Tuesday, July 30, 2013


A quick word on the demise of JJ Cale, who died aged 74 at the weekend. He's one of those guys people know more through his songs being covered by others, so here's a few you might remember:
  • Eric Clapton's covers of both After Midnight and Cocaine, in both cases fairly close approximations of the originals with some of the subtlety sucked out
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd's rocked-up version of Call Me The Breeze
  • Spiritualized's trancetastic Run, which is basically a sneakily renamed cover of Call Me The Breeze
  • Santana's somewhat more histrionic version of Sensitive Kind
  • basically the entire career of Dire Straits, though I don't know that they ever specifically covered a Cale song
Cale's own versions of his stuff are the ones to go for, though, as they've got a shuffly laid-back charm that sounds easy but evaporates when anyone else tries to reproduce it. If one were in the mood for strained metaphors one might say that JJ Cale is the Anne Tyler of swampy country-flavoured rock music: simple on the surface but with more going on the closer you look. Like Tyler there is a certain uniformity to it all, so you probably don't need the whole oeuvre unless you're particularly fanatical, not that Cale (who was by his own admission not a big fan of hard work anyway) put out albums all that frequently, or not after his 1970s heyday anyway. If you look at the list you'll see the aversion to effort extends to album titles as well: while he managed to rouse himself to picking a single-word title for six of his first eight albums (arguably seven of nine depending how you interpret the hyphen in his ninth album Travel-Log), his fifth, eighth and tenth albums are called 5, #8 and Number 10 respectively.

I own the two late-70s albums Troubadour (aka the one with Cocaine on it) and 5 (aka the one with Sensitive Kind on it); if you have his first album Naturally (aka the one with Call Me The Breeze on it) as well, that would probably do you.

Here's a few for you: a late-70s performances of After Midnight, Boilin' Pot and Cocaine, and an acoustic rendition of Travelin' Light from the mid-90s.