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Boz Scaggs Album Reviews - Come On Home

Boz Scaggs - Come On Home
Virgin Records America, Inc.
Released: 1997

By Jay Piriz
January 1998

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ***
Overall Enjoyment ****

Man, this is one singer/musician/songwriter who has been around the block. Boz Scaggs has been making mostly pop music since, well.... The liner notes describe the compilation of music on this CD as "like trying to draw a line between where the blues and gospel end and where R&B begins; where R&B ends and becomes soul, funk, rock & roll, Stax, Motown, the Philly style, and on and on." This music on this effort is unlike any music you have ever heard from The Boz Man. I never realized Scaggs could be so soulful. "Early In The Morning," by the great Sonny Boy Williamson, is a blues standard; Scaggs delivers his rendition of this tune with pain and sorrow, just the way a great blues song should be.

There are great, classic blues and R&B songs on this CD: "Your Good Thing (Is About To End)" by Isaac Hayes and David Porter, "T-Bone Shuffle" by T-Bone Walker, "Found Love" by Jimmy Reed and the oldie but goodie "Love Letters" by Young/Heyman. The delivery of "T-Bone Shuffle" is a hot mixture of slick guitar work, horns, and a funky driving bass line...just gotta move! The very cool and quick piano work on "Sick And Tired" (Kenner/Bartholomew), is not to be outdone by the mighty horns in the background and the solo sax...from 3:05 on, this tune just cooks and cooks.

The Boz Man intersperses his own homespun tunes among the classics he borrows. "After Hours" is his own thing, a smooth blues tune with a cat on the Hammond B-3 named Dave Matthews. Could it be? Scaggs closes out this CD with "Goodnight Louise," a sweet love song about the "First, not the last, the queen of my past." The tune is spiced up with nice piano and accordion accompaniment.

I really enjoyed listening to this CD. It goes deep into a musical genre that I had not before heard him enter. To sing and play the blues, you gotta feel the blues, and not everyone can feel the blues. The Boz Man sings, plays and feels the blues on this one. The recording is not bad, but not nearly close to audiophile quality. Every now and then, performers click on a project. This is one of those projects where the total listening experience far outweighs any individual piece of the work. After such a long absence from the mainstream, it's nice that The Boz Man is home.

BOZ SCAGGS:  "Come On Home"
Virgin Records America

By Al Handa
Delta Snake Blues News
September 1997  No. 20

Boz Scaggs has always been one of the more interesting R&B singers to me, and make no mistake, he's essentially a singer in the Al Green mold.  His music has gone in many different directions, from rock and roll to mainstream soul, but there is a single thread that runs through all that, and that's his voice.

His vocal style, which is similiar to an Al Green in approach isn't really a copy of that Memphis legend, but the comparison is apt.  Both are basically crooners who shine best on ballads and medium tempo songs, and rarely (if ever) use the classic shouter style (like say, an Otis Redding).  Their upper level emotive devices trace back to gospel singers like Claude Jeeter and others, where tone often substitutes for grit and volume.

This can make a record like this sound like a smoother version of what a blues and R record should be in the minds of some, but for those who like Jimmy Reed as opposed to Muddy Waters (the true fan loves both ;-)), this is one of the most accessible yet bluesy records of the year.  Also, the engineering and sound is incredibly crisp and clear, and the various musicians top notch.

Boz starts off with an old Earl King song, "It All Went Down The Drain," which has a slight similiarity to "Your Love Is Strong" by the Stones.  Same basic sound, but the groove here is harder and arguably better.  A poignant "Ask Me About Nothing," is next, and demonstrates Boz's ability to tug at your heart with a ballad.

The tone shifts with "Don't Cry No More," an uptempo soul song that sounds like a cross between Solomon Burke and Bobby Blue Bland. Next up is a pretty faithful rendition of Jimmy Reed's "Found Love," and like most of that legend's blues, it sounds just fine here.

A hard-edge medium tempo soul in the classic HI-Rhythm mold is next, "Come On Home," followed by a funky ballad, "Picture Of A Broken Heart," a cool one that wouldn't have sounded out of place on Al Green's immortal "Can't Get Next To You," album.

