Sometimes Age just jumps right up and kicks me in the jimmies, although most of the time I don’t think about it. Driving around the mountains of North Carolina a couple of weeks ago listening to the eccentric classic rock of The Ride gave me plenty of time to torture poor Dawn, who is 11 years younger than I am, with all kinds of trivia and quization.
When “Lowdown” came on I said “who is that?” She didn’t know. When I said it was Boz Scaggs she said “oh yeah.” Then I asked what band Boz was in before he went solo, she didn’t know. That’s when I felt old because I thought EVERYONE knew Boz Scaggs started off as a member of the Steve Miller Band, but only people 45 or older know that, apparently.
So anyway, “Lowdown” was on one of the best albums of the ’70s – and the most important of Boz’s career, the multi-platinum Silk Degrees. Produced by Joe Wissert and arranged by keyboardist David Paich, Degrees is the very apex of cool blue-eyed soul, and stayed on the charts for 115 weeks from early-’76 into ’78.
The band – a collection of the highest-end studio musicians including Paich, Jeff Porcaro on drums, David Hungate on bass, Fred Tackett and Louie Shelton on guitars – would become Toto a couple of years later. The songs, mostly by Scaggs and Paich, are all first-rate, but the album didn’t hit right away.
The first single, the sprightly “It’s Over” straggled barely onto the chart in May. The album’s most memorable song, “Lowdown” – with Hungate’s serious funk bass line, Paich’s flutey synth melody, and Scaggs’ sly vocal – languished for weeks after its summer release until an urban station in Philadelphia picked the song up, followed by a rock station in Cleveland.
With the squeeze coming from both urban and rock stations, Top 40 finally picked it up and the record rode to No. 3 in August. “Lido Shuffle” also hit, but other songs on the album are good enough to have been hit singles: “We’re All Alone” is an exquisite ballad (Scagg’s original is superior to Rita Coolidge’s hit cover), and “Georgia” is exemplary uptown horn soul.
Scaggs never reached these heights again but his legacy was secure, even if no one under 40 knows it. If you want to go deeper than Silk Degrees, Scaggs’ collection My Time: The Anthology covers his career excellently from 1969-97 with greats “Loan Me a Dime” (with an entended guitar jam from Duane Allman), “Dinah Flo,” “Slow Dancer,” “What Can I Say,” “Breakdown Dead Ahead,” “Look What You’ve Done to Me,” and “Some Change,” in addition to most of Silk Degrees.