Troubadour by J.J. Cale

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Troubadour by J.J. Cale
Troubadour by J.J. Cale

Album Released: 1976

Troubadour ::: Artwork

album ratingalbum ratingalbum ratingalbum ratingalbum ratingalbum ratingalbum rating  Info about Weighting

1.Hey Baby3:16
2.Travelin' Light2:53
3.You Got Something4:04
4.Ride Me High3:39
5.Hold On2:05
7.I'm A Gypsy Man2:45
8.The Woman That Got Away2:55
9.Super Blue2:41
10.Let Me Do It To You3:01
12.You Got Me On So Bad3:16


All of J.J. Cale’s albums boil down to tales of life and love on the road, but Troubadour really is solely about livin' and lovin' on the road. It's a smoke-filled, addictive, strutting record - perfectly titled - with absolutely no filler.

Naturally was Cale's debut, Really was his bluegrass record, Okie was the 'lyrical' album, and Troubadour is his guitar album. Every track here seems to have more bite than any of his previous recordings, with more guitar soloing and lots of expert filling.

Troubadour begins with “Hey Baby”, which strolls along with some quirky drumming and an excellent backwoods feel. The slide guitar here is just so relaxing, and the understated horns enter and leave exactly when they should, never overstaying their welcome. The ending solo is a perfect mix of country and blues, something the 60's San Francisco bands perfected. Next is “Travelin’ Light”, with its funky James Burton-style guitar that Jimmy Page tried to copy on “The Crunge”, along with great xylophones to fill out the sound - it moves and cooks and rolls and rocks and has just an absolutely earthy quality.

Next up is the 4-minute "You Got Something". It's Cale's longest song out of his first four albums, an island samba - complete with kettledrums - that's a soothing sit-out-on-the-beach with pina colada kind of tune. The middle solo perfectly suits the Latin feel of the music, but unfortunately the tune is just too long - so why, out of all his songs, does he decide to make this one 4 minutes? “Ride Me High” is almost as long, but it picks up the pace and adds some ridiculous spacey-sounding backdrops, fuzzbox guitar experiments, and cool drum fills to really bring this dirty funk to light. It has more electronic noises than might seem typical of Cale, but he handles the change in sound with smutty lyrics, and it's an easy-grooving highlight.

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by Reviewer: Jason Motell (blogging at Almost Credible Reviews)

My initial impression of Troubadour was that it was yet another album of mellow easy-listening, in the formulaic J. J. Cale style. But when it came to assigning ratings to individual tracks, I found myself playing the album three times in succession before I was able to settle on any firm assessments.

For whilst Cale does indeed stick to his formula here, there's a bit more going on below the surface of Troubadour, aspects that aren't readily apparent until the album's subjected to closer scutiny than just playing in the background. After all, Cale's music is so lowkey and laidback it does tend to melt into the scenery, and Troubadour is as usual no exception - I can't help but imagine the album as a whole would make an ideal ambient soundtrack for say an opium den, whose denizens are so stupefied they'd simply nod along all spaced-out and woozy-like, to the gentle vibes emitted by Troubadour.

Oddly enough, the one track that is somewhat at odds with that scenario is the otherwise appropiately-titled hit single "Cocaine", whose simple repetitive riff is rather too abrasive relative to the rest of the album, and thus undermines the overall vibe by being rather jarring. Ironically then - as the most well-known song from Troubadour - "Cocaine" isn't really representative of the album as a whole, and at 3 stars it's in my view also the least meritable track on the album, and one I always skip.

Of the remaining eleven tracks, a couple are somewhat filler-ish, in that they're little more than competent expressions of the J.J. Cale sound, that consisting of a lazy shuffling rhythm, a pretty but simple melodic motif, and Cale delivering his lyrics with a husky almost-whispering voice, sounding like he's half asleep. And it seems to me such material is indeed the sort of stuff that Cale could surely knock out in his sleep ... in terms of its musical phrasing for example, "You Got Something" is really just a slowed-down rewrite of the opening 4½ star "Hey Baby", albeit with different instrumentation / lyrics. Similarly, the 3½ star "I'm a Gypsy Man" that opens Side Two of the album is something of a lightweight throwaway.

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by Reviewer: bluemoon