CD Review of Rewind: Unreleased Recordings by J.J. Cale
Recommended if you like
Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt,
Widespread Panic
Label
Time Life
J.J. Cale: Rewind:
Unreleased Recordings

Reviewed by Michael Fortes

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J
.J. Cale is one of those artists who should be a household name, if only for the classic songs he’s written. However, songs like “After Midnight” and “Cocaine” will forever be associated with Eric Clapton, and “Call Me the Breeze” will always be Lynyrd Skynyrd’s. And Cale himself is just fine with that, thank you very much.

Perhaps the way that aging rockers are received by the masses at large these days – i.e. most young ‘uns spending their parents’ dough are too distracted by the latest pop tarts, train wrecks and MySpace sensations to care all that much – waiting until last year to finally record a full album (The Road to Escondido) with Clapton ensured that Cale still wouldn’t cross over to superstar status. Plan succeeded! And now, following it up is this collection of previously unreleased recordings appropriately titled Rewind (hey, wasn’t that a Rolling Stones hits collection?), spanning the ‘70s and ‘80s. It’s yet another below-the-radar release – consider it a hearty ‘thank you’ to the members of the Cale cult who have seen him through his low-profile career.

The big surprise here is that, for a guy who’s known primarily as a songwriter, we get to hear him covering a few songs by other artists. Randy Newman’s “Rollin’” is perhaps the best of the bunch, while Waylon Jennings’ “Waymore’s Blues,” which sounded like a tossed off, unfinished song when done by Waylon, sounds no different in Cale’s hands. Most revealing, however, is Cale turning the tables by recording a Clapton tune. Cale’s voice is so similar to Clapton’s on “Golden Ring” that it becomes all too clear, if you hadn’t already heard The Road to Escondido, that Clapton has been modeling his own vocals after Cale’s for the past 30 years.

Less surprising is that, even though these recordings span two decades, they mostly all have the same sound and feel. Cale has been consistent since day one in keeping his trademark laid back, rootsy blues n’ rock sound intact. These recordings make it even clearer that, even on his studio rejects, the song remained the same. In fact, the consistency is so strong that these 14 short tracks can fly by in what seems like 20 minutes – they all blend into one another somewhere after track 4, which means they’re perfect musical wallpaper for your next BBQ with all your pot-smokin’ blues-rock friends.

Unfortunately, the review copy of the disc does not include detailed session information, but the press release does tell us that Cale is supported by a stellar cast of veteran sidemen like bassist Tim Drummond, drummer Jim Keltner, and Spooner Oldham on the organ, among others. It’s a crack bunch of musicians playing throughout this disc, and this is ultimately what makes listening to a disc where none of the songs really scream “lost classic” such a pleasure.

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