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Boz Scaggs Album Review * OTHER ROADS *

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

 

Boz Scaggs ended his retirement in 1988 and returned from running a restaurant to cut this session. It had his patented folk/soul mix and a few decent songs, but wasn't anywhere as ambitious or polished as any of his previous four platinum albums. Perhaps there really is truth to the old saying about going home again. His voice still had its introspective, bemused tone, but the production, arrangements, and compositions lacked conviction, power, or commercial appeal. He did get one hit with the single "Heart Of Mine," but Toto's backing was more hindrance than help.

- by Ron Wynn

 

After an eight-year hiatus from recording, Boz Scaggs returned in 1988 with the album Other Roads, a record aimed primarily at the adult contemporary market. The album reached #47 on the Billboard pop album chart, while the lead single “Heart of Mine” hit #35 on the Billboard pop singles chart. This single was produced by Stewart Levine (who also produced Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes' "Up Where We Belong" and Simply Red's two #1 hits, "Holding Back The Years" and "If You Don't Know Me By Now"). Another adult contemporary radio hit from the album, "Cool Running" was produced by Patrick Leonard (Madonna's "La Isla Bonita" is one of many Madonna hits that Leonard has produced, and "Cool Running" has a very similar sound).

 

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