Friday, 5 May 2017

"Silk Degrees" by BOZ SCAGGS featuring Members of Toto and Little Feat (2007 Columbia/Legacy 'Expanded Edition' CD - Vic Anesini Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...The Dirty Lowdown..."

In hindsight it's extraordinary to think how loyal Columbia Records were to Boz Scaggs. His self-titled debut with Atlantic Records in 1969 had effectively tanked on release while his next three Columbia efforts - "Moments" (April 1971), "Boz Scaggs And Band" (December 1971) and "My Time" (September 1972) barely scrapped the Top 200 at No. 124, No. 198 and No.138 (his second LP for only 2 weeks). At least his fourth platter - the March 1974 Johnny Bristol produced "Slow Dancer" pushed on up to a respectable No. 81 - bringing in its wake a reissue of his 1969 Atlantic debut into the charts in July 1974 to No.171 for a few weeks. But man did their patience pay off.

"Silk Degrees" was a phenomenon. Released Stateside in March 1976 (August 1976 in the UK) - the LP began it's certain US ascent to an eventual peak of No. 2 and five million record sales slowly. First out of the blocks came the moderate hit of "It's Over" b/w "Harbor Lights" on Columbia 3-10319. That 45 eventually stalled at No. 38 on the US Pop charts while the follow-up single - the obvious "Lowdown" - was also paired up with "Harbor Lights" on the B-side in June 1976 for Columbia 3-10367. That slick piece of West Coast hip-sway hit the chart in early July and was stalling too when luck and fate stepped in. A DJ on a Cleveland Soul Station saw the crossover Rock-Soul appeal of the insanely hooky "Lowdown" and began spinning the thing incessantly on his night shifts to such a point that it caught on like wildfire. Hundreds of other stations soon followed suit and the album's most famous winner went to No. 2 in the singles charts. With it's cool-as-a-Bay-breeze artwork and super smooth production values - "Silk Degrees" the LP then began shifting album units by the ton – eventually lasting an astonishing 115 weeks on the American LP charts - over two years. It wasn’t as big as "Rumours" in February 1977 – but I can remember at the time – it sure felt like two went hand-in-hand in their LA domination of the world. Which brings us to this fab CD reissue of it. Here are the Lido Shuffles...

UK released 26 February 2007 - "Silk Degrees" by BOZ SCAGGS on Columbia/Legacy 82876 86715 2 (Barcode 828768671528) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Reissue and Remaster with Three Live Bonus Tracks (Previously Unreleased) that plays out as follows (53:42 minutes):

1. What Can I Say [Side 1]
2. Georgia
3. Jump Street
4. What Do You Want The Girl To Do
5. Harbor Lights
6. Lowdown [Side 2]
7. It's Over
8. Love Me Tomorrow
9. Lido Shuffle
10. We're All Alone
Tracks 1 to 10 are his fifth studio album "Silk Degrees" - released March 1976 in the USA on Columbia Records PC 33920 and August 1976 in the UK on CBS Records S 81193. Produced by JOE WISSERT - it peaked at No. 2 in the USA and No. 20 in the UK.

11. What Can I Say (Live)
12. Jump Street (Live)
13. It's Over (Live)
Tracks 11 to 13 were recorded at The Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, 15 August 1976 and are Previously Unreleased

BOZ SCAGGS - Lead Vocals and Guitar
FRED TACKETT (of Little Feat) - Guitars
DAVID PAICH (of Toto) - Keyboards
JEFF PORCARO (of Toto) - Drums and Percussion

PLAS JOHNSON - Saxophone on "What Can I Say"
PLAS JOHNSON and BUD SHANK - Saxophones on "Love Me Tomorrow"
LES DUDEK - Slide Guitar on "Jump Street"
CHUCK FINDLEY - Flugelhorn Solo on "Harbor Lights"
JIM HORN - Tenor Saxophone on "What Do You Want The Girl To Do"
AUGIE JOHNSON and JIM GILSTRAP (of Side Effect) - Backing Vocals on "What Can I Say" and "Lowdown"
CAROLYN WILLIS (of Honey Cone) - Backing Vocals on "What Can I Say" and "Lowdown"
MARTY McCALL (of Tuxedo Junction) - Backing Vocals on "What Can I Say" and "Lowdown"
MAXINE GREEN - Backing Vocals on "It's Over" and "Love Me Tomorrow"
MAXINE GREEN and PEPPER SWENSON - Backing Vocals on "What Do You Want The Girl To Do"

The 12-page booklet is a surprisingly detailed and informative affair. The text pages are peppered with those Moshe Brakha photos of Boz and A Hidden Girl by a bench looking all hipster and California - sunglasses and tanned legs at the ready - just as the sun goes down and the night festivities are about to begin. After writer and musician credits – Boz then provides an overview to his approach on the 1975 and 1976 recordings - his core band that included members of Toto and Little Feat - following that with track-by-track reminiscences on the lyrics and the songs. Noted writer and music buff BUD SCOPPA then provides superb liner notes on the ex Steve Miller Guitarist's career and the album's tangled history and the major contributions of its musicians and Producer. But the big news is a stunning Remaster from ADAM AYAN done at Gateway Mastering. Always a Rock Audiophile wet dream - "Silk Degrees" the Remaster doesn't disappoint - each track feels amazing - clear and full of power - with all that amazing musicianship on display.

After the success of "Lowdown" as a single (No. 2 in the USA) - Columbia reached for the next obvious winner - the Side 1 opener "What Can I Say". They paired it with the Side 2 smoocher "We're All Alone" in November 1976 and given the strength of the song were only rewarded with a surprisingly modest No. 42 placing for Columbia 3-10440. But in Blighty the album had been picking up steam and "What Can I Say" on CBS Records 4869 managed a No.10 hit on the English single charts in January 1977. Fred Tackett of Little Feat provides the guitar on the poppy "Georgia" while Les Dudek raises "Jump Street" up with some great slide guitar. Boz joins two of the ladies for backing vocals on "What Do You Want The Girl To Do" - Maxine Green and Pepper Swenson - an Allen Toussaint song I admire more than I actually like. The side ends with Chuck Findley playing a sweet Flugelhorn solo on the cuddle-up-my-love "Harbor Lights".

"Lowdown" sounds amazing and brings home one of the albums great secrets to success - the pairing of Boz as a Soulful Rock songwriter with Toto's David Paich. Paich had toured with Steely Dan and played alongside Jeff Porcaro on Becker and Fagan's demanding albums too - but here he stumps up a co-credit on five of the ten songs including "What Can I Say", "Jump Street", "Lowdown", "It's Over" and "Lido Shuffle" with a further solo songwriting credit on "Love Me Tomorrow". You'd have to say that the combo of Scaggs, his Toto/Little Feat core band and all those superb session players and singers proved a lethal mix. As you listen you pick up on Scoppa's liner notes observations – the album featured an array of cool and hip tunes tailor-made for radio. "It's Over", "Love Me Tomorrow" and "Lido Shuffle" were all potential hits – in fact it often feels like SD is a whole album full of them. The three live cuts capture a moment of Yacht Rock emerging from its 1974/1975 gestation-period and now out in the open for all to enjoy. The audio is also good.

The 1978 follow-up LP "Down Two Then Left" came as something of a disappointment I remember even though tracks like the fab "A Clue", "We're Waiting" and the funky "Gimme The Goods" still displayed that same sound and magic.

To sum up - "Silk Degrees" is the kind of mid-Seventies slick-dick that still swings and this wicked-sounding 2007 CD Remaster has done that beach babe a proper solid. Hand me those sunglasses please...
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