The next song is "Love Letters," which is the one you've all heard before in the movies, and while it sounds fine here, I found it hard to connect to.  Everyone else in the room when I was playing it was
singing along with it under their breaths, so I'll cop to being a slight cynic in this case.

"I've Got Your Love," is a great torch song, followed by Sonny Boy Williamson (the first one) classic, "Early In The Morning."  The cover here, as Boz states in his liner, was influenced by Buddy Guy and Junior Wells's version.  Another slow one, "Your Good Thing" rounds out the trio.

Boz pays tribute to T-Bone in his cover of "T-Bone Shuffle," and it's a pretty cool, swinging version.  "Sick And Tired," rocks out New Orleans style, leading to Boz's "After Hours," a great slow blues. The music ends with an interesting ballad, "Goodnight Louise," which has a barrelhouse feel, and is one of Boz's best songs ever.

This record, like his last before this one, is a return to the earlier R eclecticism that was so well executed on his first LP. There's plenty of singers who do this sort of cross between R and rock, but few do it as soulfully.  Also, fewer still sing this sort of music with their own unique style, and sound as connected to the material as Boz does.

Boz is a pure singer, like a Van Morrison or Al Green, and the closer one listens to his performances, the greater the rewards.

Editor/Publisher:  Al Handa
Web Version Publisher: Gary Joneson
Associate Editors: Alan Rollins
Contributing Editor: Cathi Norton
Contributing Writer: Peggy Leyva Conley, Judi Ann Ohr

Boz Scaggs - Come On Home

By Jason Cohen / The Backyard / April 29, 1997

Austin, Texas


Boz Scaggs is one of those timeless draws whose recording career is beside the point.  As it happens, however, Scaggs is touring behind what might be his best record in 20 years, the blues- and R&B-covers set Come On Home, so parking spaces at the Backyard were scarcer than a vinyl copy of Silk Degrees.  Could there be a better market for Scaggs?  Austin loves its blues, loves it adult-alternative radio station and is of a certain demographic (this particular evening was surely a lucrative one for the local baby-sitter population).

 

Scaggs is a craftsman, an adaptable crooner whose love of Philly soul, Motown and Muscle Shoals runs deep.  Working with a tight, occasionally too-slick band that features a four-piece horn section and a pair of slinky female singers, Scaggs was as unfussy and elegant as his tasteful dark clothing.  Unlike so many blue-eyed soulmen, he can cover Bobby "Blue" Bland or Isaac Hayes without a trace of embarrassment.

 

Scaggs also knows how to give the people what they want.  The funereal organ of "Loan Me a Dime" got the applause going instantly; it was the first time in years that he had played the blues chestnut, which lacked Duane Allman but still got cooking pretty hot.  Of course, both "Lido Shuffle" and "Lowdown" got standing O's.  The latter holds up amazingly well, right down to its martial flute and plunky, funky pre-disco bass line.  Cooler than anything from the current swing revivalists, it's the Billy Dee Williams of '70s classics:  suave, smooth and a little schmaltzy.

Boz Gets The Blues

Letter from the Editor
Liz Lufkin/SF Chronicle
April 6, 1997

Dear Readers:

Back in 1969, you could've been forgiven for not knowing who Duane Allman was (unless, of course, you were from the South). The Allman Brothers hadn't released their first album yet, so at the time Allman was known mainly as a session guitar player at the legendary Muscle Shoals recording studio in Alabama.

And then Boz Scaggs released his first solo LP, which contained an extraordinary 12-minute blues tune called ``Loan Me a Dime,'' with Allman just wailing on the second half of it. That was Scaggs first blues album. Now, closing in on 30 years later, he's about to release another one, ``Come On Home.'' It's a collection of songs by Jimmy Reed, Bobby ``Blue'' Bland, Sonny Boy Williamson, T-Bone Walker and other blues masters, plus a couple of Scaggs originals.

He's not the first rock star to head in this direction, of course. Eric Clapton did it in 1994, and scored a No. 1 record with ``From the Cradle.'' Aerosmith almost got around to it, and may still give it a shot at some point. But if you only know Scaggs from his smooth ``Silk Degrees'' era, he may seem like an unlikely candidate for this kind of album.

