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PUTIGNANO-032813-Boz Memphis CD art
PUTIGNANO_BobAll is as it should be here on Boz’s
(eloquently executed)  


Rating: 9

Early on Boz
was a member of the Steve Miller Band and recorded his debut self-titled
album (with Duane Allman) in 1969 at Muscle Shoals, Alabama. “Memphis”
is his first recording in nearly five years. His last was mostly a jazz
recording “Speak Low” for the Decca label, which brings us to today. 

Assembled here
is a smartly chosen crew of top-rate musicians. Willie Weeks holds down the
bass, Ray Parker Jr. plays guitar alongside Boz, the albums wonderful producer
is drummer Steve Jordan, and there’s additional support from Memphis based
veterans highlighted by Spooner Oldham’s piano and B3, Al Green’s session
organist Charlie Hodges, Jim Horn’s baritone, with occasional string
arrangements by Lester Snell and the late great Willie Mitchell who passed in
2010.  Twelve tracks are included, ten are covers and the opening and
closing tunes were authored by the leader.

Boz’s “Gone
Baby Gone” opens and feels like a tribute to the Reverend Al Green, not only
does this beauty sound like a tune Al Green recorded for the Hi Label, it also
includes a organ solo by Green’s session man Charles Hodges, and Boz’s
Green-like subtle-falsetto vocals. To further exemplify the Al Green
connection, “So Good To Be Here” (authored by Al Green) follows in near perfect
fashion, Hodges organ is again employed, and there’s string arrangements by
Snell and Willie Mitchell, with horn arrangements by Jordan, Scaggs’ vocal is
snug as a bug as the rhythm section, horns and strings evoke Green’s hey-days.
New York’s own Willie DeVille’s “Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl” fits like a Memphis
glove, especially with Oldham’s piano and Boz’s superb vocalized
interpretation. Steve Jordan arranged the strings on Tony Joe White’s classic
“Rainy Night In Georgia,” Boz’s vocals are (at times) a bit gruff, but in the
end it’s a exquisite rendition.  Another classic “Love on a Two Way
Street” follows, Oldham and Hodges handle the keys, female background vocalists
are added, Boz croons on, and this too is another well crafted beauty. 
Even Steely Dan’s “Pearl Of the Quarter” takes on the Memphis groove especially
with Snell’s horn and string arrangements where you can almost see Boz smile
with his opulent vocals where Jim Cox’ piano adds potent value. I wouldn’t have
suspected to find Moon Martin’s “Cadillac Walk” covered on this collection, but
this very bluesy tune picks up the tempo and hums particularly hard with Weeks
bass, Jordan’s drums, and when the guitars kick in, Boz also snarls, as this
track is further aided by Cox’ tasty tickling of the ivories. The traditional “Corrina,
Corrina” is drop-dead gorgeous, Boz’s vocals are emotive, the acoustic guitar
work is flawless, Oldham also fills on keys.  The soulful classic that
“Can I Change My Mind” a hit that Tyrone Davis made ultra-famous is yet another
keeper, Monet Owens adds interesting vocals trading off a bit with Boz who is
(once again) very cozy and on-spot on this sultry and mildly funky chestnut.
 Keb’ Mo’ provides slide dobro and Charlie Musselwhite join the parade on
the blues number “Dry Spell” authored by Jack Walroth, Keb’ briefly borders on
being explosive here, as does Musselwhite’s short harp solo. Additional blues
ensue with Jimmy Reed’s “You Got Me Cryin’” Rick Vito’s guitar is added, his
tone is clear as a bell on a track that I suspect wasn’t recorded in Memphis as
it also offers a different band along with an un-credited harp player. Boz’s
closing ballad; “Sunny Gone” features Jim Cox’ moving piano closing this fine
disc on a tender and heartfelt note. 

There’s so
much that’s right on “Memphis.” Outstanding production, great musicianship,
well chosen and well crafted covers, Boz’s two new additions, and the precise
timing between tracks that segue perfectly from tune to tune that’s so
righteously well thought out.  This segueing timing between tunes are a
rare art these days, unfortunately they probably won’t convey appropriately via
ITunes or other digital downloads, and is infrequently witnessed on modern day
recordings since the days of vinyl.  Kudos to all involved on this soulful
and near-perfect recording.

Bob Putignano

eHeziSOUNDS OF BLUE: Boz Scaggs “Memphis” By BOB PUTIGNANO

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