Exploring Boz Scaggs, besides 'Silk Degrees'

We all know Boz Scaggs, right? The guy from Silk Degrees, the 1976 smash that spawned hit single after hit single after hit single -- the million-selling "Lowdown," "Lido Shuffle," "What Can I Say," "We're All Alone." The truth is, though, that it was the former Steve Miller sideman's seventh solo release, and Scaggs has continued issuing varied and vital recordings, even if far fewer people have heard them in the post-white suited era.

So, enough with the Silk Degrees already. Let's explore elsewhere in Scaggs' lengthy catalog, from his bluesier fare to one of those psychedelic Steve Miller sides to some boffo bossa nova from just a few years ago ...

"SOME CHANGE" (SOME CHANGE, 1994): The title cut from his first album in six years, "Some Change" is a glance back at Scaggs' blues-soaked beginnings of his 1969 debut and even further back to his time in the Steve Miller Band. And yet, it's informed with a little of the soulful croon and smoothness of his 1970s peak. There's an unmistakable modern groove that pervades the song but make no mistake, this is straight ahead blues with Booker T. Jones's Hammond B-3 giving it enough grit to make this stand the test of time easily better than most anything else you'll here from a mid-90s recording from a mainstream pop star.

When Scaggs sang in Miller's band he shared the spotlight with the legendary leader's guitar; when he sang "Somebody Loan Me A Dime," he gave way to Duane Allman's blistering, name-making solo. "Some Change," too is bolstered by some nifty guitar soloing. By no less than Boz himself.

"Some Change" offers some proof that the greatness that Scaggs had been around some 25-30 years earlier had not only rubbed off on him, it never wore off of him, either. -- S. Victor Aaron

"MISS SUN" (HITS!, 1980): Before Toto was Toto, they were Boz Scaggs' studio band. He would continue to collaborate with various members of the group over the years, but never quite matched the magic or success of Silk Degrees.

In 1980, however, he briefly recaptured that lightning-in-a-bottle chemistry with the David Paich-penned "Miss Sun." There’s a smoky nightclub vibe that dances around Scaggs' vocals. Where much of his earlier work could be described as jazz-rock there’s a lighter jazz-pop vibe to "Miss Sun." Some might consider that an insult, however, in this case it’s a compliment in its highest form.

Scaggs put together a jazz song, along with sultry backup vocalist Lisa Dal Bello, that was accessible enough to be commercially and popularly successful. The David Paich keyboard flourishes are an exceptional touch and, much like his work on Silk Degrees, provides an enjoyable complement. -- Perplexio, from DancingAboutArchitecture and The Review Revue.

"DINDI" (SPEAK LOW, 2008): Dating back to 1972's My Time, another all-but-forgotten release that contained the driving minor hit “Dinah Flo,” Scaggs showed a willingness for put aside his guitar and pay closer attention to the vocals. He possessed, we quickly discovered, another instrument with both technical reach and this stirring artistry -- a voice that keenly blended the sway of early hero Ray Charles with Jimmy Reed’s toe-tapping delight.

With Speak Low, he added in romantic elements of Chet Baker and Johnny Hartman with the delicate yet devastating backbeat of Billie Holiday. That helped Scaggs, together with the Gil Goldstein Septet, craft a set of carefully drawn moods -- emotionally gripping, rhythmically surprising, sensual rather than ribald in a time when that’s its own headline. Nowhere is that more true on the underrated Speak Low than on this gently nudging piece of Jobim bossa nova.

In a way, this is the same role Scaggs has played for decades, from his elemental blues picking during the counterculture 1960s, to a very adult soul that offset those flashy disco days of the 1970s, and on through to these contemporary forays into jazz, amidst the cacophony of hip hop and plastic pop. Crisp yet cozy, Speak Low isn't so much a left turn as the next iteration in the Boz Scaggs aesthetic. -- Nick DeRiso

"BABY'S CALLING ME HOME," with the Steve Miller Band (CHILDREN OF THE FUTURE, 1968): Before Scaggs made a name for himself as a solo artist, he was a guitarist and vocalist with the Steve Miller Band on its initial releases. While Miller handled the lion’s share of the vocals himself, he did defer to Scaggs on a couple tracks on each of the band's first two albums.

Of those, "Baby’s Calling Me Home" is arguably the best -- a light acoustic blues piece with harpsichord and psychedelic flourishes reminiscent of 1968. Those psychedelic flourishes do make the song sound somewhat dated today, but on the flip side they give a glimpse of Scaggs potential for his future success as a solo musician. -- Perplexio, from DancingAboutArchitecture and The Review Revue.

"ASK ME 'BOUT NOTHING" (COME ON HOME, 1997): This was, I always thought, the record that Boz Scaggs should have been making. “Come On Home” is a rocking, rib-sticking roux of blues, R&B and soul in small-band configurations. Scaggs might add some horns, but that’s about it.

