Boz...Smooth As Ever, I Mean Smoooth
March 5, 2013
By To The Max"Bax"
It's been a while, approximately 5 years since his last release, the jazzy "Speak Low" CD which had an R&B feel to it like previous "Silk Degrees" offering from years gone by. This new release takes us back in time, Memphis represents the best of all extremes,(from soul to jazz and the R&B in between) a set of 13 well-chosen soul tracks (including two originals), backed by legends of the music city that lends the album its title.
"Recorded at Royal Studio, site of Al Green's greatest sessions, producer/drummer Steve Jordan captures an early '70s vintage sound from a crew of classic hands, including Spooner Oldham on electric piano, Ray Parker Jr. on guitars, Willie Weeks on bass, the Memphis Horns, and string arranger, Lester Snell. The result is one of Boz Scaggs' most satisfying collections of his solo career."
This can be a complicated journey at times with plenty of genre jumping, crooning, reggie, Delta blues, ballads, R&B to name a few. Quite a mixture of covers but as usual Scaggs' musical voice shines, he brings something to this CD that we have never heard before. They're the same warm, subtle sounds found on soul recordings made by Al Green and other artists at Memphis' Royal Studio in the 1970's. "Nobody can touch Green, even four decades later, for pure carnal rapture, but I'll be damned if Scaggs, at least on these cuts, doesn't get right up to the edge of it."
Scaggs' bluesy voice, is still in top shape. "Listen to the way he drops into the music on the opening `Gone Baby Gone' like a soft-speaking ghost who wants to fill you in on his sad, lonely story. It's expert timing by an artist who's made a career out of this sort of thing." Check out Boz Scaggs - Greatest Hits Live
The Royal Studio, brings us back in time, "So Good to Be Here" a deep cut from Green's 1973 album "Livin' for You" and "Can I Change My Mind" a Top 5 hit for Tyrone Davis in 1969, has Scagg's following a similar path to that of Al Green. A borrowed style, but he pulls it off easily. He has also earned the right.
The music takes me back to his 1969 release "Loan Me A Dime", Boz Scaggs featured the muscle shoals Rhythm Section, along with session guitarist Duane Allman on that one. The style of music is very familiar to that great tune.
The bulk of the cuts on the album are sweet, laid back, Memphis soul, with a couple of blues cuts thrown in for good measure. "Rainy Night In Georgia" is soft and unhurried, "Dry Spell" is a slow shuffle blues with Charlie Musselwhite on harmonica, "Love On A Two Way Street" is straight-up soft soul and "Cadillac Walk" has a moderate boogie/blues feel to it with some great piano.
The vocal range Scaggs has today is amazing, this is music for the heart, the head and all points in between. In this way, Scaggs has made a triumphant return, after a five-year hiatus between projects. Listen with your heart and try not to over think the music, and Boz will map out a conclusive argument for his place as one of our greatest living soul singers.
There is not one bad cut on the whole CD, too many great tunes to critique but one thing is certain, this will be one of the top releases of 2013. What a start to the year, fantastic.
Boz and Memphis were made for each other
March 6, 2013
In 40+ years I have never been disappointed by a Boz Scaggs album and this is no exception. I'll go further than that and rank this as one of his best for quite some time, as he is completely in his comfort zone with this Memphis project, even if hardly any of the songs are directly associated with that great Mid-South musical city.
Among the finest moments of his career is his stunningly beautiful version of the Moments' melodic number one soul ballad from 1970, "Love on a Two Way Street." This one has got me pressing the replay button every time.
On "Rainy Night in Georgia," a major pop and soul smash by Brook Benton a few months earlier that same year, he goes back a little further with it to its Tony Joe White roots.
Completing his trifecta of #1 soul hits, he takes Tyrone Davis's breakthrough record "Can I Change My Mind" (1969) and wraps his own unique vocal style around it. (This is in contrast to what Mick Hucknall does with Davis's "Turn Back the Hands of Time" on his recent "American Soul" album: Hucknall does a veritable Tyrone Davis vocal imitation on a note-for-note re-creation.)
This project would be incomplete without a nod to Memphis's greatest living soul man, the Reverend Al Green. Wisely, Scaggs chose to cover a 1974 B-side ("So Good to Be Here") that is right in his wheelhouse, instead of doing an overly familiar Green chart hit.
This is an inspired, first-rate, well-conceived-and-produced project from start to finish. (Producer Steve Jordan clearly took inspiration from the late Memphis producing genius Willie Mitchell of Hi Records on a number of tracks.) Hope it's the hit it deserves to be.