Boz Scaggs Greatest Hits Live Review

Live. Released 2004.  

BBC Review

This is more than a hoary old hits run through - it acts as a perfect introduction to...

Daryl Easlea 2004

William Royce 'Boz' Scaggs' 1976 masterpiece, Silk Degrees remains one of the sultriest snapsots of 70s blue eyed-soul. The sort of sound that punk was supposed to supplant, it was secreted in many a collection long after Year Zero had been and gone and it still sounds as fresh as a daisy. Scaggs was, of course, always about far more than just that one record. Even then, it was not overnight success for the sharp-suited guitarist. He had already been playing for well over a decade and, after touring Europe in his early twenties, went on to make his name with the original Steve Miller Band (he and Miller being school friends from Texas).

Going solo in 1969, he cut a beautiful southern soul/R&B album for Atlantic at Muscle Shoals, before signing to Columbia in 1971. Always his own man, after achieving enormous worldwide success, he sat out most of the 80s, running his restaurant in San Francisco. His music, right up to 2003's But Beautiful album possesses an earthy, woody resonance that has kept it real and has never slavishly attached itself to any passing fashion. And in this current world of Joss Stone authenticity and the £50 man, Scaggs again proves to be just the ticket.

Greatest Hits Live finds Scaggs at the peak of his game at this rare performance, which is also available on DVD. He is happy, relaxed and clearly able to find a musical life that is a nourishing balance between past and present. Recorded at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco in August 2003 and produced by long-term collaborator, David Paich, this is more than a hoary old hits run through - it acts as a perfect introduction to a frequently overlooked talent.

Acutely aware of the potency of the Silk Degrees material ("Lowdown" opens the set, "Harbor Lights" and "Georgia" are featured, "Lido Shuffle" closes it and "We're All Alone" is the final encore), but not strangled by it, this collection is an ideal indicator in getting the balance right. The blues jams get a trifle much at times, especially when "Loan Me A Dime", a survivor from that very first Atlantic album nudges the 15-minute mark; but on gorgeous works of melancholy such as "Slow Dancer", or the sprightly hop of "Breakdown Dead Ahead", Scaggs and his crack eight-piece band are clearly enjoying themselves. Just muso enough to please those who crave technical excellence, the performances avoid cliché and retain a freshness.

A welcome surprise, indeed.

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