May 18, 1994
Boz Scaggs, Some Change (Virgin 1994) -- After an absence of several years from the recording studio, Boz Scaggs makes a welcome return with Some Change. The album is basically a two-man show: it's built around Scaggs on vocals, guitars, and keyboards, and Ricky Fataar on drums and percussion (with occasional help from experienced sidemen such as Booker T. Jones). This very likeable project marks a change for Scaggs; the disc is long on blues guitars and vocals, but short on the more sophisticated urban sound that made Scaggs a big star in the late 70s.
Lest you forget, Scaggs hails from San Francisco and started his career by playing in Steve Miller's band; he is now a part owner of the legendary Slim's nightclub in San Francisco. Though his fame came from smooth pop/jazz albums, his Texas-born roots are steeped in rock & blues. While his vocal style is a bit of an acquired taste (Scaggs' voice is sometimes on the thin side), his smooth, natural skills and complete comfort in the studio win the audience over long before the end of the album.
The disc opens with an uptempo blues number, "You Got My Letter," before down-shifting to the title track, which is more reminiscent of Scaggs' big selling blues/jazz albums. By the middle of the disc, Scaggs really builds up a head of steam, which carries through to the end of the album. "Fly Like a Bird" is a foot-stompin' Texas swinger built around Scaggs' strong, confident vocal performance and Fataar's graceful accordion. There may be autobiographical hints in this song, as Scaggs tells the story of a boy who learns how to play the guitar and "fly like a bird."
The next track, "Sierra," is a jazzy number about love in the high Sierras. The real highlight of "Sierra" is the clean vocal performance by Scaggs, who has never sounded more sure of himself. "Fly Like a Bird" and "Sierra" are both great tracks -- call your favorite radio station and request them today!
Once again, Virgin Records comes through with a surprising find; a mature artist who has complete confidence in himself and a rejuvenated sound. Some Change is a swell album; if you're driving along and hear a song on the radio by a long-lost friend, don't be surprised when the DJ tells you it's from the new Boz Scaggs album.
Mea Culpa -- The Young Dubliners appeared on May 9th before a wildly appreciative crowd at Club Fred (my apologies to manager Tony Martin for previously reporting that the show would be at a different venue). The band is a serious contender for best new group of the year; the 90 minute set (including two encores) proved that the group has melded pop, country, soul, and traditional Irish music to forge their own personality.
In addition to material from their fine debut EP Rocky Road (such as the dynamite single, "Last House on the Street"), this energetic and diverse combo played a cover of a Waterboys song and their tribute to Guiness stout, "Big Black Shite." You can expect to hear a lot more from this band -- core members Keith Roberts and Paul O'Toole possess talents that are close to the early Eagles. They're working hard for you over at Club Fred, so get out there and support live music!
Tower Records Concert Series -- Tower Records in Fresno recently started a Sunday concert series that features live sets from local bands. The first show was by our own Miss Alans, and the second gig featured Glen Delpit & the Subterraneans in front of an enthusiastic audience. The talent for future shows is to be announced; the bands play on the loading dock in back of the store starting at 2:00 p.m.
Despite the somewhat industrial setting (here's hoping Tower gets some bleachers or maybe a rollout carpet for future shows), the sound is surprisingly clean and well-balanced. Three big cheers to Tower for supporting our local bands. Call the store to confirm future concert dates, and buy a record tonight!
Art Deco Series -- Columbia/Legacy has begun a new batch of re-issues that it calls the "Art Deco Series." The first releases in this group include Fred Astaire (Top Hat: Hits From Hollywood), collections from Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor, and two compilations from 30s musicals, Charming Gents of the Stage & Screen and Lovely Ladies of the Stage & Screen.
For long-time fans of Fred Astaire (whose vaults have been largely picked clean over the years), the new disc doesn't offer much in the way of surprises. Columbia's splendid prior double-disc Astaire package contains all of this material; there aren't any rarities or oddities on Top Hat: Hits from Hollywood. Perhaps the intrusive presence of Fred's widow, Robyn Astaire, prevented the inclusion of any new material; Robyn is reportedly extorting exorbitant fees for any new issues of Fred's material.
However, the Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor discs feature some material that was previously unavailable. If you're a fan of the Golden Age of Hollywood (when musicals were king), look for the Art Deco Series: you'll find 'em in the back room (Classical and Easy Listening) of Tower Records.
Warner Re-issues -- After long resisting the temptation to tap into its rich vaults, Warner Records has recently begun re-releasing some forgotten gems from its past.
One such treasure is the debut album from Crazy Horse (1971), the group that is best known as Neil Young's backup band. Including such talented musicians as Ralph Molina on drums, Jack Nitzsche on piano, and Nils Lofgren on guitar, Crazy Horse is a one-off project that fixes a moment in history. Featuring songs like "Gone Dead Train" and "I Don't Want to Talk About It," Crazy Horse is a fine re-introduction to this overlooked band.
Even better, however, is Thanks, I'll Eat It Here by the one and only Lowell George. This masterful rock/pop album was released by George (lead singer for Little Feat) shortly before his untimely death in 1979, and is his only solo effort. With tracks such as "What Do You Want the Girl to Do" (which was featured in the movie, Indecent Proposal) and "20 Million Things" (with its unforgettable line, "I've got 20 million things to do/But all I can think of is you"), the sugar-throated (and booze-soaked) George shows why he was revered by fans. If you could never get into the funky beats of Little Feat, try Thanks, I'll Eat It Here -- you'll soon be converted.
Pat Metheny, Zero Tolerance for Silence (DGC 1994) -- Consider this to be fair warning. I have no idea what possessed Pat Metheny to release this disc, but it's 40 minutes of raw, distorted guitar noise (with no other instruments, vocals, or melodies). Something must have pissed Metheny off when he recorded this feedback fest on December 16, 1992, because he sure was in a shitty mood. If you like guitar noise, maybe you'll like this disc. On the other hand, if all you want you want is noise, why not try the new release from Soundgarden -- at least you'll get some sense of machismo purpose amid your soundwaves of joy and angst.
-- Randy Krbechek
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