Boz Scaggs Performs His Greatest Hits and More at the Wiltern LG Theater
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You’ve heard some of these songs before, but you haven’t heard them like this. Intimate, understated, distinguished by the interplay of a handful of virtuoso musicians and the silken voice of one of the classic singers of our time, Fade Into Light is Boz Scaggs in a different setting, introducing new material and revisiting old classics with subtlety, elegance and flair. Previously released in Japan, Fade Into Light has long been a treasured album for Boz Scaggs aficionados who’ve paid high prices for the import version-and now, on the heels of Boz’s celebrated But Beautiful – Standards Vol. 1 collection, the album is finally being released in the United States by Virgin Records, remastered in stereo and featuring additional recording and extra DVD features.
“I just let the musicians explore the songs, and I tried to get the best out of them,” says Scaggs of the simple philosophy behind the recording sessions that produced Fade Into Light. “To a great extent, I’ve always worked like that in my recording: I hire good musicians and let them express themselves. What you hear on this album is those guys in that room at that time.”
The repertoire includes “unplugged” versions of “Lowdown,” “We’re All Alone” and “Harbor Lights,” three classics from the multi-platinum Silk Degrees album from 1976; a spare and haunting rendition of “Simone,” from 1980’s Middle Man; “Lost It,” “Time,” “Sierra” and “I’ll Be the One,” from 1988’s acclaimed Other Roads; the new originals “Some Things Happen,” “Fade Into Light” and “Just Go” (which also appeared on the 1999 collection My Time: A Boz Scaggs Anthology); and a cover of “Love TKO,” the Teddy Pendergrass hit that Boz says he’s wanted to record ever since he first heard it. Newly recorded for this release, “Love TKO” features Ray Parker, Jr. on electric guitar and backing vocals. In addition, “Lowdown” includes a new saxophone part added in 2005 by Tom Scott.
“It started with the song ‘Fade Into Light,’ which I wrote for the soundtrack to a Japanese film,” says Scaggs. “The record company in Japan wanted to expand it into an EP and then a whole album, so I got all the musicians up to Skywalker Ranch for about a week. And the album just came out of playing in the room. We set up, and it just evolved. We played ’Lowdown” and we played ’We’re All Alone’ and then we kept going, and the songs we used were the songs that worked."
The CD side of Fade Into Light contains the audio album, while the DVD side of the disc offers the entire album in Enhanced Stereo. The DVD also includes live performances of “Lowdown,” “Harbor Lights” and “We’re All Alone,” captured in 5.1 Surround Sound and High Definition Video. Recorded at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, the songs are drawn from the Coming Home Productions DVD Boz Scaggs Greatest Hits Live.
The result is a collection that spans, with rare style and grace, the last three decades of a career that has now lasted for more than forty years. Scaggs grew up in Texas immersed in rhythm and blues, soul music, early rock ‘n’ roll and raw Delta and Chicago blues-the music he heard coming over the radio airwaves across Texas and from as far away as Nashville. In high school, he played in a band with classmate Steve Miller, before striking out on his own. In 1965 he landed in London, and spent the next couple of years traveling around Europe in the “dharma bum” tradition, playing everywhere from clubs to sidewalks before making his first record and establishing a home base in Stockholm. In 1967, Scaggs headed to San Francisco (via a roundabout route that took him through India and Nepal), where he joined the Steve Miller Blues Band and took part in the Bay Area scene that was helping to revolutionize American rock ‘n’ roll. After two albums with Miller, he made his U.S. solo debut for Atlantic Records. The album, Boz Scaggs, was cut with the famed Mussel Shoals rhythm section, and featured the young guitarist Duane Allman on the blazing thirteen-minute blues workout “Loan Me a Dime.”
In 1971 Scaggs moved to Columbia Records, where he made a string of records (Moments, Boz Scaggs & Band, My Time) that increasingly explored his love for rhythm and blues music. 1974’s Slow Dancer was his most explicit bow to soul music, and it was followed two years later by the commercial and artistic breakthrough Silk Degrees. Scaggs made a few more albums (including the hit Middle Man in 1980) before taking a hiatus from the road and the pressures of stardom. In 1988, Other Roads showed that he hadn’t lost anything; in the early 1990s, he signed with Virgin and made four albums, including the Grammy-nominated blues collection Come On Home and the critically acclaimed 2001 release Dig.
On his own Gray Cat label, Scaggs has released Greatest Hits Live, a two-disc live collection that spans his entire career. He also made But Beautiful, in which he tackled the Great American Songbook accompanied by a jazz quartet. “It opened up a whole new set of challenges for me,” he says. “It’s sacred ground, as far as I’m concerned, and the more I got into it, the more I realized how little I know.” Critics thought that Scaggs rose to the challenge: Jazz Times lauded his “impeccably good taste and vocal otherworldliness that’s at once starting and arresting,” while Rolling Stone commented, “Boz Scaggs is hardly the first rock star to turn toward the classic American songbook, but few have ever done it with the soulful ease he does on But Beautiful.” Boz himself was particularly happy about the album’s reception in jazz circles, both in the United States and in Europe.
Another album of standards is in the works, but first Scaggs is having fun revisiting the classics from his own songbook on Fade Into Light. “I’ve always just tried to explore the music that means something to me,” he says. “I had a period where I had hits and sold a lot of albums, but I wasn’t really aiming for the pop charts with those albums. I was exploring the area I love, which has always been rhythm and blues music, and a lot of those songs got on the radio because at the time they were close to the mainstream. And now I know that I might be out of the mainstream, but I’m still exploring the music that I love.”