BOZ SCAGGS-A FOOL TO CARE.

BOZ SCAGGS-A FOOL TO CARE.

2015 has been the year of the comeback. Some of the biggest names of yesteryear have returned after a lengthy absence. 

The year started well with critically acclaimed comeback album  from Bob Dylan. Then recently, Dave Gilmour, released his first solo album since Pink Floyd called it a day. However, there’s been many more comebacks during 2015. 

Troubadour James Taylor and former Eagle Don Henley both make welcome returns. Keith Richards made a return with was easily, the most overhyped comeback album of 2015. It was an album that was everywhere. Unlike Boz Scaggs’ recent comeback album Fool To Care. It was quietly released on 429 Records.

Unlike many of his contemporaries who hit the comeback trail during 2015, it had only been two years since Boz Scaggs released his last album Memphis. It reached number seventeen on the US Billboard 200, and became Boz Scaggs’ most successful album since 1980s Middleman. Not only did Middle Man reach number eight in the US Billboard 200, but was certified platinum. However, Boz Scaggs was no stranger to commercial success and critical acclaim.

Middleman was Boz Scaggs ninth album since his 1965 debut album Boz. It was recorded on September 30th 1965, in Stockholm, Sweden. Later in 1965, Boz was released, but failed to chart. For Boz Scaggs it would another four years before he released another solo album.

During that period, Boz Scaggs became part The Steve Miller Band. He featured on their first two albums, Children of the Future was released in July 1968 and reached just 134 in the US Billboard 200. Three months later, and The Steve Miller Band released Sailor in October 1968. It reached number twenty-four in the US Billboard 200. Despite the commercial success and critical acclaim Sailor enjoyed, both Boz Scaggs and Jim Peterman left the band.  

Boz Scaggs returned to his solo career, and in August 1969, released Boz Scaggs. This was the album that saw Boz Scaggs make a commercial breakthrough. Although it reached just number 171 in the US Billboard charts, it looked as if Boz Scaggs was on his way.

Two years later, and Boz Scaggs returned with the first of two albums he released during 1971. The first was Moments, which was released in March 1971. It reached 124 in the US Billboard 200 charts. For many, it looked as if Boz Scaggs career was on the up.

Sadly, that wasn’t the case. When Boz Scaggs and Band was released in December 1971, the album failed commercially, reaching just 198 in the US Billboard 200 charts. Things improved slightly, when My Time was released in September 1972. It reached number 138 in the US Billboard 200 charts. Was that a sign that Boz Scaggs fortunes were improving?

That was the case. Between 1974 and 1980, Boz Scaggs could do no wrong. His sixth album, Slow Dancer was released in March 1974. Although it only reached number seventy-four in the US Billboard 200 charts, it was certified gold. Two years later, and Silk Degrees hit the shops in March 1976. Quickly, it became Boz Scaggs’ most successful album, reaching number two in the US Billboard 200 and number six in the US R&B charts. Silk Degrees sold over five million copies, and was certified platinum five times over. After the success of Silk Degrees, it was nineteen months before Boz Scaggs returned with a new album,

That new album was Down Two Then Left, which was released  in November 1977. It reached number eleven in the US Billboard 200 charts and was certified platinum. Nearly two-and-a-half years passed before Boz Scaggs released Middle Man in April 1980. Not only did Middle Man reach number eight in the US Billboard 200 charts, but number thirty-six in the US R&B charts. Boz Scaggs was on a roll. Even his 1980 Hits! album reached number twenty-four, and was certified gold. Boz Scaggs  had been one of the most successful artists of the late seventies. It looked like this success would continue into the eighties.

Looking back, that might have been the case. However, Boz Scaggs decided to take a break from music. This break lasted eight years. It wasn’t until August 30th 1988, that Boz Scaggs returned with Other Roads, an album of AOR. Realising his audience were eight years older, Boz Scaggs figured that AOR would be what they were listening to. While Other Roads and the single Heart Of Mine proved popular in the AOR charts, the US Billboard 200 and US Billboard 100 were another thing. Other Roads only reached number forty-seven in the US Billboard 200 and Heart Of Mine reached thirty-five in the US Billboard 200. For Boz Scaggs, it was a Pyrrhic victory.

