Boz Scaggs ‘Middle Man’ / ‘Other Roads’ 2CD (BGO) 4/5

Best known in the UK for his mid-1970’s opus, ‘Silk degrees’, that remains a stylistic and commercial high point, Boz Scaggs struggled to free himself from the shackles of that successful album, one of a host that Scaggs recorded from the underrated Johnny Bristol produced 1974 recording, ‘Slow dance’, onwards. This pairing of albums showcases both his ‘blue eyed’ soul side and the rockier edges. The latter was always there from the start when he recorded back in 1969 a self-titled debut steeped in the blues and with Duane Allman on guitar. Released in 1980, ‘Middle man’, starts off in a similar vein to ‘Silk degrees’ with a single in, ‘Jojo’, that could easily have featured on the 1976 album and is perfect fodder for the West coast ‘too slow to disco’ idiom of recent years. Another deeply melodic number is, ‘Simone’, which has arguably the strongest hook of any of the songs on offer. More rocked-tinged influences emerge elsewhere with, ‘Angel you’, and Carlos Santana guests on guitar on, ‘You can have me any time’. The second album, ‘Other roads’, dates from 1988 and the who’s who of studio musicians are on board including jazz bassist Marcus Miller (then an integral part of the Miles Davis band), several members of the Toto band, and with background vocalists of the calibre of Bobby Caldwell and James Ingram. Produced this time round by Stewart Levine (who had on his roster at various times Joe Cocker, the late Hugh Masekela and even Simply Red), the hit single, ‘Heart of mine’, typifies a new genre, adult contemporary for later evening listening. While it is the earlier to mid-1970’s period that is Scaggs’ most creative, this pairing will appeal to fans of the singer who wish to find the next place on from ‘Silk degrees’.

Tim Stenhouse