Boz Scaggs recorded his 1969 Dixie-soul beauty, Boz Scaggs, in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. He made this sublime, mostly covers album within spiritual spitting distance, in the title city with an empathic band (including R&B guitarist Ray Parker Jr.) and the right local help (pianist Spooner Oldham, Al Green session organist Charlie Hodges). The supple, grainy throes of Scaggs' voice invigorate old-school hits for Tyrone Davis and the Moments, and ballads by Tony Joe White and Steely Dan.
Though a regular fixture on the touring circuit, both with his own band and in the company of Donald Fagen and Michael McDonald as The Dukes Of September, Scaggs has been an infrequent visitor to the recording studio, this being only his third release over the last decade. That’s a pity, because the world needs more albums as sublime and as sophisticated as Memphis. Named because it was recorded at the late producer Willie Mitchell’s legendary Royal Studios in the city, there’s more than a hint of the sweet soul grooves that Mitchell fashioned for Al Green in the early 70s.
On Memphis, Boz Scaggs pays tribute to the city's magnificent soul tradition, Al Green, and producer Willie Mitchell and his Royal Recordings studio, whose location and personnel were used to cut it in three days. Produced by drummer Steve Jordan, the core band includes the singer and Ray Parker, Jr. on guitars, and bassist Willie Weeks, augmented by the Royal Horns & Strings, a small backing chorus, sidemen, and guests.
Boz ScaggsMemphis(429)Rating: 4 out of 5 stars R&B music, particularly of the Memphis ’70s variety, has always coursed through the catalog of Texas bred blue-eyed soul singer Boz Scaggs. But working with Michael McDonald and Donald Fagen in the Dukes of September touring unit for the past three years became the catalyst that drove Scaggs to not only record the music of that city’s golden era, but ensconce himself in Royal Recording Studio, the hallowed location much of it emerged from. Although the bulk of this is covers, Scaggs steers away from the more obvious Hi Records hits to dig deeper into rock and soul nuggets by wrapping his velvet croon around music made famous by Tyrone Davis (a beautifully slowed down “Can I Change My Mind”), Mink (Willy) DeVille (two tracks from the band’s debut), and Jimmy Reed (the deep slow blues “You Got Me Cryin’”).