads 1988, a disappointing foray into the burgeoning Adult Contemporary market. In 1994, Boz reappeared with Some Change, an interesting record and mostly a return to form. Some Change is a little heavy on the ballads that suit Scagg's voice so well, but it's a good record. 1996 saw Scaggs deliver Fade Into Light, released only in Japan until 2005, the record contains some re-recordings of a few earlier songs mixed with new material. It good, but it's very mellow.

In 1997, the year of the Anthology I'm ostensibly reviewing, Boz released Come On Home. Hearkening back to his earlier blues roots, this mix of straight blues and R&B is a killer record. If you have any interest in Boz Scaggs, this one is indispensable. His singing is great, the material is excellent, and the cast of musicians is stellar. In fact, if you're at all into the blues, you should hear this record.

The Anthology serves up two CDs of Boz, and it's very good. There's too much focus on the his slick hit period from 1976-80, but that's what most people know him for, and they are good songs. There's a good introduction to his early seventies output that will surprise a few listeners, and of course Loan Me A Dime is there, all 13 minutes of it. The later years include some soundtrack songs and one-offs that are only so-so, but most of it holds up. I would have put together a different collection, but this one is darn good. Only one song from Come On Home is disappointing, but it's such a good record you need to own every song anyway.

More recently, Boz Scaggs has delivered two fine albums of jazz standards. But Beautiful 2003 and Speak Low 2008 are both excellent late-night, laid back jazz records with fine players, and Scaggs' glorious voice and subtle phrasing do justice to the great American songbook.

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