``The thing is, people don't know the real Boz,'' says Pop Music Critic Joel Selvin, who talked to Scaggs for this week's cover story. ``They see this guy who's always elegantly dressed and scrupulously behaved. I don't think they realize he's a blues-drenched Texan. He's a for-real blues dude.

``It's a wonderful job,'' continues Selvin. ``The production is flawless. The nuances are all in place.''

I listened to the record over the weekend, and I'm not quite as wild about it. But apparently radio is: According to Selvin, it was one of the most-added CDs in the country last week.

I guess that's not so surprising. Scaggs is, after all, a guy who says it's ``immoral'' for someone to sing Jimmy Reed badly.

 

Boz Scaggs - Come On Home

You gotta pay your dues to sing the blues, goes the old cliche. But if you're Boz Scaggs, you bear your burdens pretty lightly. With his tangy, delicately weary tenor and his flair for slipping authentic R&B textures into breezy adult-contemporary arrangements, this guy could never be accused of the overwrought soulman posturing practiced by fellow yuppie icons Lionel Richie and Michael Bolton. If Scaggs had just been dumped by his wife and were sitting next to you at a bar, he'd be more likely to give you a meaningful shrug than cry into your beer.

On his new album, Come on Home, Scaggs gives props to the musicians and songwriters who influenced him early on, covering songs by T-Bone Walker, Jimmy Reed and others. True to form, Scaggs never tries to outemote the masters; instead he maintains a soft, graceful touch, imbuing this classic material with a winning combination of subtle pathos and understated wit. His version of Walker's "T-Bone Shuffle" is gently playful and lean to a fault. Likewise, Reed's "Found Love" is faithfully presented as taut, driving 12-bar blues; and Earl King Johnson's "It All Went Down the Drain" is served with a piquant, Stax-style horn arrangement and a healthy dash of slide-guitar grit.

Ballads such as the wistful standard "Love Letters" and Scaggs' own "I've Got Your Love" - one of four songs on Home written or co-written by the singer - are rendered with equal elegance. That's not to say that Scaggs never breaks an emotional sweat. Singing the radiant David Porter/Isaac Hayes number "Your Good Thing (Is About to End)," Scaggs achieves a moody intensity that builds to a smoldering peak. It's a pleasure to listen to a veteran artist like Scaggs letting his roots show with such unaffected sincerity.

- Elysa Gardner / Rolling Stone (RS 758) / Apr 1, 1997

Come On Home
Virgin 1997

By Scott Floman

Rating: B+

"I've wanted to do this rhythm and blues record for a long time. It's a tribute to some of my heroes, some of the great r&b singers, songwriters, and musicians...I considered a lot of material for this record, and ultimately I chose the songs I like to sing the most."

So says Scaggs in the liner notes, and among the 10 cover songs here are those written or popularized by Bobby "Blue" Bland ("Ask Me 'Bout Nothin' (But The Blues)," "Don't Cry No More"), Jimmy Reed ("Found Love"), Sonny Boy Williamson ("Early In The Morning"), Isaac Hayes/David Porter ("Your Good Thing (Is About To End)"), and T-Bone Walker ("T-Bone Shuffle").

For his part, Boz writes or co-writes four songs, while the terrific title track is supplied by legendary Al Green producer Willie Mitchell (with Earl Randle), who also arranges the horns on the album, which features various session musicians, among them Jim Keltner (drums), Little Feat's Fred Tackett (guitar), and even David Mathews (on organ). But it's Boz's show, and he's in good voice, even though I'd still like to see him sweat a little more at times. Still, this is a very good record that returns Boz to his roots; there's a reason that this album was filed in the "Blues" section of my local library, and certainly the title track, "I've Got Your Love," "Early In The Morning," and "Sick & Tired" all yield stellar results, the latter three in part due to some strong guitar work.

Some of the songs on this ballad heavy collection can be a bit too leisurely, and with 14 songs clocking in at an hour long the album definitely grows wearying over its excessive duration. Still, Scaggs does have a few surprises in store, such as when a harmonica wails out amid the laid back lope of "Found Love," and by and large this album was a well executed idea, as Boz's taste and class are always at the fore on a thoughtful, sincere homage that makes up for in craft and commitment what it lacks in originality and excitement.

