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Boz Scaggs Album Review * Boz Scaggs *

Boz Scaggs - Boz Scaggs 1969 Atlantic Records

In this era- of hick Hee-Haws and Hollywood cowboys, Nashville cronies and Nudie creations, seems like everybody and his musical brother (and also his chaste sister) has to make it to Tennessee or Alabama, or he jes' cain't make it a-tall. Most of the transient residents at 3614 Jackson Highway, for example, site of the much-favored Muscle Shoals Sound Recorders, have no business recording there. Things really aren't all that magical in Muscle Shoals—what counts is what a musician brings into town with him.

Fortunately, Boz Scaggs travels with talent to spare. You knew that listening to the early Steve Miller albums. But then Boz split. He resurfaced briefly a while ago, providing some back-up on Mother Earth's second release, and now Boz has emerged from his own session in Muscle Shoals—and it must have been something! Boz moves effortlessly all the way from gospel to rock and back again, ringing all the changes and making all the whistle-stops between. You want a Fifties-style rock-ballad arrangement? Saunter along with "Another Day." A slice of everlovin' country pie? Join the honky-tonkin' in "Now You're Gone": tipsy slide guitar, skittish fiddle, and break-your-heart, saloon-gal vocal-backing from Tracy Nelson and others.

For gospel-soul, listen to "I'll Be Long Gone": the gentle opening interplay of Barry Beckett's organ and Boz's understated vocal (with just a hint of horns); then hear him hit those high notes—no strain, no explosion, just whoo-o-ops and you're there. "I'm gonna get up and make my life shine," he sings. Mine. too, Boss Boz.

Or how about a bit of railroad blues, courtesy of the Original Blues Yodeler himself? Dig "Waiting for a Train"—but understand that's Boz doing the weaving with the fiddle and the ricky-tick pieanner. Jimmie Rodgers is looking down from on high with a proud smile.

The album's other beauties and sweet C&W moments multiply. (Only "Finding Her," with its precious lyrics and Moonlight Sonata piano, falters; and it's rescued by Duane Allman's slide guitar magic at the end.) But the peak of the disc is the 13-minute "Loan Me a Dime." Most extended cuts—face it, folks—are a drag. Can't be sustained. Your ear tends to blot them out on most every record, picking out the briefer, tighter numbers instead.

But not this time. "Loan Me" makes it all the way. Boz's vocalizing seems relaxed and mournful at the same time; and then, midway, the singing stops and the cooking begins—horns soaring (the same figure over and over), organ romping along, drums pushing, and some spine-tingling guitar work by Duane Allman. That guitar fools around with the horns part of the time; and they seem to prod it into new inventiveness the rest of the way.

That's Boz. Style. Panache. One of the few. He sounds right at home in Muscle Shoals. Like his namesake, the illustrator "Boz" who brought Dickensian London to vivid life, this Boz belongs to, yet shapes and transcends, his milieu. No wonder he's smiling.

- Ed Leimbacher / Rolling Stone (RS 46)/ Nov 15, 1969

Produced by Jann Wenner and featuring crack accompaniment by the Muscle Shoals house band, Scaggs's solo debut is a near-masterwork, mingling the pathos and heartbreak of vintage honky tonk with the celebration and release of Southern soul. The highlights of the album also flaunt its diversity: "Loan Me a Dime," an extended blues dirge, which features some of Duane Allman's finest work, and "Waiting on a Train," Scaggs's marvelous revamping of Jimmie Rodgers' classic hobo song.

- by John Floyd

Outstanding Solo Debut Effort

This isn't pop, disco, or smooth jazz, but the great sounds of a singer and a band digging into the rich earth of America's musical heritage. Boz Scaggs got a great education in the blues from his work with Steve Miller, and then went solo with this inspired debut album. Like Rod Stewart and Jeff Beck, at the end of the Sixties, Scaggs explored the roots of rock, here reviving even the ghost of Jimmie Rodgers' "Waiting for a Train." With beautiful horn and organ accompaniment by the folks from Muscle Shoals, and guitar work from none other than Duane Allman, Scaggs gives great, soulful voice to these songs. This music sounds as fresh, rich, lively, and adventurous today as it did in 1969. If you like your music Austin-style, a bit off the beaten track, you'll love this album. For me, this is a must-have CD, and a heck of a bargain at that.

- TexJuan 01/17/2007
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