JJ Cale at his finest.
Laidback back-porch grooves with luscious horns and the man's sublime guitar playing and sardonic delivery.
Rock and Roll Records is the high point for me, but every track is a winner.
When you hear the cool way the guitars chugg along - you may recognise the style.
Eric Clapton spent a good five years emulating this stuff - and never quite made it. Mark Knopfler probably dreams of making an album like this.
Rootsy, laid-back, real, rocking and righteous. Avoid imitations. Have a drink from the source.
A bluesified country masterpiece.
Possibly the definitive Cale album, though there are other contenders, 'Okie' sees him running through a varied range of approaches without putting a foot wrong. 'Crying' and 'Cajun Moon' are intense and brooding; 'I'll Be There' and 'Everlovin' Woman' are bright and jaunty; 'Anyway The Wind Blows' is earthy, hypnotic; 'Rock And Roll Records' is an outstanding, mid-paced number; 'Precious Memories' is a beer crate singalong country item. 'I Got The Same Old Blues' is the climax that speaks for itself. Like most of Cale's alums, 'Okie' weighs in at a little over half an hour, but its intimacy wastes nothing.
*** THIS REVIEW IS FOR THE JAPANESE-ONLY SHM CD REMASTER FROM 2013 ****
Since his tragic loss in July 2013 renewed interest in J.J. Cale and his wonderfully laid-back songwriting magic has never been higher - and if you want an example of just how good he was (and can sound) - then a few bob spent on this fabulous Japanese CD reissue is going to be money well spent. And more importantly to long-time fans - this 'actually remastered' reissue has GLORIOUS SOUND trumping all other releases. Here are the gory details...
His 3rd studio album "Okie" was originally issued on vinyl album in April 1974 on Shelter SR-2107 in the USA and June 1974 on A&M Records AMLS 68261 in the UK (excepting one song, they're all Cale originals). Its first CD appearance was way back in 1990 on Mercury 842 102-2 - but it was an OK-sounding CD rather than a great one. A whopping 6 of its 10 tracks were remastered in 1997 for the 2CD anthology "Any Way The Wind Blows" and fans got to hear just how good it could sound. But little will prepare them for the stunning sonic attack of this 2013 remaster - beautifully transferred and fully realizing the magic that was always there.
Released in Japan 26 June 2013 on Universal UICY-75629 (Barcode 4988005771605) - it's a SHM-CD (Super High Materials) and features 5" Repro US LP artwork and a booklet with lyrics. The OBI mentions that this disc is part of the "Rock Impact '74" Series.
A SHM-CD doesn't require a special CD player to play it on (compatible on all) nor does it need audiophile kit to hear the benefits. It's a new form of the format that picks up the nuances of the transfer better (top quality make). I own about 10 of them and they're uniformly superb. Its total playing time is a mere 29:06 minutes but don't let that deter you - it's probably the sweetest of all his LPs.
On the subject of sound - a few words first about the remaster (and Cale's remasters in general). Both Amazon UK and USA list the 5CD mini box set "Classic Album Selection" as having 2013 remasters ("Okie" is not among them) - it doesn't. Although the CDs look exactly like the old issues, closer examination will show that each has a new catalogue number that reflects the box - but that's all. They all have the old Mercury designed labels of silver and orange lines and are precisely the same as the old Eighties and early Nineties reissues. My Mac even remembered the old track references I'd personally put in. I tried an outside source - like a desktop CD player - same thing - same old discs - absolutely not new. So where does this '2013 Remaster' claim come from? I suspect from these Japanese SHM-CD reissues which are Universal Japan issues only. The point is that the sound difference between this SHM-CD and the ordinary 'digitally mastered' disc of the 1990s is literally like chalk and cheese.
It doesn't say which engineer has done the remaster and transfer in the booklet but the work is AWESOME - truly beautiful sound on every track. If I were to nail down two that show most improvement - it would be "Starbound" (lyrics from it title this review) and the country jaunt of "Precious Memories" - neither of which are on the 1997 Anthology. There is hiss on these tunes but the clarity of the songs is GORGEOUS. "The Old Man And Me" is beautiful too and the lone cover on the album "I'll Be There (If You Ever Want Me)" by Rusty Gabbard and Ray Price rocks along with superb clarity. Love it love it.