Another six years passed before Boz Scaggs returned with his next album Some Change on April 5th 1994. It stalled at just ninety-one in the US Billboard 200. Despite its lowly chart placing, some critics boldly pronounced Some Change Boz Scaggs’ finest album since 1976s Silk Degrees. Sadly, it hadn’t enjoyed the same success. 

Neither did Fade Into Light, which was only released in Japan. The album was released on November 19th 1996, and was only released in America in 2005.  Meanwhile, it was another five months before Boz Scaggs released another album in America.

It wasn’t until April 8th 1997 that Boz Scaggs released Come On Home. Just like Some Change, Come On Home wasn’t a commercial success, reaching ninety-four in the US Billboard 200. For an artist who once was used to gold and platinum discs, this was a frustrating time. Nor was it going to get any better.

Four years passed before Boz Scaggs released his next album Dig. Boz Scaggs had recorded Dig in February 2001. He waited another seven months to release the album. The day chosen for the release of Dig, was a day that changed history forevermore.

That day was September 11th 2001. It was meant to be an ordinary day. Some music fans awaited the release of album by one of the veterans of American music, Boz Scaggs. However, tragedy struck, and the last thing Americans had on their mind was music. Despite the tragedy that unfolded, Dig reached number 146 in the US Billboard 200. It was another two years before Boz Scaggs returned.

With Boz Scaggs no longer as popular as he once was, he decided to think outside the box. He came up with the idea of recording an album jazz standards. But Beautiful was released on May 20th 2003, and although it only reached 167 in the US Billboard 200, it topped the US Jazz charts. Despite finding an audience among jazz fans, Boz Scaggs didn’t release another album until 2008.

Speak Low was released in 2008, and reached number 128 in the US Billboard 200. That was an improvement on But Beautiful. Despite the relative success of Speak Low, Boz Scaggs didn’t release another album for another five years.

When Boz Scaggs did eventually return, he returned with album of blues and rock, Memphis. It was produced by Steve Jordan, and was well received by critics. Record buyers were also won over by Memphis, which reached number seventeen on the US Billboard 200. Memphis became Boz Scaggs’ most successful album since 1980s Middleman. Fired up by the success of Memphis, Boz Scaggs returned recently with what’s the nineteenth studio album of his career A Fool To Care.

Unlike previous albums, A Fool To Care, features eleven cover versions and just one track penned by Boz Scaggs, Fool To Pay. The cover versions are an intriguing selection. Among them, are Richard Hawley’s There’s A Storm A Comin’, Curtis Mayfield’s I’m So Proud and Huey P. Smith’s High Blood Pressure. Another is Richard Danko and Robert Guidry’s Small Town Talk. Then there’s Al Green’s Full Of Fire, which Al penned with Willie Mitchell and Mabon Lewis Hodges. They’re just five of eleven cover versions which Boz Scaggs’ and an all-star band give a makeover.

Recording of A Fool To Care took place at Blackbird Studios, Nashville. Steve Jordan, who produced Memphis, produces A Fool To Care. However, the band is a mixture of musicians who play on all tracks or on some cases, just one or two. The rhythm section features drummer and percussionist Steve Jordan, bassist Willie Weeks and guitarists Ray Parker Jr., Boz Scaggs, Reggie Young and Al Anderson. Joining them are Paul Franklin plays steel guitar, pianist Eric Crystal, organist Seth Asarnow and Clifford Carter adds synths. Jim Cox however, switches between organ, piano and Wurlitzer. They’re augmented by The Love Sponge Strings and a horn section. Jim Hoke plays alto flute and various other woodwind instruments. Backing vocals come courtesy of Conesha “Ms. Monet” Owens, Fred Ross, Steve Jordan and Tony Lindsay. That’s not forgetting two special guests, Bonnie Raitt and Lucinda Williams. They feature on A Fool To Care, Boz Scaggs’ nineteenth album. It was released recently.

Many critics saw A Foot To Care as Boz Scaggs picking up where he left on Memphis. It’s a far cry from the albums he released during his wilderness years. Back then, Boz Scaggs seemed to lack direction. Not any more. With producer Steve Jordan, all-star band and two high profile guest artists, Boz Scaggs was on the comeback trail.

