JJ Cale Rewind Review

Released 2007.  

BBC Review

If double Jay himself had thought these tunes were all great to begin with, surely he...

Lou Thomas 2007

Like Prince or Ray Charles, Cale is one of those true pioneers that can often be found at the crossroads of musical genres. In his case he found the point where blues, rockabilly, country and jazz met and developed this into the Tulsa Sound. The rest is the history of late-night whiskey cool.

Rewind then, is a collection of unreleased material from the 1970s and ‘80s which include covers by Clapton and Randy Newman. As with all projects of this nature, one has to wonder about the artistic motives behind such a release. Cale himself is resolutely not the type to flog any old tat for a slightly sweeter pension, so maybe it’s the same old story: record company desperate to milk every last drop from act 'discovers' buried treasure. Whatever the truth, if double Jay himself had thought these tunes were all great to begin with, surely he would have put them out soon after recording?

The results of this archive plundering are sporadically brilliant, with "Guess I Lose" a particular highlight. Ushered in on a chorus of soulful, wordless crooned harmonies, it’s a classic hard-bitten tale of woe that leaves listeners sure that glass is half-empty.

Elsewhere, "Bluebird" is a terrific ditty, that moves with an electric pace and momentum that could make it a happier, bouncier companion to Cale’s own "Travelin’ Light". So it’s a massive shame that "Bluebird" fades out in less than 90 seconds. Elsewhere, "Lawdy Mama" is rubbery bar-room funk, "Blue Sunday" showcases the sweet pedal steel sound that is a trademark of several Cale compositions and "Ooh La La" is a horn-driven triumph that couldn’t be more Nashville if it was directed by Robert Altman.

Sadly, much of the rest of Rewind is filler. Cale’s version of Clapton’s "Golden Ring" plods along like a sad horse preparing for the glue factory and, and his version of Waylon Jennings’ "Waymore Blues" is paint-by-numbers Cale - a disappointment.

Although certainly worth a listen or two as a whole, it’s hard to recommend actually purchasing all of Rewind to anyone but die-hard Cale fans. Those just curious about the great man looking for a way into his captivating but bittersweet tales of love, women and drinking are advised to get hold of his two superb ‘70s albums, Naturally and Troubadour.

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