Picks and Pans Review: Other Roads

updated 07/11/1988 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/11/1988 01:00AM

Boz Scaggs

It's been eight years since we last heard from Scaggs. Merely coincidence or has he been boycotting the Reagan epoch? In any event he returns with an album that is definitely no lame duck. The vocal talents and classy musical taste of this erstwhile San Francisco restaurateur are unsullied and undiminished by time. Throughout his career—despite a strange, muffled vocal delivery that often sounds as if he were singing through a mouthful of toasted marshmallows—Scaggs has been able to handle the pop spectrum of ballads, rock and R&B with great feeling and conviction. Obviously he still can. Heart of Mine, in Scaggs's hands, is the kind of ineffably sad ballad that we haven't heard, well, since Scaggs cut Harbor Lights. What's Number One and Right Out of My Head are weighty mid-tempo rockers of a breeding that groups like Toto have been dreaming about recording all these years. (Three Toto members in fact are among the musicians playing backup on this album.) Yet Scaggs makes it sound so effortless. It helps to have the substantial and pointed production values provided by Bill Schnee and Stewart Levine. The music gets a little too precious deep into the second side. And other than on the less-than-thrilling Mental Shakedown, Scaggs never assays a full-speed rocker on Other Roads. That's probably not only a sign of the singer's maturity, but a wise marketing move, because everything else here would fit perfectly on VH-1. Which reminds us, there was no VH-1 last time this wonderful singer gave us something to moon over. There wasn't even an MTV. Whoa, Boz, no more disappearing acts, all right, fella? (Columbia)

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