Music

J.J. Cale: Rewind

Rewind won't hold any surprises for Cale's fans, but it's always a pleasure just to sit back and listen to him.


J.J. Cale

Rewind: Unreleased Recordings

Label: Time Life
US Release Date: 2007-10-02
UK Release Date: 2007-10-08
Amazon
iTunes

To hear J.J. Cale tell it, a lot of work goes into making his music sound like no work went into it at all. Well, throughout his long career, he's certainly succeeded. When you listen to Cale, you envision someone sitting on a back porch or on a bar's lonely stage, singing some songs while someone just happened to have a tape recorder on hand. It's smooth and more than a little dusty; the very essence of relaxed rock 'n' roll.

Rewind sheds at least a little light on the work that went into producing Cale's unassuming roster of albums. Culled from tapes that had been in the possession of Audie Ashworth, Cale's producer for many years, Rewind's songs stem from Cale's tenure at Shelter and Mercury Records. They're pretty much what you'd expect in terms of J.J. Cale songs: easygoing, patient, and straightforward.

What's surprising about Rewind, considering that Cale usually sticks to his own compositions, are the covers of other artists' songs. Cale's usually the recipient of such honors, his songs having been tackled by the likes of Eric Clapton, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, the Band, and Captain Beefheart. In this case, though, the idea of Cale recording covers is a bit of a red herring. Cale doesn't go for deconstruction or radical reworking; the songs he picks are pretty close to his style to begin with, so he doesn't tinker with them much. In the case of Clapton's "Golden Ring", it's only fair since Clapton sold a lot of records by doing very little to Cale songs like "Cocaine" and "After Midnight". In the case of Waylon Jennings' "Waymore's Blues" and Leon Russell's "My Cricket", Cale plays it straight, (although his version of "My Cricket" has, surprisingly, glossier production and loses the cricket sound effects). He also tries to play it straight with Randy Newman's "Rollin'", keeping the signature piano melody; however, Newman's vocals and Ragtime/turn-of-the-century Germany style are pretty hard to replicate, so Cale's version, by necessity, differs a little.

As for Cale's own songs, most of which he said simply didn't fit on the albums he was recording at the time, there are some good tracks here. It would have been a shame for them to remain unreleased even if nothing runs the risk of making you re-evaluate Cale in any way. "Seven Day Woman" and "Ooh La La", (both showcasing the songwriting and background vocals of Christine Lakeland), are definite highlights, while "My Baby and Me" is a solid pedal steel-accented tearjerker. In some cases, these songs feel like demos, but the playing is first rate, with top Nashville session players and more well-known folks like Richard Thompson, Spooner Oldham, and Jim Keltner sitting in.

In the end, Rewind is, like nearly all of Cale's work, a pleasant listen. Like Mark Knopfler, (who counts Cale as an influence), you know what you're going to get: warm tone and a relaxed mood. Three or four of Rewind's songs may rank with Cale's top tier work, while some of the others, such as the covers, count as curiosities.

6

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image