Anyone with a soft spot for Boz Scaggs is bound to savor Speak Low for exactly what it is: a great singer's foray into the heart of pure romanticism in the old school definition of that word.
It's hard to mistake the album as anything else just based on the well-conceived opener title "Invitation." Scaggs proved he could croon with the best of the torch singers (can you say Johnny Mathis?) soon after he departed the original Steve Miller Band and he's done so off and on throughout his career (Moments‚ Slow Dancer) just as he does here.
With his gentle delivery‚ Scaggs' rich vocal timbre conjures up all the appropriate images of moonlight on the water‚ soft breezes and evocative solitude--or blessed companionship‚ a mood consolidated by the soft rolling vibes of Geoff Countryman. Eric Crystal's gentle tenor sax serves the same purpose during "She Was Too Good to Me" and the late night jazz club vibe continues unabated on the Rodgers & Hart chestnut "I Wish I Knew."
It's at this point the narrowly circumscribed dynamics of Speak Low are in place‚ to the point this man's knowledgeable long-time fans may begin longing for a measure of high-spirited Texas blues that makes the diverse & Band one of the standouts of his career. On the other hand‚ the consistency of mood is laudable‚ all the more so because it's a tenuous mood to create‚ much less maintain--it never flags for the duration--and Scaggs himself does it totally without irony. Which may make the title song and "Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me" sound a bit corny to some ears.
Yet Speak Low is nothing if not seductive because material such as the aforementioned Duke Ellington tune and "I Remember April" comes perfectly natural to Scaggs. Also‚ producer Gil Goldstein formulates an ideal setting for the frontman‚ where the musicians slip almost imperceptibly in and out of their solos: as they do on the latter number.
The whisper never progresses to a scream on Speak Low‚ as befits its title‚ but that's not to say Boz Scaggs and company don't communicate during the course of these dozen tracks. Quite the contrary.
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