The first LP I ever bought was a joint effort with my sister. It was April 76, and Amy and I were all about the Captain and Tennille. “Love Will Keep Us Together” probably had been my fave song of 75, and I was now digging on “Lonely Night (Angel Face).” So one day we gave up a big chunk of our savings at Sid’s Elsmere Drugs for a copy of Song of Joy. I haven’t listened to it in years—Amy wound up with it, I assume—and only a couple of the songs beyond the singles would ring a bell today.
It’d be well over a year before there were any albums added to my collection—the money that wasn’t going for baseball cards was being spent on 45s. The next three to come on board were all simply amazing, though. I received A New World Record for Christmas in 77, but sometime in the late fall I’d splurged and bought two others on my own: Year of the Cat and Silk Degrees (I think The Stranger was next; I really can’t complain about getting maximum bang for my buck back then.)
I may do a turn with those ELO, Al Stewart, and Billy Joel albums someday, but today I’m going to take a shot at ranking the tracks on the one from Boz, a la Jim Bartlett’s Re-Listening Project.
Silk Degrees was Scaggs’s 7th solo album, his fourth on Columbia. Collaborating with David Paich, who plays keyboards and wrote or co-wrote six of the ten songs on offer, looks now to be the key decision that helped push Boz over the top. The vocals are stellar, and there’s incredible session work from everyone, including Paich’s future Toto bandmates David Hungate (bass) and Jeff Porcaro (drums). It boggles my mind that Porcaro was just 21 when this was recorded.
The album cover is iconic now, but the photo on the inside sleeve has always had me wondering: why is there a red carpet leading out to a palm tree?
Let it all begin…
10. “Harbor Lights.” I’m not in the least opposed to Boz doing a ballad (see #5), but I’ve never really felt the love for “Harbor Lights.” That pepped-up jazzy section at the end is a bit of a cipher, too.
9. “What Can I Say.” The opening track and third single released; it made #42 as 76 turned into 77. It’s fine, but there are two, maybe three others I’d have considered as a single ahead of it. It feels like I’m a little out on a limb here, ranking this so low.
8. “Jump Street.” True confession: I’m not a rock critic, though I seem to play one occasionally in this space. I’m not a lifelong Scaggs fan who knows a bunch of his catalog; I’m just a guy who enjoyed many of the singles and album cuts I heard on the radio when I was in my teens and was lucky enough to buy Silk Degrees at a formative time. So I can’t tell you anything about how the blues or R&B or Steve Miller impacted Boz’s work over the years. The blues-rocker “Jump Street” was not one of my favorites back in the day, but it’s growing on me now, especially when I get the chance to shout “Look out, fool!”
7. “Love Me Tomorrow.” Here’s where we get to the songs I really liked from the beginning. Porcaro’s work stands out on this slinky tune about a love affair at its end.
6. “It’s Over.” The first single, and not an unreasonable choice at all for that honor. Was #38 on the first chart I wrote down, 6/5/76. Not surprisingly, 12-year-old me didn’t get Boz’s last name right from listening to Casey that evening.
Sometime later I corrected it, clearly, but it looks like maybe I wrote down ‘Gangs’ originally.
What strikes me about the song now is its relatively unconventional vocal opening: the first four lines are sung only by the backup singers (okay, it’s Boz, with Maxine Green). It’s a very solid piece.
5. “We’re All Alone.” My Joel Whitburn book informs me that this was the B-side to both “What Can I Say” and “Lido Shuffle.” (“Harbor Lights” was the flip to the first two singles.) Because I’d purchased the 45 for “Lido” when it was a hit, I was already quite familiar with “We’re All Alone” by the time Rita Coolidge hit the Top 10 with her (inferior) cover in the fall. I was a total doofus at school dances, but if I hadn’t been, it would have been a tough choice between this and “Look What You’ve Done to Me” for best Boz slow-dance song (not that either ever got played at any dance I attended, anyway).
4. “What Do You Want the Girl to Do.” At first I thought there was a clear order to these ten songs, but as I got closer to publishing, further reflection led to revisions—only the top 3 and last one have stayed in their original spots (I wound up swapping this with “We’re All Alone”).
Silk Degrees was the third album in a row Boz included at least one Allen Toussaint song. Even when I was 13 and 14, this track stood out. The line, “Can’t you see you’re breaking the child in two,” has been known to pop into my head at random moments over the years.
3. “Lowdown.” I’m not sure I can add anything new about “Lowdown.” I do know I haven’t gotten tired of hearing it yet. Deserved to be his biggest hit; it’s probably single-handedly responsible for Silk Degrees getting its Grammy nominations. Still, it’s a touch surprising this is the only time Scaggs made the Top 10.
2. “Georgia.” Story of a man separated, for crimes unspecified, from his love. Is it a kind of “Indiana Wants Me” situation? Is Georgia underage? I don’t know, but despite any potential skeeviness, I would have loved to find out how it would have fared as a single. The chorus is fantastic, but even that’s transcended by the last thirty seconds on the way to fade-out. I still hear it surprisingly often over the PA at grocery and department stores (this happens with #4 as well, though less frequently).
1. “Lido Shuffle.” My homeroom teacher in 7th grade was Mr. Gayle, who also taught English. Seats were assigned alphabetically column-wise in a snake-like fashion (front to back one column, then back to front the next), starting at the door. I wound up in the front seat in the 4th column, right in front of Mr. Gayle’s desk. As the school year proceeded, he and I shared more and more often our opinions on the popular hits of the day. I lobbied for “The Things We Do for Love,” but he hated it (I’m sure things went the other direction on other songs, too). We both agreed on the epic-ness of “Lido Shuffle,” however.
There are any number of tunes vying for the title of “greatest song ever to peak at #11 on the Hot 100,” but I’d nominate “Lido Shuffle” for consideration, at least in the 70s division (it’s #17 on this show). Driving beat and a fun sing-along chorus—thankfully, the building Moog solo at the end has managed to avoid sounding dated. Back in the day I ranked this as my second favorite song of 77 (behind “Year of the Cat”); I’d be hard-pressed to place anything above it still, though “Go Your Own Way” has been gaining ground over the years.