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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 tracks that are longer than all previous releases. Here are the gory details...

His 4th studio album "Troubadour" was originally issued on vinyl album in September 1976 on Shelter/Island ISA 5011 in the UK and Shelter SRL-52002 in the USA (excepting one song, they're all Cale originals). Its first CD appearance was way back in 1983 on Mercury 800 001-2 (the infancy of CD) - but it was an OK-sounding CD rather than a great one. Tracks from "Troubadour" were re-mastered for the 1997 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-75630 (Barcode 4988005771612) - it's a SHM-CD (Super High Materials) and features Repro LP artwork including the Inner Sleeve - rare in any of his Seventies albums (includes track-by-track recording info). The OBI mentions that this disc is part of the "Rock Company '77" 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. But the big news here is that some tracks are extended over previous issues. It's total playing time is 37:43 minutes as opposed to the original at 36:27 minutes. I've listed a track-by-track comparison to show the timing differences...

1. Hey Baby (3:20 new, 3:11 old)
2. Travelin' Light (2:53 new, 2:50 old)
3. You Got Something (4:05 new, 4:00 old)
4. Ride Me High (3:40 new, 3:34 old)
5. Hold On (2:06 new, 1:58 old)
6. Cocaine (2:53 new, 2:49 old)
7. I'm A Gypsy Man (2:46 new, 2:42 old)
8. The Woman That Got Away (2:56 new,
9. Super Blue (2:42 new, 2:41 old)
10. Let Me Do It To You (3:01 new, 2:59 old)
11. Cherry (3:31 new, 3:21 old)
12. You Got Me On So Bad (3:19 new, 3:17 old)

As you can see from the list above - on some tracks the difference is very slight - but on say "Ride Me High" - the combo of the superb remaster and the extra 10-second extended ending - make it almost feel like a new song - the version we should always have been listening to.

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 ("Troubadour" is 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 in the 2013 "Classic" box is literally like chalk and cheese. Don't get me wrong - the discs in the "Classic" box set sound good - they do - especially the 3 criminally underrated Eighties LPs "Shades", "Grasshopper" and "No. 8" which were beautifully produced anyway. And the box is cheap too. It's his Seventies classy first five albums that need the remastering. And if you're a real fan - once you get an earful of this SHM-CD of "Troubadour" - you'll have to own the lot because the sound upgrade is so great.

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 was to nail down two that show most improvement - it would be "The Woman Who Got Away" and "Cherry". The opening bass and drums on "Woman" are so sweet and clear now - as is the slinky piano playing. I'd also swear that the original CD had a slight glitch/skip in the mastering - that seems to be now fixed. But the slightly longer "Cherry" is incredible. The high-hat symbol that runs throughout sounds like its going to punch out your grandmother - and his vocal hovering in echo over it all - shimmering and full of eerie presence. I also love the whack that now comes out of both "Travelin' Light" and the Side 2 opener "I'm A Gypsy Man" (a Sonny Curtis cover). The shuffling sticks and pedal steel on "Super Blue" is accentuated too as is the chugging guitar in the naughty "Let Me Do It To You". I could go on... I've also reviewed the SHM-CD of "5" from 1979 and its just as amazing.

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 (with their Barcodes to identify the correct issue on Amazon):
1. Naturally (1972 - his debut) on Universal UICY-75627 (Barcode 4988005771582) [SEE REVIEW]
2. Really (1973) on Universal UICY-75628 (Barcode 4988005771599)
3. Okie (1974) on Universal UICY-75629 (Barcode 4988005771605) [SEE REVIEW]
4. Troubadour (1976) on Universal UICY-75630 (Barcode 4988005771612) [SEE REVIEW]
5. "5" (1979) on Universal UICY-75631 (Barcode 4988005771629) [SEE REVIEW]
6. Shades (1981) on Universal UICY-75632 (Barcode 4988005771636)
7. Grasshopper (1982) on Universal UICY-75633 (Barcode 4988005771643)
8. No. 8 (1983) on Universal UICY-75634 (Barcode 4988005771650)
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on 23 August 2003
this album is a beautiful combination of mellow beats and understated vocals. i think it is Cale at his very best. The first track 'hey baby' is a classy opener, a burst of sunshine to the sound of trumpets and it just gets better from there. yes 'cocaine' is on it but i dont think its a stand out track because the rest of the songs are classic (lost) love songs and whats better subject material love or drugs? (dont say both). if you want a JJ Cale album get this or 'Naturally'.
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on 8 December 2001
Since listening to 'Five' 21 years ago as a young whippersnapper, I was entranced by the tone and beauty of his voice, the tightness of his compositions and the quality of the performers chosen to assist this great man in creating sublime and quasi-classical music of our age.
Troubadour is one of the Great JJ albums, in that it has all the hallmarks of a complete Cale opus, catchy ballads (You got something) bluesy rockers(Travellin' Light) and a blow your balls of classic (Cocaine).
Each of his great albums, of which there are probably ten in his career so far have this mix, all employing his ability to fuse the elements of American popular music forms, Jazz, Country, Blues, Rock'n'Roll, Bluegrass etc into a stand alone style that will enthrall the musical conossieurs among us.
Listen- sad, happy, aroused or indifferent this man will bring something to the party when you put on his music.
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Troubadour would have been appealing even if it were an instrumental album, on account of the delicious instrumental textures. Hey Baby charms the listener with its intricate guitar whilst Travelin' Light is a rhythmic up-tempo excursion with hypnotic percussion. One of the longest tracks is You Got Something, a yearning love song with brilliant instrumental interplay.

