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Boz Scaggs - HITS! - Album Reviews

Boz Scaggs
Hits!
(Columbia/Legacy)
Release Date: 11/1/1980

Reviewed by RJ Smith

The best of a blue-eyed, Campari-and-soda San Francisco soul veteran.

 
You walk into a bar, you see the guy standing there in a linen suit, oversize retro shades, Italian shoes and no socks. Get closer and you see a HI, MY NAME IS sticker on his jacket lapel. This man’s name is Boz Scaggs. For decades the Bozzer has somehow been both stylish and oddly without personality, a talented singer who’s precisely as good as his material. Which is why you want Hits!: These 15 songs are the cream of a career that ramped up during the disco era and managed to make it all the way out the other side. Scaggs has an easy, blue-eyed soul voice with a hitch in it that he knows how to work. And tunes like “Dinah Flo” “What Can I Say” — not to mention the inevitable “Lowdown” — are light and sweet expressions of ’70s and ’80s California-studio craftsmanship at its best.

Boz Scaggs 'Hits!' Remastered 2006

Boz Scaggs
Hits!
(Columbia/Legacy)


by Christian John Wikane
December 5, 2006

Platinum Degrees

Originally released in 1980, Hits! was the exclamation point that closed an illustrious chapter in Boz Scaggs’s career. Adorned with a photo of the singer clad in a hot pink jacket, looking every bit the dapper superstar, the LP served up the hits that made Scaggs (née William Royce Scaggs) a Rolling Stone cover boy and a staple on FM radio. Due to the constraints of a single-disc vinyl album, a few hits were noticeably absent from Hits! when it appeared on record store shelves in autumn of 1980. More than a quarter century later, Columbia/Legacy adds more hits (and a different album cover) to Hits!, including “What Can I Say”, “It’s Over”, and “Hard Times”. Whether these “hits” are worthy of the exclamation point in the album title is debatable, but they did chart on Billboard’s Top 100.  Some of these hits have retained their platinum sheen, while others are trapped in a 1970s rust-colored amber. Either way Hits! is a no-risk addition to anyone’s collection.

Then and now, Hits! focuses primarily on 1976-1980, just after Silk Degrees (1976) catapulted Boz Scaggs to multi-platinum status. Nearly half of the 15 tracks here are culled from that seminal release, which gives the unassuming listener a rather skewed perspective on Scaggs’s career. Though Scaggs has recorded since the 1960s, only “Dinah Flo”, “Slow Dancer”, and “You Make It So Hard (To Say No)” pre-date 1976.  While not exactly monster hits, they were the seeds of the R&B style that bloomed on Silk Degrees.

In the tradition of blue-eyed soul stylists like Van Morrison, Scaggs exhibited a natural affinity for rhythm and blues that obscured racial lines. Exploding off Silk Degrees was “Lowdown”—a bonafide rhythm and blues tune that earned Scaggs and co-writer David Paich a Grammy for “Best R&B Song”. Even three decades later, the musical ingredients pack a fresh punch.  Jeff Porcaro’s drum sets it off, and David Hungate’s bass adds sizzling bottom. A dreamy arrangement of strings and horns embellishes the groove, and Scaggs lays down a cool and cavalier vocal. “Lido Shuffle”, Scaggs’ second-biggest hit off Silk Degrees, was the polar opposite of “Lowdown”. A swinging rock and roll ditty with a contagious hook—“Li-doh/Whoa-oh-uh-oh”—the tune shuffled into the Top 20 and became a highlight of Scaggs’s concert appearances. For this reissue, the compilation producers have sequenced it last, like the encore of a 65-minute concert.