Rich Woman opens A Fool To Care. Straight away, Boz Scaggs languid, lived in vocal doesn’t so much deliver the lyrics, but lives them. A crunchy guitar and bass are joined by guitars and drums. Soon, braying horns enter. They accompany Boz as blues, country and rock combine. A glistening guitar sits below the mass of horns and rhythm section. Washes of Hammond organ add an atmospheric hue, as Boz delivers this paean to his Rich Woman “whose all mine.”

The Ted Daffan penned I’m A Fool To Care is given a bluesy makeover by Boz Scaggs and his band. Scorching horns, a piano and the rhythm section combine with Boz and Ray Parker Jr.’s guitars. They provide the perfect backdrop for Boz’ needy, hurt-filled vocal.

Hell To Pay sees Boz joined by Bonnie Raitt. She shares the lead vocal and plays slide guitar. They’re the perfect foil for each other. As the rhythm section provide the heartbeat, Al Anderson adds chunk guitar and Jim Cox electric piano. Bonnie meanwhile, delivers a sassy vocal. She plays a starring role, while Boz is left playing a supporting role. That doesn’t matter, when everything is combined, the result is an irresistible bluesy shuffle.

Just a lone Hammond organ opens Small Town Talk, and accompanies Boz’s emotive vocal. Behind his impassioned plea, drums provide a subtle backdrop. Jim Hoke plays accordion, adding, while bursts of chiming guitar and subtle bursts of Hammond organ provide a backdrop for Boz’s soul-baring vocal. 

A wistful piano opens Last Tango On 16th Street. Soon, a bass and accordion play. Drums and percussion open Boz’s worldweary vocal. It sounds as if he’s lived and experienced the cinematic  lyrics. He paints pictures, of life on 16th Street, while behind him, the arrangement takes the listener to French Quarter of New Orleans with this melancholy and cinematic song.

There’s A Storm A Comin’ was originally written and recorded by Richard Hawley. Boz Scaggs stays true to the original, almost crooning the lyrics about hurt and heartbreak. Meanwhile, the arrangement is atmospheric, mesmeric and understated. It features just synths, organs and the rhythm section. Along with Boz’s guitar, they give the track a vintage sound. That’s something Richard Hawley’s original has. Where it differs is the accordion solo. This is part of Boz and producer Steve Jordan’s “sound.” Together, they give this a beautiful, understated song a twist, as Boz becomes a crooner.

Boz and producer Steve Jordan remember Miles Davis’ quote about leaving space in a song. They do that on the cover of Curtis Mayfield’s I’m So Proud. It has an understated arrangement. Just the rhythm section, chiming crystalline guitar and washes of Hammond organ accompany Boz’s tender, heartfelt vocal. Fills of vibes and harmonies add the finishing touch to what’s one of the best covers on A Fool To Care.

A lone acoustic guitar sets the scene on I Want To See You. Willie Weeks’ bass is joined by percussion and piano. They give the track a Latin sound as Boz delivers a rueful, needy vocal. Behind him, washes of Hammond organ and accordion are added. However, the Latin influence is still present, as a lovestruck Boz delivers a hopeful, heartfelt vocal.

It was Huey “Piano” Smith who wrote High Blood Pressure. Fittingly, it’s the piano that opens the track. Soon, the rhythm section, crunchy guitars combine. The guitars are panned left, and are muffled. Meanwhile, Boz has being somewhat ambitious, and seems to struggle to reach the higher notes. Good as his band are, Boz lets the side down. High Blood Pressure is more suited to Dr. John. However, the addition of gospel tinged harmonies partly, makes amends. By then, Boz’s vocal is more relaxed. He’s no longer forcing it. Later, Jim Cox unleashes a stunning piano. Along with the harmonies the song is swinging. It’s just a pity about the guitar and parts of the vocal.

