Boz Scaggs – Silk Degrees – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

This White Hot Stamper side one will BLOW THE DOORS OFF any Silk Degrees you have ever heard. Side one earned an A+++ grade with incredible clarity, a huge bottom end, silky sweet highs, and tons of energy. The strings have real texture, something you won’t hear on too many pressings of this album. The mids are clear, the vocals are breathy and the piano is super solid.  

Most copies SEVERELY lack presence and top end. Dull, thick, opaque sound is far too common on Silk Degrees, which may account for some audiophiles finding the half-speed preferable. Of course, our Hot Stampers give you the presence and highs that let this music come to life. If they didn’t they wouldn’t be Hot Stampers now would they?

Memories Are Made of This

Despite all the bad sound I found for this album, I kept buying copies of this record in the hopes that someday I would find one that sounded good. I remember playing this record when it came out in ’76 and thinking that it sounded very good. So how is it that all the copies I’m playing sound so bad, or at the very least, wrong?

Well, the answer to that question is not too complicated. When you get the right pressing, the sound is excellent.

I must have had a good one 20+ years ago, and that’s why I liked the sound. The exact same thing happened to me with both Deja Vu and Ambrosia’s first album. The copy I had picked up at random when I bought the album just happened to have Hot Stampers. (When you consider that Hot Stampers for both of those records are pretty unusual, I would say I was very lucky to get good sounding copies of those two masterpieces while everyone around me was buying crap.)

So what do you hear on this copy? Well, the first thing you hear is a rich, solid piano that’s missing from the CBS Half-Speed and 90% of the reissues. The second thing you hear is a smooth, sweet top end, which is likewise missing from the above mentioned pressings. This album, like so many recordings from the ’70s, is surprisingly natural sounding for a pop record. I’ve had the same experience with a lot of Billy Joel records from this period — I was surprised to hear how well recorded they were after I stopped listening to the Half-Speed and the Import pressings and just went back and played good original domestic copies. When you get the right ones, they’re fabulous.

How Bad Good Equipment Used to Be

And these were all the records that we audiophiles were complaining about! We lamented the fact that these pressings weren’t audiophile quality, like the best MOFIs and Japanese pressings! Can you imagine?! This is how bad even good equipment was back then. Of course we got what we deserved. We got lots of phony, hyped-up pressings to fool us into thinking we were hearing better sound, when in fact the opposite was true. (I regret to say that nothing has changed — most pressings aimed at audiophiles are still junk.)

Revolutionary Changes in Audio

Now that record playing technology has been through Revolution after revolution, from The Disc Doctor to the Triplanar arm, vibration control, modern phono cables, amazingly good moving coil cartridges and phono stages and on and on, these plain old domestic pressings have finally allowed us to hear the magic in their grooves.

Maybe Boz Scaggs is not your thing. But I can tell you this — you will have a hard time finding a better sounding Pop Record from the ’70s than Silk Degrees.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

What Can I Say 
Georgia 
Jump Street 
What Do You Want the Girl to Do 
Harbor Lights

Side Two

Lowdown 
It’s Over 
Love Me Tomorrow 
Lido Shuffle 
We’re All Alone

AMG 4 1/2 Star Rave Review!

Both artistically and commercially, Boz Scaggs had his greatest success with Silk Degrees. The laid-back singer hit the R&B charts in a big way with the addictive, sly “Lowdown” (which has been sampled by more than a few rappers and remains a favorite among baby-boomer soul fans) and expressed his love of smooth soul music almost as well on the appealing “What Can I Say.” But Scaggs was essentially a pop/rocker, and in that area he has a considerable amount of fun on “Lido Shuffle” (another major hit single), “What Do You Want the Girl to Do,” and “Jump Street.” Meanwhile, “We’re All Alone” and “Harbor Lights” became staples on adult contemporary radio. Though not remarkable, the ballads have more heart than most of the bland material dominating that format.