- A superb copy of Scaggs’ Masterpiece, with amazing Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
- This copy brings out of the mix the solid, weighty piano that’s missing from the CBS Half-Speed and 90% of the reissues
- We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
- 5 stars: “[Scaggs] hit the R&B charts in a big way with the addictive, sly Lowdown… and expressed his love of smooth soul music almost as well on the appealing What Can I Say.”
NOTE: *On track three there are five light ticks during the outro.
Stunning sound on the better recorded tracks, which I’m happy to say are most of them. And why not? This band is basically Toto with Boz Scaggs singing lead. Paich wrote most of the songs and most of the Toto band (which didn’t exist yet of course) is in the house. (No Lukather, but the guitarists on hand manage to pull it off without him.) Check out the legendary Jeff Porcaro’s twin hi-hats on Lowdown, one per channel, energizing the rhythm of the song big time.
One of the main qualities separating the winners from the also-rans on this title is the quality of the bass. This is rhythmic music, first and foremost. David Hungate just kills on this album; he’s giving a master class on rock and roll bass on practically every track.
And, for us audiophiles, the good news is the bass is very well recorded — big, punchy and well upfront in the mix. The bad news is that only the best copies show you the note-like, clear, rich bass that must be on the master tape. Vague and smeary bottom end is the rule, not the exception, and it’s a veritable crime against Well-Recorded Sophisticated Pop such as this.
Tubey Magic Is Key
This vintage Columbia pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What the best sides of Silk Degrees have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1976
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
So what do you hear on this copy? Well, the first thing you hear is a rich, solid piano, one 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 many of Billy Joel’s records from this period — it’s surprising to hear how well recorded they are after I stopped listening to the Half-Speed and the Import pressings and just went back to the good old original domestic LPs.
When you get the right ones, they’re fabulous.
What We’re Listening For on Silk Degrees
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
- Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
- Then: presence and immediacy. The musicians aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would have put them.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
More to Listen For
Most copies badly lack presence and top end. Dull, thick, opaque sound is by far the most common sound one hears on Silk Degrees, which may account for some audiophiles finding the half-speed preferable.
Of course, we don’t need to tell you that 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.
What Can I Say
What Do You Want the Girl to Do
Love Me Tomorrow
We’re All Alone
AMG 5 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.