From the opening bars, Al Green’s Full Of Fire is almost unrecognisable as it unfolds. That’s no surprise. Al Green’s original is the definitive version. So it’s a case of reinventing the song. One way to do this is smoothing the song out. When the horns bray, the rhythm section land down lay down a slightly funky groove. Boz’s vocal veers between AOR and soulful, as he demonstrates his versatility. As The Love Strings swing, washes of Hammond organ are joined by a searing guitar that cuts through the arrangement. By then, Full Of Fire has taken on a slick, almost AOR sound. It’s far from Al’s original. While it’s impossible to fault the musicianship and arrangement, it’s way too smooth and slick. 

It’s just a Hammond organ and drums that combine to open Love Don’t Love Nobody. They set the scene for Boz’s soulful, wistful vocal. His delivery is heartfelt, as a piano plays, and a guitar chimes. Producer Steve Jordan realises that Boz is delivering one of his finest vocals, and ensures that the arrangement doesn’t overpower it. So everything is subtle. Whether it’s the piano, washes of Hammond organ, cooing harmonies or drums, they’re raison d’être is to frame Boz’s vocal. They do this beautifully, and this Joseph Jefferson and Charles Simmons’ song is one of the highlights of A Fool To Care.

Whispering Pines closes A Fool To Care, and features Lucinda Williams. She shares the lead vocal. Against a backdrop of accordion, rhythm section, guitar and washes of Hammond organ, Lucinda unleashes a soul-searching vocal. When the baton passes to Boz, his vocal is full of emotion. Then when Lucinda and Boz trade vocals, Lucinda sometimes overpowers Boz’s vocal. That’s a shame.Producer Steve Jordan had taken great care with his production. He adds a weeping guitar and Hammond organ. They’re meant to compliment the vocals on what could’ve been a heart wrenching track. It’s good, not great, purely because Lucinda’s vocal powerhouse, sometimes overpowers Boz. Sadly, it’s a slightly disappointing end to A Fool To Care. However, there’s still the bonus tracks

A total of three bonus tracks feature on A Fool To Care. The best of this trio, is a cover of Curtis Mayfield’s Gypsy Woman. It’s followed by Joe Seneca’s Talk To Me, Talk To Me and Cecil and Linda Womack’s M.P.B. Just like the rest of A Fool To Care, they’re an eclectic selection of tracks. While the bonus tracks are always a welcome addition for many people, this means that Boz Scaggs recorded a total of fifteen tracks for A Fool To Care. That’s a far cry from days when vinyl was King.

Back then, artists were limited by the amount of music that could fit on an LP. If they were really lucky, the could squeeze forty-five minutes music. That was pushing it. Mostly, though, albums lasted thirty-four to thirty-six minutes and featured eight to ten tracks. This meant record buyers heard an artist’s best music. Albums were all killer and no filler. Not any more. 

Since the advent of the compact disc, albums are sprawling affairs, and can feature anything up to twenty tracks. There’s no way that an artist can record twenty great songs. Nor fifteen. Even twelve is a push. That’s the case on A Fool To Care.

Of the twelve tracks on A Fool To Care, nine find Boz Scaggs rolling back the years. He comes up short on Hight Blood Pressure, Full Of Fire and Whispering Pines. This trio of tracks are far from disastrous. It’s just small things, that could’ve and should’ve been spotted. Boz’s seems to struggle to reach the higher notes on Hight Blood Pressure. Full Of Fire is way too smooth, and lacks musical ‘fire.’ On Whispering Pines Lucinda Williams overpowers Boz’s vocal. Despite these flaws, A Fool To Care sees Boz Scaggs more or less pickup where he left off on Memphis. Only time will tell whether it will sell in the same quantities. Personally, I think that’s highly unlikely.

Some of the artists on the comeback trail are no longer as popular as they once were. There are exceptions. Bob Dylan and Dave Gilmour will both sell huge quantities of albums. It’s unlikely that James Taylor and Don Henley enjoy the same popularity they once did. Even Keith Richards, with his latest effort is no longer the draw he once was. However, music and musical tastes have changed since Boz Scaggs’ glory days. 

Despite this, Boz Scaggs is still a talented and versatile artist. He flits between blues, country, and rock on A Fool To Care. There’s even elements of funk, jazz, Latin and gospel tinged harmonies. A Fool To Care is an eclectic and captivating comeback album from Boz Scaggs, who fifty years ago, released his debut album Boz. 

BOZ SCAGGS-A FOOL TO CARE.

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