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Classic of the Week

October 13, 1994|JON MATSUMOTO

Boz Scaggs

"Middle Man" (1980)

Columbia

Even though it spawned two Top 20 hits--"Breakdown Dead Ahead," which got to No. 15, and "Jojo," which got to 17--"Middle Man" wasn't quite the smash its predecessor was: "Silk Degrees," a few years earlier, had included "Lido Shuffle" and "Lowdown," which got to Nos. 11 and 3 respectively. Still, when it comes to funky rockers and silky, blue-eyed soul, "Middle Man" is nothing to sneeze at. "Jojo" is propelled by snappy horn accents, a thumping bass groove and Scaggs' sensual voice, the unstoppable "Breakdown" by hard-charging rhythm and some near-metal guitar runs. Scaggs, who'd started out along the Texas/Oklahoma border in the mid-'60s as a gritty blues- rock disciple, hadn't cranked up his amps this loud in years.

The slower songs on "Middle Man" extend the smooth, attractive balladry of "Silk Degrees." Though a bit melodramatic, "You Can Have Me Anytime" can sweep you off your feet with its lush production and Carlos Santana's cutting guitar solo. "Simone" is more energetic and no less appealing: A classy string arrangement and some cool vocal work by Scaggs and a back-up trio add to its uptown sparkle.

Scaggs would not be heard from again for eight years. The '80s just weren't meant for a man who'd helped define the upscale pop/dance sound of the mid-'70s. But today "Middle Man" remains fresh and inviting.

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