Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Boz Scaggs

  • Boz Scaggs [Atlantic, 1969] B+
  • Moments [Columbia, 1971] B
  • Boz Scaggs & Band [Columbia, 1971] B+
  • My Time [Columbia, 1972] B
  • Slow Dancer [Columbia, 1974] B-
  • Silk Degrees [Columbia, 1976] A-
  • Down Two Then Left [Columbia, 1978] B
  • Middle Man [Columbia, 1980] B-
  • Hits! [Columbia, 1980] B+
  • Some Change [Columbia, 1994] Neither
  • Come On Home [Virgin, 1997] Neither
  • A Fool to Care [429, 2015] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Boz Scaggs [Atlantic, 1969]
Duane Allman's guitar offsets the fact that Jann Wenner was associated with the production, and Scaggs himself comes through as a solid, pleasant, soulful white boy. A nice tribute to American music. B+

Moments [Columbia, 1971]
When Scaggs announces that his girl is a looker because "she looks like she's standin' right there," you believe he's got a right to sing like Neil Young wishing he were Smokey Robinson. But when he praises "Downright Women" or concocts a pop instrumental w/strings for his rock band, you wonder. B

Boz Scaggs & Band [Columbia, 1971]
I oppose the nice 'n' easy school of rock 'n' roll, but this time he not only cops to his groove (last album he still had other ideas) but proves he can jump out of it. Especially on "Monkey Time," a gloss on "Mickey's Monkey" so spaced-out you hope music is his only jones. B+

My Time [Columbia, 1972]
In search of the perfect makeout music for ex-hippies, Scaggs ditched his band of bohos halfway through and hied to Muscle Shoals, where the laid-back lie down with the overproduced as a regular thing. It may just be my imagination, but except for "Dinah Flo" and "Slowly in the Wind"--written by his bassist, David Brown, who's challenged Scaggs with cryptic lyrics on all of his Columbia albums--I think I like the boho stuff better. B

Slow Dancer [Columbia, 1974]
Bet Boz is real proud of himself--he's landed a genu-wine Motown producer. Maybe next time he'll get one a little snazzier than Johnny Bristol. B-

Silk Degrees [Columbia, 1976]
Scaggs is criticized for his detachment, but I say it's subtlety and I say thank god for it. In the past, he's sometimes bought (not to mention sold) his own lushness, but this collection is cooled by droll undercurrents--white soul with a sense of humor that isn't consumed in self-parody. Inspirational Verse: "Gotta have a jones for this/Jones for that/This runnin' with the joneses, boy/Just ain't where it's at." A-

Down Two Then Left [Columbia, 1978]
Scaggs obviously labored over this one, getting every second so right that there wasn't a whole lot left. After dozens of listenings I'm convinced that side one is tedious and side two quite listenable. But it wasn't worth my trouble--or his. B

Middle Man [Columbia, 1980]
A decade ago now, Boz joined a struggle--the struggle to prove a white man could sing not merely the blues, but their pop equivalent. Between his hippie pipes and his tendency to take things easy, it was hard, but determination shone through his most laid-back music--he stood out partly because few white guys were trying anything so contemporary, and partly because he had to go that extra inch lyrically to make his point. Since Silk Degrees, however, his only struggle has been to stay on top of the new white pop hegemony he helped create. Though he writes better material than Michael McDonald, the difference isn't degree, just taste. And though he's learned a lot about singing--maybe too much--McDonald has better pipes. B-

Hits! [Columbia, 1980]
His renown as the man who brought black-tie New Year's to Bay Area haute bohemia seems a fitting climax to a career that's transformed Marin County languor into the hippest in pop cool. Listening back to his biggest tunes, the best of which (except for the mean, jaunty pimp-song "Jojo") seem to have been recorded in the mid-'70s, you can hear everything from old compatriot Sly Stone to more recent compatriot Elton John. But many of his "hits," in case you didn't notice, were recorded right here in 1980, and so this collection includes three from Middle Man, one from Urban Cowboy, and one brand new fabrication. Silk Degrees isn't as tuneful. But when I want to remember how Marin County languor converted the masses, that's what I'll play. B+

Some Change [Columbia, 1994] Neither

Come On Home [Virgin, 1997] Neither

A Fool to Care [429, 2015]
In which the vital signs of 2013's Memphis are juiced by both his shift of symbolic locale to New Orleans and his dawning suspicion that the world is going to hell in a bank statement. For more on the latter, proceed directly to the Bonnie Raitt duet "Hell to Pay." He's so mad he wrote it himself. But mostly he resets forgotten gems like Al Green's "Full of Fire," Huey Smith's "High Blood Pressure," and Bobby Charles's long-neglected "Small Town Talk." The opener is "Rich Woman," the same Dorothy LaBostrie curio that led Robert Plant and Alison Krause's Raising Sand. Sashaying so weathered and jaunty, not to mention so New Orleans, Boz's is better. His best album since Silk Degrees in goddamn 1976, and by a wide margin. A-

Further Notes:

Everything Rocks and Nothing Ever Dies [1990s]