Tom Scott

Blow It Out/Intimate Strangers/Street Beat

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BGO's 2013 double-disc set gathers three late-'70s albums from Tom Scott: 1977's Blow It Out, 1978's Intimate Strangers, and 1979's Street Beat. This is the moment when Scott entered the mainstream, leaving behind his backing band the L.A. Express, and getting progressively pop. Opening with "Gotcha," the theme from Starsky & Hutch, Blow It Out is one of his slickest sets, which should come as no surprise given that it has a song called "Smoothin' On Down." It is heavily redolent of 1977, filled with gossamer electric pianos and percolating soul rhythms, as the funk jams alternate with open-necked seduction; the saxophone itself seems to be wearing a leisure suit. Intimate Strangers picks up on that slick seduction and runs with it, its song cycle telling the tale of a one-night stand. That concept alone provides one of the pinnacles of the era of disco-jazz, but the album itself isn't as tacky as Blow It Out; it's still certainly mood music, with the groove taking precedence over the improvisations, but Scott plays it cool, as if he's worried about frightening away his paramour. That leaves Street Beat, which is the weirdest of the bunch, as it ratchets up the fuzz guitars, the synthesizers, the funk, and the backing vocals; it's as jaw-droppingly ugly as its airbrushed album cover. It's hardcore Bob James music, sounding as if it could score any number of forgotten cop thrillers -- "Car Wars" indeed was used in Americathon -- and while that means it has very little merit for jazz purists (or indeed almost anyone with taste), it is certainly a worthwhile artifact for cultural crate-diggers.

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