Boz Scaggs - Some Change - 1994
May 05, 1994
With twanging guitar, straightforward drums and a casual, knowing vocal, "You Got My Letter" kicks off Some Change, Boz Scaggs' affecting return to form. It's a deftly rocking reminder that for all his suavity and expertise, Scaggs began playing lean blues and R&B alongside Steve Miller. The tune's a teasing introduction to a rich, expansive album whose greater pleasures are Scaggs' forte: insinuating ballads that slowly build into lush set pieces, vocals that simmer and then soar.
Some Change mirrors Scaggs' own creative evolution: 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: Holding his technique in reserve, he sneaks up on a song, allows it to gain momentum and only then turns the passion loose.
Dramatic pacing characterizes great singers, of course, and it's a seasoned veteran's gift. So, too, is a capacity for choosing material that in mood and theme becomes synonymous with the singer. Recording since 1965, Scaggs honed his craft by working with heavyweights (among them former Motown producer Johnny Bristol, on Slow Dancer, from 1974); as a guitarist, too, he was unintimidated on Boz Scaggs (1969) he dueled with Duane Allman, with the famed Muscle Shoals rhythm section blazing behind. After peaking with the 5 million-selling Silk Degrees in 1976, Scaggs sat out most of the '80s as a restaurateur in San Francisco. Re-emerging in 1988 with Other Roads, he then also was featured in Donald Fagen's all-star New York Rock and Soul Revue.
Now, Some Change marks Scaggs' return to strength. Its warm sound produced by using classic analog equipment, the album features more of Scaggs' trenchant guitar than on all but his earliest releases. And the new songs he has written, echoing the standard he set with "We're All Alone" and "Lido Shuffle," exude the soulful polish that has become his signature.
With Scaggs handling keyboards and all guitars, Bonnie Raitt accompanist Ricky Fataar on drums and synths and Booker T. Jones guest-starring on organ, Some Change ranges from zydecotinged country ("Fly Like a Bird") and a bluesy shuffle ("Some Change") to mid-tempo urbane soul of a sly, understated swing ("Call Me," "I'll Be the One") that recalls "Lowdown," Scaggs' biggest hit. Rife with dark mystery, "Follow That Man" is a funky vignette, a snapshot of a desperado "one part Buddha and two parts cat." Throughout, pared-down arrangements, with only the most nuanced of embellishments (sneaky keyboard fills, artfully deployed percussion), bring Scaggs' vocals properly to the fore.
At the album's core is a trio of songs that sum up the singer's skills. All about romantic loss the essential theme for balladeers the set starts off with "Sierra," in which Scaggs' plaintive, resigned air is carried along by supple, Latin-inflected percussion, and moves to "Lost It," with its stately falsetto yearning and flamenco-guitar coda. Then, with "Time," Scaggs goes deeper. Adding just a touch of smoke to his clear delivery, he renders the real complexity of heartbreak, its weariness, hurt pride and sorry dignity. Boosted by Scaggs' edgy wah-wah guitar, it is a remarkable turn, all the stronger for its restraint.
The work of a proven artist in his full maturity, these performances bypass flash or novelty. Of late, some of Scaggs' contemporaries, by returning to the music that first moved them or by reclaiming their most expressive voice, have made their best music in years. Jackson Browne's recent songs of yearning come to mind, as does Eric Clapton's concentration on the simplicity of blues and folk. With Some Change, Scaggs continues delving into the primarily black musical forms that have consistently inspired him, and as always, he delivers with the ease of a consummate professional. But even as his lyrics convey the universal sentiments of the best of pop, his voice, resonant with experience, renders each song confessional, an intimate exchange.Some Change brings Boz Scaggs back, lit by the fire at the heart of cool.
When Boz Scaggs signed with Virgin Records after spending at least 17 years with Columbia, listeners had no idea what to expect. Some Change proved to be a pleasant surprise. Instead of going out of his way to be as slick and commercial as possible or offering something contrived and robotic, the singer-turned-restaurant-owner let his better instincts win out and delivered a very honest and natural-sounding collection of pop, pop/rock, and soul-influenced pop. On songs ranging from the smooth "I'll Be the One" (which has a slightly Average White Band-ish appeal) and the haunting "Sierra" to the ominous "Follow That Man," there's no question that Scaggs is coming from the heart. Arguably, Some Change is his best album since 1976's Silk Degrees.
~ Alex Henderson, All Music Guide
Boz Scaggs spent much of the 1980s and early 90s in retirement to devote more time to his family and run his San Francisco nightclub Slims. Some Change, his first studio album in six years, was therefore touted as his comeback album, and its a good one. Aside from Ill Be The One, most of Some Change resists comparison with the smooth craftsmanship of Silk Degrees, as the album presents a grittier, more rootsy rock n soul vision. This is an extremely consistent album, though perhaps some of the songs are a little long and none of them quite attain classic status. Still, the title track is an appropriately atmospheric and funky blues number on which Boz lays down some hot guitar, a role that in the past would've been reserved for a session musician. Bozs bluesy side also dominates Time and Follow That Man, while much of the rest of the album is made up of sparse, evocative ballads such as Sierra (which musically echoes Elton John's "Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word"), Lost It, and Illusion. Elsewhere, Call Me is a light ballad about being in love, while Fly Like A Bird has a catchy, upbeat Cajun melody. However, these songs are atypical, as by and large Some Change is a serious, atmospheric album from an old pro who was away for far too long.