'The White Soulster Delves into His Texas Blues Roots to Produce an Album Which Just Oozes Class'

Article excerpt

Boz Scaggs

Come On Home

Virgin CDVUS 124 Boz Scaggs' 1994 comeback album Some Change was one of the best-kept secrets of that year, a mature and thoughtful slice of modern R&B which didn't try to disguise its intentions with guest celebrities or instrumental grandstanding. With Come On Home, the white soulster applies the same methods in a slightly different direction, delving back into his Texas blues roots to come up with an album which just oozes class. Mingling 10 old favourites with four self-penned originals, the album offers a compelling illustration of the power and diversity of late Fifties/ early Sixties blues, opening with Earl King's infectious "It All Went Down the Drain" and proceeding through representative cuts of Bobby "Blue" Bland's deep-soul style, Jimmy Reed's slouching slacker-blues, Fats Domino's New Orleans sway and T-Bone Walker's fluid jump-blues. Particularly effective are Scaggs' readings of Isaac Hayes/ David Porter's slow-burning "Your Good Thing (Is About To End)" (a 1969 hit for Lou Rawls) and his beautifully measured version of Ketty Lester's "Love Letters", while his understated guitar work on his own "I've Got Your Love" is a model of taste and restraint in a field prey to all kinds of unseemly excess. Much of the album's success is due to its impeccable session crew, which blends reliable veterans - Jim Keltner and Ricky Fataar on drums, "Hutch" Hutchinson and "Ready" Freddie Washington on bass, Fred Tackett and Scaggs on guitars - with a few inspired choices, such as getting Al Green's producer Willie Mitchell to do some of the horn arrangements. It all adds up to probably the best blues album of the last few years, and certainly the only one to significantly challenge the genre's tired reputation as a vehicle for tawdry guitar pyrotechnics. The final crowning touch is the splendid sleeve design, a witty inversion of the traditional situation regarding blues albums of the Fifties, when record companies would rather use anything - most often a white woman in soft-focus reverie - than scare potential purchasers by featuring the black artists themselves. Here, Scaggs himself is royally upstaged by a couple of black street kids giving the camera loads of attitude, while the shiny fins of a Cadillac tempt one inexorably towards the disc. Like the album itself, it has a classic touch. GEOFFREY WILLIAMS The Drop Hands On HORCD 1001 Some musicians' work is so enduring it that becomes more an archetype than a style, with clear echoes of it resounding down the years. Take Marvin Gaye - barely a year passes without another singer trying on his mantle for size. Last year's New Marvin was the omni-talented Lewis Taylor; this year, UK soulster Geoffrey Williams is the candidate, and making a more than passably decent fist of the job with The Drop. Using US mixing team The Butcher Brothers (aalk" and "I Guess I Will Always Love You", Williams sticks closely to the smooth soul sound throughout, only adding a few drum'n'bass flourishes to pep up the uptown falsetto soul of "Drive". Compared to most American soul singers, though, Williams has an engagingly idiosyncratic approach, unafraid of revealing flaws or vulnerabilities that might compromise his status as lover. "You say it's not very attractive being my mother," he admits in "Tell Me Something Good" is a line that will surely strike both sexes with the ring of truth, but it's one that you'd never hear from an American lurrrve-man. DEPECHE MODE Ultra (Mute CD STUMM 148) Depeche Mode's comeback album - in singer Dave Gahan's case, a comeback from the dead, by all accounts - holds few surprises, and more worryingly, few tracks to match the high quality of their last two studio albums - Violator and Songs of Faith and Devotion. Even the halfway decent songs, such as the single "It's No Good", seem like Mode-by-numbers, and despite the presence of Tim (Bomb The Bass) Simenon as producer, the rhythms rarely rise above the sinister technoplod of the opening "Barrel of a Gun". …