It is always interesting to hear an artist's first effort following a first huge success. There are several paths one can take - including copying the past winner in barely new packages and trying something very different because you now have the public on your side.
Boz Scaggs has taken a middle course on his new album, "Down Two Then Left" (Columbia JC 34729), and the result is one of the smoothest, most listenable records of the year.
There is no question that Scaggs is closer to the first approach than the experimental one, and there wil be cries from some quarters that the has sold out completely and become merely a pop singer looking for his next hit. "Silk Degrees" (Columbia PC 33920) made Scaggs, former qualifier for the Cult Following Hall of Fame, a national (make that worl-wide) figure; and the easy access that songs like "Lowdown" and "Lido Shuffle" offered to varied audiences is directly responsible for his sudden stardom.
"Down Two Then Left" is homogenized in the sense that each piece is refine and structured and all blend the rhythm and blues background of the "Silk Degrees" album with the moving ballad style Scaggs highlighted in songs like "Harbor Lights" and "We're All Alone." Yet, here, homogenization is no drawback. On the contrary, it's the maturation of a unique sound. Put it another way, the album may appear slick but the slickness is Scaggs' personal stamp as a performer and no one else puts it over in quite the same way.
"Still Falling For You" and "Hard Times" have a suppressed disco flavor with the former a bit more lyrically inventive. Scaggs' pinched but tuneful wail soars over Joe Wissert's expert production on "We're Waiting" and "Hollywood," and there really isn't a moment on "Down Two Then Left" where the album slips.
Scaggs again plays with a first-class band that includes keyboardist Michael Omartian and Jay Graydon, whose stinging guitar solos here prove that his exceptional work on Steely Dan's "Aja" (ABC, AB 1006) was no fluke.
Boz Scaggs will have no trouble marketing this record because it is geared toward a mass acceptance. Young and old, black and white, hard rockers and middle-of-the-roaders all will find something to their liking.
"Down Two Then Left" may be Scaggs' commercial sellout, but this album is the artistic way to do it.