J.J. Cale - Roll On

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Years ago, when reading the Rolling Stone Record Guide, it was amazing to follow artists careers, reviews of an artist would often point forwards or backwards in time to other bands.

An easy case in point would be The Yardbirds, perhaps best known for "Heart Full of Soul" and "For Your Love," but better known for their guitarists.  These were Jeff Beck (afterwards with Rod Stewart in the Jeff Beck group followed by a solid solo career in rock and jazz fusion), Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) and Eric Clapton.

Clapton went on to record solo, but only after leaving a  breadth of other bands in his wake, among them John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith, and Derek & the Dominos, not to mention guest turns everywhere from the Beatles ("While My Guitar Gently Weeps") to Roger Waters (of Pink Floyd), to Sonny Landreth, to...it's too large a list.  I followed much of Clapton's career through each of these branches, but it's curious that I never touched upon J.J. Cale, who wrote two of Clapton's more popular songs, "Cocaine" and "After Midnight."

In 2006, Cale and Clapton finally paired on "The Road to Escondido," an album with a great vibe if rather restrained, if one expected Clapton to add a guitar solo ala "Cocaine."  The two paired wonderfully, with a sound similar to other work Clapton did in the mid 1970's (Slowhand, Backless).

Since hearing that, I've gone back to listen to many of Cale's albums, which, if anything, haven't varied much in tone or style, but are consistently good.  As I'm one who tends to like artists that chase a personal vision and develop over time, I'm not less a fan in that he hasn't developed at all.  None of these songs sizzle with guitar pyrotechnics or other musical measures to hype himself.  He sticks with what he does best, I guess,  and that's telling the story that he wants.  In listening to Cale's body of work, it's obvious that jjcaleClapton's 70's sound was greatly influenced by Cale, beyond the covers of his songs.

At the age of 70, he's released "Roll On," an album that is simply the next chapter to where he left off last time.  One noticeable difference between this release and the prior with Clapton is the efficiency of the songs.  On "Escondido," half were over 4:00 minutes.  Here, only one passes that mark, which is the title track featuring... Eric Clapton.   It's fair to say that each song lasts long enough to say what needs to be said.  A sound associated with the '70's may not be for everybody, but there's no denying it's consistently good.

Recommended Songs: "Strange Days," "Former Me," "Roll On"

Rating: 3 Stars

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