Classic Albums – Silk Degrees by Boz Scaggs (1976)

Original album 1976 (Columbia Records)

Remastered Audio CD (24 Feb 2007)

Three extra live tracks

Number of Discs: 1

Label: Sony Music CMG

 

 

 

Track listing:

  1. What Can I Say (3:02)
  2. Georgia (3:56)
  3. Jump Street (5:13)
  4. What Do You Want The Girl To Do (3:51)
  5. Harbor Lights (5:59)
  6. Lowdown (5:17)
  7. It’s Over (2:52)
  8. Love Me Tomorrow (3:17)
  9. Lido Shuffle (3:43)
  10. We’re All Alone (4:14)
  11. What Can I Say (Live Version) (3:29)
  12. Jump Street (Live Version) (5:08)
  13. It’s Over (Live Version) (3:37)

Two of the greatest feel-good, easy listening albums of all time are Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours and Boz Scaggs’ Silk Degrees, both of which came out within a year or two of each other in the mid-1970’s, an era which was a fertile period for such music.

Boz Scaggs is a highly talented and versatile, but sadly very underrated guitarist and musician, who worked with the Steve Miller Band in the late-1960s. When he went solo in the early 70s, he made the switch from r’n’b to producing his own strand of smooth, silky jazz-funk, a genre which was enjoying some considerable commercial success at that time. He set up stall with a bunch of excellent session musicians (most of whom were to go on to later form the acclaimed band Toto), a combination which was to prove, along with his own undeniable talent, the main driving force behind the polished, classy quality of his albums.

Scaggs produced his first two solo albums back in the 60s (1965 and 1969), but both of these were commercially unsuccessful. He moved to Columbia records at the beginning of the 1970s, and his first four albums with them all entered the charts, but were not exactly raging smash hits, except for Slow Dancer (1974), which went Gold. It wasn’t until his fifth Columbia album, Silk Degrees, that his solo career went stratospheric.

The mid-to-late-1970s was by far his most successful period, during which he had no less than four hit albums, one Gold and three Platinum-selling smash hits. Down Two Then Left (1977) and Middle Man (1980) both went Platinum, and Hits! (1980) went Gold. But it was the 1976 smash-hit Silk Degrees that has proven to be the most enduring of all of them. This one went five times Multi-Platinum, reached #2 and spent 115 weeks on the US Billboard Charts, and was the album which skyrocketed Scaggs to the top of the “absolutely must listen to” musical league.

There are so many good tracks on this album, which produced no less than four successful chart singles over 1976-1977 – the sublime “What Can I Say?” (my personal favourite on the album), the sultry “Lowdown” (my third-favourite), the catchy floor-filler “Lido Shuffle” (my fourth-favourite) and the even more catchy “It’s Over” (my second-favourite). But I also rate “Georgia” pretty highly, as were a couple of excellent ballads, “Harbor Lights” and “We’re All Alone”, the second of which which was to be a massive US and UK hit cover single for Rita Coolidge in 1977.

“We’re All Alone” was also covered by Frankie Valli and The Walker Brothers during 1976, and Bruce Murray, The Three Degrees and country & western singer LaCosta in 1977, which means that there were at least half a dozen different cover versions of the song circulating the various charts in the US, UK and Europe during 1976-1977, and none of them were actually by original artist Boz Scaggs! Scaggs only released “We’re All Alone” as a B-Side to “Lido Shuffle” in 1977.

I originally bought Silk Degrees on vinyl way back in the early 1980’s, and more recently also bought the remastered 2007 CD edition (the one I’m reviewing now), which contains three extra bonus tracks, live versions of “What Can I Say?”, “Jump Street” and “It’s Over”, all of which are also excellent, and show just what a force Scaggs and his group must have been on tour.

I can listen to this amazing album over and over and over again, and I never get fed up with it. If you are a fan of soulful, silky-smooth jazz-funk, and you’ve never heard Silk Degrees, you are missing one of the true classics of the genre. Do yourself a huge favour, go out and buy this great album, pour yourself a cool drink, and just sit back and let the music flow over you.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…