By Melinda Newman
1997

The fame that Boz Scaggs experienced in the '70s with such releases as the quadruple-platinum "Silk Degrees" and platinum-plus "Down Two Then Left" was in some ways as inhibiting as it was enriching.

In the whirlwind of success, Scaggs says he forgot his original reason for getting into the music business: his love of music. In fact, it got so bad that Scaggs didn't even keep a guitar in his house.

However, with his new album, "Come On Home," he's returned to his beginnings. The April 8 release is a collection of classic R&B and blues songs of all stripes, many of which influenced Scaggs as a youth.

"I remember hearing (T-Bone Walker's)`T-Bone Shuffle' as I was driving away from my school on a Tuesday or Wednesday night," he says. "I was listening to a radio station that played this kind of stuff and it came on. Something inside of me stirred. There was something that I heard that was a clue about what I would be doing later on."

Always a student of the blues, Scaggs had a wealth of material to consider when he started the project. To aid him, he brought in Harry Duncan, whom Scaggs describes as "an encyclopedia on rhythm and blues" and the provider of an unlimited amount of material. The pair "met regularly two times a week or one time a week, and we sat down across the table and formulated the things we chose." Ultimately, the selection came down to songs that Scaggs liked to sing, and, he confesses, tunes that he could sing.

"In choosing this material, we considered thousands of titles. We ultimately put down a list of hundreds, and I actually made demos of 40 to 50 songs," he says. "I couldn't sing some of these songs, so it became a matter of the ones I could sing as well as the ones I like." For Scaggs, picking the songs was the easy part. The album also contains four songs penned by him. "It was very difficult for me," he says. "It should have been easy as pie, but I found myself tortured over what I could do to lend myself to that genre. It was really difficult to come up with pieces that I could hold up to Jimmy Reed or Bobby `Blue' Bland much harder than writing a typical solo album." Scaggs also encountered difficulty recording the album, which he produced.

"One of the challenges was to bring these songs into the '90s sonically," he says. "So much of the ambience or the atmosphere of these songs had to do with the primitive recording technique people used, and you have to bring it into the modern age, but not lose that atmosphere."

Boz Scaggs - Come On Home
By Joel Selvin
SF Chronicle

"I've wanted to do this rhythm and blues album for a long time" says Boz Scaggs about his new Virgin Records release, Come on Home. "I grew up on this music, and this record is a tribute to some of my heroes, some of the great R&B singers, songwriters, and musicians." It includes fourteen classic rhythm and blues cuts - shuffles, laments, love songs, rockers -- ten rendered earlier by such giants as Jimmy Reed, T-Bone Walker, and Bobby "Blue" Bland, plus four Scaggs R&B originals. "These songs are basically simple -- of course the simplest things are often the most difficult to do. The music was conceived and executed by some truly masterful people, and more often than not, attempts to recreate it end up being pale or unauthentic by comparison. The emotion is what gives these songs universal appeal and makes them ring true. But it's the ability to handle those emotions, which are so genuine, so immediate and volatile, that takes care." 

With Come on Home, Scaggs has made a full circle back to his musical point of origin in Texas, listening to radio. "KNOK, KGKO, some nights we got WLAC in Nashville -- they played the essential R&B records, the hits being made those days. WRR in Dallas played the blues -- Delta Blues, New Orleans traditionalist, Memphis, St. Louis, Chicago stuff - the formative ingredients of R&B. This guy Jim Lowe - his show was called Kats' Karavan - he was like a professor. He was a blues aficionado - he taught us everything." The education continued in high school with classmate Steve Miller in The Ardells. Scaggs then kicked around Europe and Asia as a dharma bum and a folk/blues player, recording his first album in Stockholm. Returning stateside, he rejoined The Steve Miller Blues Band for two records before signing with Atlantic Records for his own U.S debut, Boz Scaggs, made with the famed Mussel Shoals rhythm section that featured Duane Allman blazing through "Loan Me a Dime." After that came Moments, Boz Scaggs and Band, My Time, and Slow Dancer; then Silk Degrees, the breakthrough record that elevated Scaggs to star status. "It's still fresh to me, too. Good songs, great fun to make, " he told Rolling Stone nearly twenty years later. Down, Two, Then Left, Middle Man, and Hits followed Silk Degrees, along with some ambivalence for the path Scaggs' successful career had taken. "It had all become a business for me. I enjoy music on a very basic level and I wanted to get back to that." After an eight-year hiatus, he released Other Roads in 1988, joined Donald Fagen's New York Rock and Soul Revue in 1992, and in 1994, with the release of Some Change, made his return complete.

