Boz Scaggs - Other Roads
On 'Other Roads,' Boz Scaggs's first album in nearly eight years, the singer explores a number of new avenues, not all of them profitably. This is not to alarm die-hard Scaggs fans; they'll still find plenty of the Bay Area bluesman's catchy R&B ballads, such as the album's first single, "Heart of Mine," and the slick, infectious "Claudia." But Other Roads also contains songs that are a departure from the easily accessible, fluid sounds of Scaggs's past work.
This was a conscious effort by Scaggs, who teamed with poet-rocker Jim Carroll (author of The Basketball Diaries and singer of "People Who Died") on three of the album's ten songs in order to bring more of an edge to his music. Unfortunately, some of that edge is undermined by Bill Schnee's and (to a lesser degree) Stewart Levine's overproduction.
On the opening track, "What's Number One" (with lyrics by Scaggs and Carroll and music by Marcus Miller), Scaggs, his familiar voice as smooth as silk, sings about choosing priorities. The song seems to be an explanation of his long absence from the limelight: "Like a miner seeks that main gold vein/I'll search on/Cutting through against the grain/Keeps me sane."
The other Carroll efforts "I Don't Hear You" and "Crimes of Passion," with music by Dann Huff possess even more of the immediacy and sharpness Scaggs was after. "I Don't Hear You" is populated with the usual cast of Carroll characters living "in quiet desperation." The vivid poetic images are sharpened by Huff's grinding guitar.
"Crimes of Passion," however, is the true rocker, and Scaggs lets loose, tearing into the chorus with uninhibited ferocity. "Right Out of My Head," co-written by Scaggs and Huff, is equally biting, with Huff tossing off riffs that Eddie Van Halen would be proud to call his own.
Still, Scaggs is most engaging when he relaxes and goes with what comes naturally. The breezy "Cool Running," with its Caribbean rhythms and seductive melody (the song was co-written by Scaggs and Madonna associates Patrick Leonard and David Williams), and the cool jazz number "Funny," which Scaggs wrote with Marcus Miller, provide the album's finest moments.
The songs on Other Roads which include R&B anthems, cool Latin melodies, disco tracks and rockers touch enough bases to satisfy, if not thrill, everyone. Scaggs's new attempts at directness are compelling, but some of that urgency seems to have gotten muffled in the studio.
- Sheila Rogers / Rolling Stone(RS 530-531) / Jul 14, 1988