Boz Scaggs – Speakers Corner Records

by | Dec 24, 2019 | Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews, SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

Boz Scaggs – Atlantic Records SD 19166 (1969)/Speakers Corner Records (2019) 180-gram stereo vinyl, 44:13 *****:

(Boz Scaggs – guitar, vocals; Duane Allman – guitar; Eddie Hinton – guitar; Jimmy Johnson – guitar; Barry Beckett – keyboards; Al Lester – fiddle; David Hood – bass; Roger Hawkins – drums; Jeannie Green, Donna Thatcher, Mary Holiday, Tracy Nelson, Irma Routen, Joyce Dunn – backup vocals; Charles Chalmers – tenor saxophone; Floyd Newman – baritone saxophone; Ben Cauley – trumpet; Gene “Bowlegs” Miller – trumpet, trombone; Joe Arnold – tenor saxophone; James Mitchell – baritone saxophone)

Boz Scaggs became part of the rock music scene in San Francisco as a member of the Steve Miller Band. The two were high school classmates and had an appreciation for blues and roots-based music. Scaggs played on Miller’s first two albums, Children Of The Future and Sailor. He left to pursue a solo career as a songwriter and performer. In 1965, he had released a solo album, Boz which was unsuccessful. Scaggs was neighbors with Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner. Eventually a demo from Scaggs found its way to Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records. With Wenner producing, he traveled to the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Sheffield, Alabama to record Boz Scaggs. With the help of emerging superstar Duane Allman and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, a collection of original songs and covers explored blues, r & b, country and Southern-based music. This 1969 album garnered critical acclaim, but not commercial success. However, the prominence of FM or “underground radio” provided a niche audience for undiscovered rock musicians. The blues cover, “Loan Me A Dime” received significant airplay, despite its twelve-and-a-half minute length. In the mid 70’s Scaggs achieved stardom with the release of 5x platinum Silk Degrees, which included the hits, “Lowdown”, “We’re All Alone” and “Lido Shuffle”.

Speakers Corner Records has released a 180-gram re-mastered vinyl of Boz Scaggs. Although the album was released in 1969, it was re-mixed in 1977 with better results. From the opening notes of “I’m Easy” on Side One, it is apparent that this is a highly polished musical statement. Scaggs is a bona fide purveyor of “blue-eyed soul” and the hook-driven arrangement with soulful vocals, crisp guitar licks and horn chorus is vintage Muscle Shoals. Shifting to 3/4 time, “I’ll Be Long Gone” is quintessential Scaggs. With atmospheric smooth contours, the song morphs from melancholy to affirmation (“I’m gonna get up and make my life shine”). A tenor solo, nimble organ and gospel backup vocals are graceful. In a nod to slowed down Memphis sounds, “Another Day (Another Letter)” has the emotional impact required for an aching reflection of love. Boz’s low-register vocals at the end of this track are catchy. In a distinct change of pace, “Now You’re Gone” is honky tonk country with twangy guitar and fiddle. In a glimpse of future pop largesse, “Finding Her” combines different motifs in evocative waltz-time, showcasing echo-laden guitar. The first cover, “Look What I Got” is a country lament framed by slide guitar. A gospel flourish resonates at the climax.

Side Two resonates with the musical versatility of Boz Scaggs. An excellent version of Jimmy Rodgers’ high-stepping “Waiting For a Train” distills the essence of The “Singling Brakeman”. The good-natured lyrics (“if you got the money, I’ll see that you don’t walk”) is heartwarming. Scaggs throws in some “Rodgers-esque” yodeling for good measure. Amazingly, the signature number on this album, “Loan Me a Dime” is in the middle of the second side. It is difficult to grasp the visceral artistic force of this performance. A blues classic, written by Fenton Robinson, it starts with a hypnotic, moody organ and piano. The exquisite guitar licks and earnest vocal eloquence strikes at the heart of blues (like B.B. King). When Duane Allman enters the jam, it explodes to a new level. The swelling horn shading and continual tempo uptick is nothing short of electric blues perfection. Scaggs’ sultry delivery is a perfect counterpoint. As the intensity modulates, the band creates a spine-tingling, furious jam. The players are in such a lockstep that listeners will want it to go on beyond the 12:30 mark. An original composition, “Sweet Release” seems to begin as a folk song. Then, a trombone is added to soulful backup singing and gospel styling takes over. It is the essence of Boz Scaggs and Muscle Shoals.

Speakers Corner Records has done a masterful job in re-mastering Boz Scaggs to 180-gram vinyl. It captures the muscular layers of horns as well as the searing guitar tones. The harmonic backup voices are glowing. Scaggs’ winsome voice is centered in the mix and is never overwhelmed by the instrumentation.

This vinyl is outstanding and would be a valuable addition to any music collection.

Side One:
I’m Easy
I’ll Be Long Gone
Another Day (Another Letter)
Now You’re Gone
Finding Her
Look What I Got

Side Two:
Waiting For A Train
Loan Me A Dime
Sweet Release

—Robbie Gerson

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