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.
by Reviewer: bluemoon