Today’s Cool Album of the Day (# 601 in the Series) is Boz Scaggs, Silk Degrees
1976 was a banner year for the album format. Hotel California, Takin’ it to the Streets, Songs in the Key of Life, and Boston all charted in 1976. Silk Degrees generated four monster Billboard Hot 100 charting singles, “What Can I Say (42)”, “It’s Over” (38), “Lido Shuffle” (11), and “Lowdown (3)” may have been the best of the lot, and was the coming out party for Texas born guitar slinger Boz Scaggs. The album was released right in the heart of disco fever and was just before the titanic, or travesty depending on your point of view, Saturday Night Fever, and lost some of its “legs” going into 1977 a victim of disco excess, Angel Flight pants, and a changing, not for the better, of American musical tastes.
Prior to this mind blowing release Boz was a relatively obscure blues player that was largely unknown to the unwashed masses while at the same time somewhat of a critics darling along with being an in-demand session player and Steve Miller sidekick providing guitar and vocal support on his first two albums Children of the Future, and Sailor in the late sixties.
With his eponymous release in 1969 Boz Scaggs began formulating his blue-eyed soul blues sound that was to become his trademark. Supported by the Muscle Shoals rhythm section, this album with the songs “I’ll Be Long Gone”, “I’m Easy”, and the extended blues jam “Loan Me a Dime” featuring Duane Allman prominently on slide guitar, set the blueprint for what was to become Silk Degrees.
The ten songs on the album are all perfectly crafted pop songs with a delicious, eclectic mix of blues, soul, R&B, and jazz, with even a touch of Disco with “Lowdown” charting a # 5 on the Disco Singles chart, and “It’s Over” coming in at # 11.
“Lowdown”, winning a Grammy for best R&B song of 1976 was featured in the film Looking For Mr. Goodbar, after the request to have the song included on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack was turned down by Scagg’s manager. Even the songs that didn’t chart on the album would have been major hits had they been spread out over several albums with “Georgia” and the jazzy “Harbor Lights” as two shining examples.
The album featured a stellar line up of musicians including Jeff Porcaro and David Paich, both founding members of the Band Toto, along with Tom Scott on horns. A pure, silky professional sounding masterpiece of a production job by Joe Wissert along with some pristine guitar work provided by the brilliant Les Dudek, gives the record a “one for the ages” feel with the smoothest of genre transitions from smooth jazzy lines to solid R & B grooves.
Make no mistake this album was a monster success. In 2011 Adele sold 5 million units of her album 21 and it was BY FAR the biggest selling album of the year. Silk Degrees, by comparison, sold 5 million plus albums in 1976 despite some heavy competition from iconic artists that also produced their best work that year. If there is anything wrong with the album it is that it carries the burden of being somewhat a victim of its own success with several of the songs suffering from the dreaded over-played-itis and “Harbor Lights” has even been known to be converted to Muzak and played in some elevators.
Do yourself a favor and rediscover this classic album presented to you By William Royce “Boz” Scaggs and give it listen, you will be glad you did. And if you get a chance, Boz has a great bar in San Francisco called Slims. It is a great dinner theatre type venue and I will be there Friday night to see David Lindley. If I see the Boz Man, I’ll make sure I tell him you said hi.
All tracks composed by Boz Scaggs and David Paich, except where indicated.
- “What Can I Say” – 3:01
- “Georgia” (Scaggs) – 3:57
- “Jump Street” – 5:14
- “What Do You Want the Girl to Do” (Allen Toussaint) – 3:53
- “Harbor Lights” (Scaggs) – 5:58
- “Lowdown” – 5:18
- “It’s Over” – 2:52
- “Love Me Tomorrow” (Paich) – 3:17
- “Lido Shuffle” – 3:44
- “We’re All Alone” (Scaggs) – 4:14
- Boz Scaggs – vocals, guitar, background vocals
- Fred Tackett – guitar
- Louis Shelton – guitar
- Les Dudek – Slide guitar
- David Paich – keyboards
- Steve Porcaro – keyboards
- Bud Shank – alto saxophone
- Plas Johnson – Saxophone
- Dick Hyde, Jim Horn, Paul Hubinon, Tom Scott, Vincent DeRosa – Horns
- Chuck Findley – Flugelhorn
- David Hungate – bass
- Jeff Porcaro – Drums, Percussion
- Joe Porcaro – Additional Percussion
- Sid Sharp – String Arrangements & Conducting
- Augie Johnson, Carolyn Willis, Jim Gilstrap, Marty McCall, Maxine Green, Pepper Swenson – Backing Vocals
- See our piece on Boz’ Memphis album
- Boz Scaggs Official Website
- See more that we’ve featured from 1976
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