The romantic Ride Me High is a masterpiece of expressive guitar and percussion, the brief track Hold On is a slow bluesy interlude and then there's the original of Cocaine with its powerful rock guitar riffs which became a great hit for Eric Clapton. I'm A Gypsy Man has a nervous, jerky rhythmic pattern whilst The Woman That Got Away is an up-tempo blues track with impressive piano. The whining guitar on Super Blue is something to relish.

Let Me Do It To You is a catchy pop song with perky sax and a long instrumental outro, whilst the love song Cherry is equally charming. Another highlight is the slow blues number You Got Me On So Bad where the piano expertly creates the mood. I was surprised by Troubadour's versatility and the virtuosity of the playing. To my delight, Cale's music is not all sleep-inducing laid-back mellowness.
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on 3 December 2015
Troubadour is by far my favourite JJ Cale album. It's a perfect blend of feelgood tracks from one of the greatest relatively unknown blues/rock artists... ever. I don't see how anyone couldn't fall in love with at least one track off this album.
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VINE VOICEon 23 June 2007
By the time I first heard 'Troubadour', I was already familiar with all his albums up to 1982's 'Grasshopper'. It wasn't quite what I'd expected and is less 'instant' than his other albums, but quickly grows and stays with you. This is a more abrasive collection, steeped in blues and jazz influences. The rhythms are harder, the overall feel more sexual, and for once, one track reaches the four-minute mark. Titles like 'Ride me High' and 'You Got Me On So Bad' hint at this. Plodding brass introduces 'Hey Baby', a song which hides what's to come, but the urgent rhythm of 'Travelin' Light' opens the door on the rest of the music. There's also the famous 'Cocaine' of course, but you don't buy 'Troubadour' just for that.
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on 16 January 2011
Troubadour is without doubt one of, if not the best of,Cales offerings.

Hugely influential, with Cocaine and Travelin' Light covered by Clapton.

This was released, initially, in 1976. I first heard it in '77, jubilee year (when the Sex Pistols were riding high, for some obscure reason)??, and I was knocked out by it then and remain so.

I'd forgotten just how good it is, with Cales playing taking the biscuit for innovation, no one plays with Cales unique style,with a voice vaguely reminiscent of Hoagy Carmichael or Mose Allison, sadly Cale remains profoundly underrated and overlooked by many.

Overlook this at your peril, you will never again hear such quality from an ultra cool group of seriously switched on musicians, playing their hearts out,thoroughly recommended, obviously!!

Track listing:-

"Hey Baby" - 3:11
"Travelin' Light" - 2:50
"You Got Something" - 4:00
"Ride Me High" - 3:34
"Hold On" - 1:58
"Cocaine" - 2:48
"I'm a Gypsy Man" - 2:42
"The Woman that Got Away" - 2:52
"Super Blue" - 2:40
"Let Me Do It to You" - 2:58
"Cherry" - 3:21
"You Got Me So Bad" - 3:17


J.J. Cale - Vocals, guitar, piano
Charles Dungey - Bass on 1, 9
Tommy Cogbill - Bass on 2, 5, 8, 10, 11, 12
Joe Osborn - Bass on 3
Bill Raffensberger - Bass on 7
Karl Himmel - Drums on 1, 2, 4, 9
Kenny Buttrey - Drums on 3, 6, 8, 10
Buddy Harmon - Drums on 5, 12
Jimmy Karstein - Drums on 7
Kenny Malone - Drums on 11
Gordon Payne - Guitar on 8
Chuck Browning - Guitar on 8
Reggie Young - Rhythm guitar on 1, 6, 9
Harold Bradley - Rhythm guitar on 2
Bill Boatman - Rhythm guitar on 7
Lloyd Green - Steel guitar on 1, 9
Buddy Emmons - Steel guitar on 5
Farrell Morris - Percussion on 2, 9, 11
Audie Ashworth - Percussion on 3
J.I. Allison - Percussion on 7
Don Tweedy - Arp
Bobby Woods - Piano on 8
Bill Purcell - Piano on 12
George Tidwell - Trumpet on 10
Dennis Goode - Trombone on 10
Billy Puett - Saxophone on 10
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on 13 October 1999
This is amoungst my all time favourite albums, I like his otherstuff but there is something about this one that I just love perhaps it's because this is the first JJ I ever listened to and grew to love him. Favourite songs definately have to mention the original to Cocain which was covered rather famously by Cream. JJ is soul and blues but there is also a bit of country going on in there and with a voice as smooth as ice cream you'll just melt!
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on 4 August 2013
replacing a long lost tape - happy memories and one of the late great mans best - recommend to all
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on 25 August 2014
In my opinion this is the best album from "The Breeze" and one ive been listening to for more years than I like to remember. What more can you say, its just a great collection from the master.
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