But Scaggs was equally as comfortable with ballads as he was with upbeat material. Missing from the 1980 version of Hits!, “Harbor Lights” (another tune from Silk Degrees) sounds like a single that never was. Perhaps too mellow for radio in 1976, it nevertheless became one of Scaggs’s most enduring compositions, with his evocative and heartfelt lyrics intoning “The harbor lights of Venus / Are shining through the breeze / That brings me back to you my love”. Instead, Columbia Records chose another of Scaggs’s compositions, “We’re All Alone”, as the “ballad” for single release. Its sensitivity later served Rita Coolidge well when she earned her own hit version of the tune.

Glenn Frey, Don Henley, and Timothy B. Schmit lent their voices to one of Scaggs’s most successful ballads, “Look What You’ve Done to Me”. The song appeared on the soundtrack to Urban Cowboy and became a Top 5 Adult Contemporary hit in 1980. Co-written by David Foster, it’s the type of ballad that defined the adult contemporary sound of the early 1980s. Also representing Mr. Scaggs’s turn as a balladeer is “Heart of Mine”, a Top 40 single in 1988.  Scaggs had retired from recording music between 1981-1988, and the tune signaled his comeback on the Other Roads album from 1988. Its inclusion on the expanded edition of Hits! makes sense only because it’s among his charted singles. Otherwise, “Heart of Mine” sounds slightly out of step, being the only post-1980 track heard on the collection.  More in sync with the era Hits! explores in depth are “Jojo” and an extended version of “Miss Sun”. Both are propulsive, R&B-flavored affairs that lit up the airwaves and dance floors alike in 1980 (the latter was the one “new” track recorded for the original version of Hits! in 1980).

At best, Hits! gives a concise introduction to the music of Boz Scaggs and betters other such compilations with its exhaustive track information and song lyrics.  Most importantly, Hits! makes good on its promise—just the hits, ma’am!

 

Hits! Remastered
Release Date: October 03, 2006
82876867142
CD Album

In its original 1980 release, Hits! featured a repertoire of ten songs that focused firmly on Scaggs’ commercial zenith of the mid-seventies through the dawn of the next decade. Now this classic collection has been upgraded to give a deeper look at the favorite songs of a true genius of soul, with the additions of five tracks including selections from what’s arguably his masterpiece, Silk Degrees. These are the biggest pop hits of an artist whose R&B roots run deep.  

 

Hits! (Remastered)
Review By David Chiu - NewBeats

If suave, sophisticated British crooner Bryan Ferry has an American doppelganger,
it would be Boz Scaggs, a name synonymous with musical class and soul. But unlike Ferry,
whose songs are marked by a sense of romantic detachment and bittersweet irony,
Scaggs lends a more rhythm and blues approach in his music. His distinctive voice
evokes hot buttered soul capable of handling those funky taut rockers and subdued ballads.

Hits!, first issued in 1980, is a mixture of those styles; now it has been repackaged 26 years
later (with a more dapper-looking album cover than the New Wave-ish photo of the original
release) with five additional tracks. One of the earlier members of the Steve Miller Band in
the late `60s, Scaggs would later hit the big time with 1976's smash album Silk Degrees
featuring the members of Toto—several of its key tracks are on the compilation including
the sweeping and groovy "Lowdown"; the funk continues on with the swinging "Lido Shuffle"
and "Miss Sun"; As a balladeer, Scaggs touches without being overwrought as on the aching
"Look What You've Done to Me" and "We're All Alone" (famously interpreted by Rita Coolidge);
he even breathes some dignity and life into typical MOR pop like "Heart of Mine." Hits! is a
sufficient starting point for those wanting their taste of this elegant soul man.

 

HITS! Remastered
Oct 03, 2006

Hits! is the definitive package of Boz Scaggs' greatest hit recordings, capturing an era when this gifted singer-songwriter and soul man became a veritable one-man genre. This platinum selling album has now been remastered for superb sound, and five classic tracks have been added – including three more songs from his 1976 masterpiece, Silk Degrees. The CD packaging features beautiful new artwork with photographs from Annie Leibovitz, plus lyrics and in-depth liner notes.

 

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