As is my habit now that I have a car with a CD player, my last stop before leaving for work this morning was the CD shelf. I was expecting a long and demanding day, one that would probably need a little sunshine at the end.
My choice: Boz Scaggs’ Slow Dancer.
Slow Dancer, for the uninitiated, is the album on which Boz hired himself a full-on orchestra — strings, horns, percussionists, the works — to record in a silky R&B crooner mode.
It’s just the kind of career move singers like to pull at age 50 or 60; except Boz was not yet 30 when the album came out in March 1974. I give Marin County’s resident honky soulman at least a few points for creativity and thinking outside the box, then.
Ballads and mellow moonlit funk make up most of the album. And truth be told, most of it isn’t that memorable. Slow Dancer is kinda like the Chrysler Cordoba of slick soul albums: It’s a smooth enough ride, but the fit and finish just aren’t top-flight.
Ah, but the first song is a wonder.
“You Make It So Hard (To Say No)” is a comfortably upholstered, irresistably catchy soul nugget that deserved extensive Top 40 airplay. Unfortunately, America in the spring of 1974 was too busy listening to “Seasons in the Sun,” “Dark Lady” and “The Lord’s Prayer” to recognize what it had when it had it.
“You Make It So Hard” (and yes, I suppose there is a Bon Scott-level seventh-grade double entendre going on there) was pretty much all I wanted when I left in the morning.
I knew I was going to put in the CD as soon as I got into the car for my drive home. If my day was triumphant, the opening horn fanfare would herald it. If my day was a failure, the song’s upbeat groove would buoy my spirit and make me feel better.
The day turned out pretty nicely, all things being equal.
And as the last hour’s ration of a long day of sun beat down on the Lehigh Valley, I drove home listening to this: