Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Boz Scaggs.  Memphis.
429 Records, 2013.  Boz Scaggs:

Scaggs is technically another one of Northeast Ohio’s favorite sons, although he might not claim the honor himself.  Born in Canton, Ohio, his family moved Oklahoma, then Texas when he was still young.  He’s had a long career, beginning in the 1960s, peaking in the 70s with a string of gold and platinum albums, then fading from the musical scene for most of a decade.  Another string of 90s releases has been followed by more sporadic albums and touring with Donald Fagen and Michael McDonald.  He’s also had time to start his own winery in the Napa Valley.  This is his first studio album in about five years, and the results are pretty spectacular.

Memphis was recorded, appropriately, in Memphis, specifically Royal Recording Studios, home of albums by Al Green and Ann Peebles, among others.  Mixing covers of  “Rainy Night in Georgia,” “Mixed Up Shook Up Girl,” and “Corrina Corrina” with some lesser-known tunes, Scaggs mixes up styles, sounding sometimes a bit  like Green, other times a little  like Van Morrison, and most often  like himself.  The result is part R&B, part blues, part rock, but all Boz.  His voice is still strong and sweet, and uniquely his own.  He still has the falsetto, which he uses to great effect.  The slow burners, like “Can I Change My Mind” really show off his sinuous vocals, while rockers like “Cadillac Walk” and “Gone Baby Gone” are great rave-ups. “Dry Spell”  and “You Got Me Crying” are fine loping blues, that may be my favorites on the album.

Scaggs and his producer, Steve Jordan, have the good sense to surround him with great musicians.  The basic band of Jordan, Ray Parker, Jr., and Willie Weeks, supplemented by dozens of others for specific tracks, including Spooner Oldham on keyboards, Charlie Musselwhite on harmonica, Keb’ Mo on slide dobro, and the Royal Strings and Royal Horns, because how could you be there and not use them?  

The only disappointment for me is “Love on a Two Way Street,” which has never been a favorite of mine, and seems rather flat.  Others may disagree.  Everything else is great, and I’m glad to see Scaggs back and in high gear at 68 years old.  It gives me hope.

Video from Boz Scaggs’ website:

Personnel:  Boz Scaggs (lead vocals, acoustic and electric guitars), Steve Jordan (drums and percussion), Ray Parker, Jr. (acoustic and electric guitars), Willie Weeks (upright and electric bass), and a whole batch of assisting musicians.
Tracks:  Gone Baby Gone; So Good to Be Here; Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl; Rainy Night in Georgia; Love on a Two Way Street; Pearl of the Quarter; Cadillac Walk; Corrina, Corrina; Can I Change My Mind; Dry Spell; You Got Me Cryin’; Sunny Gone.

The Grand Wazoo

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