"I felt like I did when I first started playing -- and there's nothing in the world greater than that. When you discover an instrument, a way of using your voice, music that speaks to you - whole worlds open up. It's a state of grace of some kind."

Some Change earned critical plaudits for Scaggs as a songwriter, guitarist, and above all, as a master vocalist. Said Rolling Stone: "Profligate in his command of styles both raw and sophisticated, he has so refined his approach that anything he sings now is marked by an uncommon subtlety and taste. Among top-rank blue-eyed soul singers, Scaggs, with his rootsy grounding remains the sturdiest."

"Some Change was one of the most satisfying records I've ever done," the singer says. "And I found that the music which was rooted in blues and R&B was some of the strongest. So I decided, with Come on Home to take the full plunge." With executive producer Harry Duncan, Scaggs reviewed literally hundreds of potential covers from a list of thousands. "Defining the musical territory was tricky at first, like trying to draw a line between where the blues and gospel end to where R&B begins; where R&B ends and becomes soul, funk, rock & roll, Stax, Motown, the Philly style and on and on," Scaggs says. "Ultimately I chose the songs I liked to sing the most." Come on Home features, among others, drummer Jim Keltner, Little Feat's Fred Tackett on guitar, and legend Willie Mitchell's horn arrangements. "Wilie Mitchell has an extremely astute musical mind," Scaggs says, "as a producer, he knows how to create an environment where the players leave everything but music outside the door and then sink into a groove." With musicians from LA and the Bay Area, Scaggs and crew recorded rhythm tracks in two weeks and then settled in to make music that "retained the original feeling, yet put it in a modern context....therein was the challenge." As he did on Some Change, Boz also stretched out on guitar, playing solos steeped in the spirit of the genre. "That was one of the things that drew me to this music - my love of guitar."

This is the music of hot nightspots and roadshows as well as the Saturday night barbecues and Blue Mondays," Scaggs says, "from the period when the blues had grown up a bit; chord changes had become more complex; more sophisticated instrumentation was introduced." From the New Orleans syncopations of "Sick and Tired" to the club-style delivery of Sonny Boy Williamson's "Early in the Morning," from the title track, a Willie Mitchell original, to the "T-Bone Shuffle," Come on Home showcases a full range of R&B styles.

"Love Letters," originally recorded by Ketty Lester, was introduced to Scaggs when Steely Dan's Walter Becker suggested it for inclusion in the Rock and Roll Soul Revue. "I tried out a Solomon Burke approach to the song." Scaggs says, "slowing it down, singing it very deliberately. I found the lyrics very touching, very poignant." About Jimmy Reed's "Found Love," he says: "Jimmy sang from a very distinct, deep place. And while his music can be seen as the essence of simplicity, it's remarkably complex." "Ask Me 'Bout Nothing (But the Blues)", originally recorded by Bobby Bland, is one of the album's highlights. "He's probably my favorite singer of the genre," says Scaggs. "I've been listening to him as long as I've been listening to this music. It's daunting to attempt one of his songs because his voice is so smooth. He has such a grasp of dynamics and he makes it all sound so easy." "Goodnight Louise," "After Hours," "I've Got You Love," and "Picture of a Broken Heart," all Scaggs' originals, skillfully mine the R&B vein: they're songs whose mood, texture, and musicality hold their own alongside the classics he so commandingly interprets. In the same way, Come on Home stands assuredly alongside the best records of this singer's career, as much a tribute to a rich musical tradition as a testament to Boz Scaggs' place within that tradition.

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