Doc Martian's Lounge: The J.J. Cale Album that DOESN'T have a superhooky song on it.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The J.J. Cale Album that DOESN'T have a superhooky song on it.

J.J. Cale - Rewind - Time Life Records

I'm not complainin' however. I love Art Tatum. He's got fantastic chops at the pianner, but you aren't going to buy his album for its hooks like you would a Jerry Lee Lewis album, you're going to buy it because his virtuosity and ability to build a wonderful ambience surpasses even such stellar talents as Oscar Peterson. This album has similar strengths. It comes from the explosion of rural music sounds that were found to be popular again after The Band released its eponymous album and Dylan did "Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid". Not that that is where J.J. Cale found his inspiration, but it sure did amuse him to be found commercially viable after a few years lurkin' in honky-tonk bars. This album isn't a typical Cale release pandering to music execs who didn't see how to work his gospel shufflin' blues into a rock format, and didn't find him appropriate for the Nashville or Countrypolitian sounds that were the mainstay of country music at the time. He wasn't 'southern rock', he wasn't 'country', he wasn't 'blues' and he wasn't 'gospel', what he was was hard to market, much like his contemporaries the Grateful Dead who wouldn't roll over and play strawberry alarm clock like good hippies. This album is a series of cuts from his early releases that his producers didn't find commercially viable. That doesn't mean that they don't weather the test of time. They're warm, human, enveloping in a slow country languor or gospel fervor that sweeps you off to an afternoon with the windows open and the smell of magnolia drifting through the screened porch. You aren't going to find an After Midnight or Call Me The Breeze or even a Don't Cry Sister on this album, there's no airplay they are defined for, but if you've learned to appreciate the artistry of Mr. Cale's precision of comfortable groove, you'll eat this album up. Includes some covers by Randy Newman, Eric Clapton, Waylon Jennings and Leon Russell, not that they sound like covers; in fact, on first listen I didn't distinguish them from the other songs on this album, they seamlessly fill a lazy evening with harmonic beauty. Would I recommend this album for someone who has never listened to J.J. Cale before? Yes, but not as a single purchase, do yourself a favor and pick up one of his compilations along with it so when people ask you what you're listening to you can hum a few bars of After Midnight at them so they shut up and listen without prejudice. This is a great album, maybe even essential, I'll let you know in a few years, the best albums rarely are apparent until they've found their way time and time again to your IPOD stack, this definitely has all the earmarks of being a long-term favorite however, even if it isn't as flash as some of his other albums. heh.


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