CD Review of Silk Degrees (remastered) by Boz Scaggs

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Silk Degrees (remastered)
starstarstarstarstar Label: Columbia/Legacy
Released: 2007
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Some artists are defined by one album during their whole career. This is all right, because it’s definitely better than just being defined by only one song. Unless, of course, that song was extremely amazing and you can still live off the lingering residuals if you haven’t sold it to be used in a commercial. At any rate, Boz Scaggs had enjoyed a pretty good career up to 1976. He had started off in Steve Miller’s band in the late ‘60s and then set out to find his own success. And he didn’t fare too badly at all with A.M. radio fare such as Slow Dancer.

Ah, but then the disco and funk started getting popular and the cocaine was doled out in golden wheelbarrows by the record labels and producers themselves. It was a fine time to be making records, indeed. Budgets went out the windows, nothing was ever too far out, and the record industry had just become a big business overall. Much bigger than before. And for Boz Scaggs, well, he was about to skyrocket right out of there with the rest of ‘em with his release of Silk Degrees. You know, “the only Boz Scaggs album you need.”

That’s not a knock, dear readers. It’s still a hell of an album. But do you seriously know anyone who’d rather listen to Down Two Then Left, Slow Dancer, or even Middle Man instead of Silk Degrees? Come on, man, do you realize that the band Toto was created because the guys playing the sessions on Silk Degrees wanted to have a tasty band of their own? And not one Toto album is even close to Silk Degrees. All you gotta do is say “Lowdown,” “Jump Street,” “Lido Shuffle,” “What Can I Say,” “Harbor Lights,” “It’s Over,” or “Georgia” and you think, “Man, I’d love to hear some Silk Degrees.”

This was one of those defining albums for me as a kid. Everyone had it, and everyone played it a lot. I remember wondering when I’d ever see Boz without his shades on, as he was even making appearances on the yearly music awards show donning them. And what the hell was he even saying on those songs? What kinda soulful mush-mouthed delivery was that? Didn’t matter, because the grooves were hot, and hearing “Lowdown” suddenly slinking out of the speakers at the local supermarket is as emotionally validating as hearing the Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” in the same place. It just makes you feel cool no matter where or when.

It’s one of those albums where even the non-singles were great. Hence “Jump Street” or “Love Me Tomorrow.” And now it’s received the remastering treatment, which is a good thing because previously it’s just been one of those aging old flat-sounding CBS CDs that were released eons ago. It’s just too bad that the copy I got is one of those white label jobbers, as I sure would have liked to see what the final product looked like overall. I mean, if you’re reviewing a remastered CD, half of the package is the packaging itself, and you know how record labels like to do that up all deluxe-like anymore when reissuing old stuff. But since we only have the music to work with here, I can safely tell you that you might as well go out and buy Silk Degrees one more time as it does sound great compared to the old disc.

Tacked on to the end of the CD are three bonus live tracks. The version of “What Can I Say” is a bit faster and therefore comes off rushed sounding, and the single female backing vocal singing the choruses can’t compete at all with the studio take, featuring a full group of backing vocalists. However, the live version of “Jump Street” here is worth hearing, if only for deciphering those damn lyrics once and for all. Now I finally know that when Boz sings “Wish your mama had kept the evidence” it isn’t actually “Grease your mama and kept the evidence.” I still like my deciphering better. There’s also a version of “It’s Over” which is tasty enough.

Ah, the ‘70s. Back when you were guaranteed of getting an album a year from your favorite artists followed up with a big tour. How did those guys ever rest? Then again, this was also back when labels would actually support the artists and blow all that money and dope on ‘em to get a hit record. It’ll be interesting to see what the old farts who complained that you couldn’t roll doobage on a CD booklet are going to say when all they’ll have to roll on is a digital file. At any rate, Silk Degrees remains one of those must-have albums from that decade. Thank Boz Scaggs and some of the members of Toto for that.

~Jason Thompson