“We will sell no wine before its time,” Orson Welles once proclaimed in a commercial. J. J. Cale appears to have adopted a similar attitude toward live recordings. Thirty years after the release of Naturally, his debut album, the 62-year-old singer-songwriter has issued his first live album.
Drawn from shows recorded between 1990 and 1996, it offers a balanced retrospective of Cale’s career. Best-known for songs that were hits for Eric Clapton (“After Midnight” and “Cocaine”) and Lynyrd Skynyrd (“Call Me The Breeze”), Cale gets a chance to reclaim his material.
“After Midnight” is recast as a solo number featuring just Cale and his guitar. Bassist Bill Raffensperger joins in on a wistful “Old Man” before the entire band comes onstage and launches into “Call Me The Breeze”, which offers the musicians plenty of room to stretch out. Cale’s laid-back approached on guitar and vocals gives the music room to breathe on “Sensitive Kind” and “Money Talks”, the latter featuring a duet with Christine Lakeland.
Cale shifts gears as he and Lakeland get a bluesy rhythm going with their guitars on “River Boat Song”, and he seems to be energized by the crowd’s reaction. “Mama Don’t” is a joyful romp with the full band and Cale inspiring each other.