J.J. Cale

J.J. Cale

The Very Best of J.J. Cale

Mercury/Chronicles

Back in the early `70’s, it seemed like Steve Winwood’s “Feelin’ Alright” and “I’m A Man” were going to land him the title of most covered songmeister. Everybody did a version of “Feelin’ Alright.” Then came old laid-back J.J. Cale. For a man who had only one real hit song, with “Crazy Mama,” he certainly left his mark on the decade by giving some legendary musicians some of their strongest material.

The list of artists who covered J.J. Cale songs reads like a Who’s Who of the early ’70s music. From Eric Clapton, with “After Midnight,” to Lynyrd Skynrd’s take on “Call Me The Breeze,” all the way through Waylon Jennings, Poco, Kansas, and many others. His songs were strong enough to knock down the boundaries between rock and roll and country, and they were rarely played the way that he played them.

Discovering him was one of the delights of my early adulthood. Through him, I also got introduced to some the finest session men in the country. Legends like Hargus “Pig” Robbins, Harold Bradley, Jim Keltner, Barry Beckett, James Burton, Leon Russell, Vassar Clements, Charlie McCoy, Garth Hudson, Buddy Emmons, Josh Graves, George Bohanon, and many others too numerous to name, contributed to J.J.’s silky-smooth sound.

It’s hard to say that his takes were necessarily better than some of the covers, because they were so different. They were almost like different songs when they changed hands. Eric Clapton ripped through “After Midnight” as a full blown rocker, while J.J. just cruised through it. The same with Skynryd’s take on “Call Me the Breeze;” J.J. was a gentle autumn wind, Skynyrd was gale force. This collection is of better quality and is much more comprehensive than the earlier Mercury “Special Edition” collection. Even if you already had the earlier collection, as I did, this is a very worthy addition to your library. I’ll still be listening to this when I’m 64. Mercury Records, 825 Eighth Avenue, Eigth Floor, New York, NY 10019

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