J.J. Cale was one of my audio heroes growing up - and his influence on Eric Clapton, Dire Straits and even John Mayer is undeniable. What a loss and what an artist. And damn the Japanese for being so good with these bloody things - because I need all 8 of them now! My long-suffering bank manager will be pleased...
The albums in this June 2013 Japanese CD reissue series are:
1. Naturally (1972 - his debut) on Universal UICY-75627 [SEE REVIEW]
2. Really (1973) on Universal UICY-75628
3. Okie (1974) on Universal UICY-75629 [SEE REVIEW]
4. Troubadour (1976) on Universal UICY-75630 [SEE REVIEW]
5. "5" (1979) on Universal UICY-75631 [SEE REVIEW]
6. Shades (1981) on Universal UICY-75632
7. Grasshopper (1982) on Universal UICY-75633
8. No. 8 (1983) on Universal UICY-75634
One of the few covers of a JJ Cale song that came close to doing justice to the original was a version of Same Old Blues - the closing track on this immaculate album - by none other than Captain Beefheart. Usually singers try too hard, though the wonderful Maria Muldaur did a lovely version of another great song from this album, Cajun Moon. But if you want the job done properly - a Cale song sung as it should be sung, and played as it should be played - get the man from Oklahoma to sing it, and all will be well with the world.
This is one of JJ`s very best records. There isn`t one moment you`d wish to change, not a bad song among the dozen chosen for this, his third LP.
There are gentle songs like the downbeat opener Crying, the beautiful awestruck Starbound, the gritty, downhome The Old Man And Me, the sweet and sexy I`d Like To Love You Baby, and the warm, hymn-like traditional number Precious Memories (the only non-original).
Then there are uptempo workouts such as the superb I`ll Be There (If You Ever Want Me), the sinuous Everlovin` Woman, and the gusty Anyway The Wind Blows.
Cale`s own version of Same Old Blues is a thundering stomper of a song, yet still sung in JJ`s insinuating whisper of a voice. Apart from the brief instrumental title track, the other song I haven`t mentioned is a short & sweet but very funky number called Rock And Roll Records, which is as good as anything else on this glorious, joyous album.
JJ (who, sadly, died a few days ago) was one of a kind, a peerless songwriter who could say more in two or three minutes than many said in a lifetime, an underrated singer, a tasty & tasteful as well as supremely elegant & eloquent guitarist, and a modest presence who will be much missed. Let`s keep playing records like this one, so that someone somewhere is always listening to the wondrous JJ Cale.
Precious memories indeed!
on 9 October 2013
Brilliant CD, what more to say... the very best of the '70's: A timeless, beautiful, laid back essence of a time long missed & much treasured. So happy it's still available, just buy it... you won't regret it. RIP JJ Cale and Thanks for all the music.
on 12 July 2010
This record is possibly the best he did before or since. A truly beautiful record - lots of different styles but all played with an effortless style and grace. Upbeat, laid-back and rock-solid - just buy it, you really won't be disappointed...
on 6 December 2015
I've been a fan of JJ Cale for the last 25 years. I love all of his work, but this - his third album from 1974, shows more inventiveness . Aside from the great blues/rock/country tracks, there's reggae going on, and a spacey thing that belongs in the mid 80s - well ahead of its time. And of course there's Cajun Moon, which is just the best song ever written, period. I've got it set as my ring tone. Fantastic. Buy it. Buy it now.
on 18 March 2014
Well, what to say? I own a lot of JJ Cale albums, and I would rate this as my favourite. In my opinion, it is his best. Looking at the tracklist, I really think there are only two songs I would be unlikely to listen to, which is outstanding for a 12-track album. And conversely, there are 10 tracks that I would DEFINITELY not want to miss out.
This is a relaxing album, nice, clean, fun-for-all-the-family.
We may have lost JJ Cale, but we still have his albums, and this one is brilliant. I managed to resist the temptation to say "This album is Okie"