The master of the silky smooth 1970s lover-man ballad, he actually started out digging this stuff. The story goes that Scaggs, growing up in Plano, Texas, heard T-Bone Walker’s “Blues for Mary Lee” on the radio -- and he was hooked. You will be too, as Scaggs ladles a smoky soul over this forgotten Bobby "Blue" Bland side, "Ask Me 'Bout Nothin' (But The Blues)." Elsewhere, there are the expected, and terrific, nods to Charles, Reed and Walker but also moving new sides like “Goodnight Louise,” a gospel-tinged ballad that's at once romantic and a little spooky.

It’s almost enough to erase the cavity-causing memory of that tune from “Urban Cowboy.” Almost. -- Nick DeRiso

Continue reading at www.SomethingElseReviews.com ...

Views: 506

Tags: boz scaggs,, steve miller,, www.SomethingElseReviews.com

Comment by Tom McD on May 28, 2011 at 6:12am
Totally agree about Come On Home just a terrific recording
Comment by Shane on May 28, 2011 at 8:20am

I always liked the real early stuff, but Come On Home was his best.


Comment by Michael on May 31, 2011 at 6:43am
I still listen to that first album on Atlantic. Love "Loan Me A Dime'".
Comment by Amos Perrine on May 31, 2011 at 6:45am
Check out his first album after leaving Miller, the self-titled one from 1969 on Atlantic. I do not know why that one gets no respect.
Comment by Daevid Langdon on May 31, 2011 at 6:51am

Thanks for this. I will have to check these out. Haven't listened to much Boz in the last few years, except "Boz Scaggs" (1969) with Duane all over it.  Play that all the time. Absolutely love that album ...  a killer.

Comment by willycoolahan on May 31, 2011 at 7:06am

Nice article.

Come On Home certainly makes my "Best of 1990s" list.  He also has a great cut on Donald Fagen's Rock n' Soul Review album from 1997 when he does Drowning In A Sea Of Love.  I never really listened to Boz until I bought Duane Allman's Anthology and heard Loan Me a Dime.  That was a real eye opener for me.

Comment by Paul Goode on May 31, 2011 at 7:23am
I recommend exploring Boz' pre-Degrees oeuvre, especially the contrarian (to the musical zeitgeist of the early 70s) Moments and the blue-eyed soul classic Slow Dancer. Both highly recommended.
Comment by Emory Joseph on May 31, 2011 at 8:06am

I've always considered Boz Scaggs to be an artist with a unique sound all-around.  He was able to take his early interests and success in blues and R&B and develop a sound that grew with the times.

Slow Dancer (1974 - produced by Johnny Bristol) was one of the the first albums I ever bought with my own money.  I had heard "Loan Me A Dime" on "Duane Allman - An Anthology" when I was 12, and really wanted to hear a whole album by the singer.  It bordered on disco at times, with it's lush strings and horns, but the lovesongs were straight up and complex, and  were pretty heady stuff for a 14 yr. old.

"I have had my eyes on you, Oh since the day I learned to laugh at myself, caught you laughing too." (from "You Make it Hard to Say No".  It also featured the first song I ever knew was written by Allen Toussaint.  Stripped down to the core of the cut, his take on "Hercules" is as informed and respectful of the SeaSaint sound as Bonnie Raitt's ("What is Success") or Lowell George's ("On Your Way Down") or Robert Palmer's ("Sneaking Sally Through the Alley").  I have to say that it's hard to see him, or Steve Miller for that matter, as a bluesman, and his forays into the genre leave me a little cold.  But - hearing him do it sure gave me the courage to think I could do it too.

Comment by Bill Mankin on May 31, 2011 at 8:14am
If ever there was an album that has cried out for a deluxe remastering, it's Boz Scaggs' self-titled first, one of the most glorious, and most criminally neglected, albums of the entire Sixties era.  I've never heard another album that sounds like it, or that delivers its emotional impact with such surpassing grace.  Anyone up for a campaign to get it remastered, re-released and rediscovered by a whole new audience?
Comment by jack h on May 31, 2011 at 8:15am

I received the "Come On Home" CD as a gift from a close friend... if it had been on vinyl, I'd have played it to pizza, as we used to say... and it's a favorite sing-along CD for long drives alone in the car.

Can't argue with willycoolahan and shane... I put it very near the very top of the 90's, and absolutely at the top of all that is Boz. I simply could not get enough of it, and gifted it to all my musically-hip friends that Christmas.

My one complaint: when I saw him play live, some 3-4 years ago, he kind of took the easy path for pleasing the crowd, performing a playlist taken almost exclusively from his 70's "Lido Shuffle"-like output, prompting all the half-fans to sing along with the chorus because that was the only lyric they knew... not a single cut from "Come On Home"... a major disappointment.


You need to be a member of No Depression Americana and Roots Music to add comments!

Join No Depression Americana and Roots Music


If you enjoy this site please consider helping us with a small donation!

Don't like PayPal? Mail a check to: No Depression, 460 Bush St., San Francisco, CA 94108

When you shop at Amazon please enter through this search box and No Depression receives a referral fee



Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.