- Outstanding sound for this classic JJ Cale album – both sides earned sonic grades of Double Plus (A++)
- Cale fans take note: this early Shelter pressing was doing almost everything right — rich, full and musical with great bass
- Eric Clapton described the man as “one of the most important artists in the history of rock.”
- 4 1/2 Stars: “J.J. Cale’s albums are so steeped in his introspective style that they become interchangeable. If you like one of them, chances are you’ll want to have them all.”
If you’re hankerin’ to hear Cocaine on the authentic original, you will really have to work hard to hear it sound any better than it does on this very pressing.
Wikipedia lists his many styles as “Americana, Cajun, blues, swamp rock, country rock, Red Dirt, Tulsa Sound” but we think Americana is probably all you really need.
This original LP has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What superb Hot Stampers for Troubadour such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1976
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
What We Listen For on Troubadour
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
You Got Something
Ride Me High
I’m A Gypsy Man
The Woman That Got Away
Let Me Do It To You
You Got Me On So Bad
Producer Audie Ashworth introduced some different instruments, notably vibes and what sound like horns (although none are credited), for a slightly altered sound on Troubadour. But J.J. Cale’s albums are so steeped in his introspective style that they become interchangeable. If you like one of them, chances are you’ll want to have them all. This one is notable for introducing “Cocaine,” which Eric Clapton covered on his Slowhand album a year later.
Although “Cocaine” would be a major hit for Clapton in 1977, the first single released by Cale from Troubadour in 1976 was the restless “Travelin’ Light” with “Hey Baby” as the b-side. Critics from the music website Alltime Records reviewed the recording: “‘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.”
Troubadour was produced by Audie Ashworth, who had also produced Cale’s first three studio albums. In the 2004 documentary To Tulsa and Back, Cale recalled, “I wrote ‘Cocaine’, and I’m a big fan of Mose Allison…So I had written the song in a Mose Allison bag, kind of cocktail jazz kind of swing…And Audie said, ‘That’s really a good song, John, but you oughta make that a little more rock and roll, a little more commercial.’ I said, ‘Great, man.’ So I went back and recut it again as the thing you heard.”
The song’s meaning is ambiguous, although Eric Clapton describes it as an anti-drug song. He has called the song “quite cleverly anti-cocaine”, noting:
It’s no good to write a deliberate anti-drug song and hope that it will catch. Because the general thing is that people will be upset by that. It would disturb them to have someone else shoving something down their throat. So the best thing to do is offer something that seems ambiguous—that on study or on reflection actually can be seen to be “anti”—which the song “Cocaine” is actually an anti-cocaine song.
If you study it or look at it with a little bit of thought … from a distance … or as it goes by … it just sounds like a song about cocaine. But actually, it is quite cleverly anti-cocaine.