Naturally (J. J. Cale album)
|Studio album by|
|Recorded||September 29, 1970–June 9, 1971|
|Studio||Bradley's Barn, Mount Juliet, Tennessee and Moss Rose Studio, Nashville, Tennessee|
|Genre||Boogie rock, blues, funk, country|
|Label||UK: A&M |
|J. J. Cale chronology|
Cale, who was raised in Oklahoma, first tasted success in 1964 when singer Mel McDaniel scored a regional hit with Cale's composition “Lazy Me.” From there Cale moved to California and worked at Leon Russell’s home studio as a chief engineer and began performing at places like the Whiskey A Go Go. With Johnny Rivers already performing there regularly, club owner Mario Mancini rechristened John Cale as J.J. Cale, which also differentiated the Tulsa songwriter from the John Cale in the Velvet Underground. In 1966, Cale cut an unsuccessful single for Liberty Records called “Slow Motion,” but it was the B-side, “After Midnight,” that would have long-term ramifications for Cale's career when Eric Clapton recorded the song and had a Top 20 hit. Cale, who was languishing in obscurity at the time, had no knowledge of Clapton's recording of "After Midnight" until it became a radio hit in 1970. Cale recalled to Mojo magazine that when he heard Clapton's version playing on his radio, "I was dirt poor, not making enough to eat and I wasn't a young man. I was in my thirties, so I was very happy. It was nice to make some money." Cale's friend and producer, Audie Ashworth, encouraged Cale to record a full album in order to capitalize on the success of his song.
Naturally was recorded independently, "on spec," the musicians being paid demo fees. The ingredients that went into that project, with subtle drum rhythms, murky vocals sung in a narrow range, and a guitar style that merged country, blues and jazz, established the template for the “Tulsa sound." Some songs, such as "Call Me the Breeze", were recorded with primitive drum machine accompaniment and sound almost like demos. Cale explained to Dan Forte of Vintage Guitar in 2004, "When we did the first album, most people didn’t realize that was an electric drum machine – or that there even was such a thing...I didn’t use a real drummer because I had no money. So I cut 'Crazy Mama' and 'Call Me The Breeze,' and Carl Radle came in and played bass, and Mac Gayden played slide on 'Crazy Mama.' Then Audie hired some musicians and a real studio, and we cut the other eight songs on Naturally." The album showcased Cale's distinctive, understated style, and it successfully established his solo recording career, which continued until his death in 2013.
Cale's version of "After Midnight" differs greatly from Clapton's frenetic version, which is itself based on Cale's own arrangement. The Oklahoma Troubadour explained in 2004:
The history on that deal was, the original "After Midnight" I recorded was on Liberty Records on a 45-rpm, and it was fast. That was about 1967-68, maybe 69. I can’t remember exactly. But that was the original "After Midnight," and that is what Clapton heard. If you listen to Eric Clapton’s record, what he did was imitate that. No one heard that first version I made of it. I tried to give the thing away, until he cut it and made it popular. So, when I recorded the Naturally album Denny Cordell, who ran Shelter Records at the time, and I had already finished the album, he said, "John, why don’t you put 'After Midnight' on there because that is what people recognize you for?" I said, "Well, I’ve already got that on Liberty Records, and Eric Clapton’s already cut it, so if I’m going to do it again I’m going to do it slow."
In the 2005 documentary To Tulsa and Back, Cale admitted, "I wasn't real crazy about he Naturally album and I'm still not, but most of the people who like my music, J.J. Cale fans...really like the Naturally album. I think what they liked really was the songs." In the same documentary, Cale recalls producer and agent Audie Ashworth calling him saying if he appeared on Dick Clark's American Bandstand, the single "Crazy Mama" would jump into the Top 10 on the charts, but Cale refused when he learned he would have to lip sync to the recording of the song. While "Crazy Mama" nearly cracked the Top 20, Cale was unimpressed with fame right from the beginning, telling Steve Newton of The Georgia Straight in 1990:
The first album was a collection of tunes I’d been working on for about 32 years. It was a collection that refined everything that had come out of me and weeded out all the bad ideas I’d had over 20 years. But, when it was successful, the record company wanted the next album in six months. When you get successful, the money comes in and pretty soon you’ve got to hire an accountant, you’ve got to get up early, and then you’ve got a day job. Pretty soon, I wasn’t enjoying life – all I was doing was working.”
|Christgau's Record Guide||B|
The album contained the 1972 hits "Crazy Mama" (#22 on the Billboard Hot 100, his only Top 40 hit) and "After Midnight" (#42) as well as turntable hits "Bringing it Back" (recorded by Kansas for their first album), "Call Me the Breeze" (later recorded by Lynyrd Skynyrd), and "Clyde" (later recorded by Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show and a 1980 country hit for Waylon Jennings). “Crazy Mama” was actually the B-side of the single, “Magnolia,” and it was a DJ in Little Rock, Arkansas that flipped the record, loved the tune, and hammered it out on the airwaves. Reviewing the LP for Rolling Stone in 1972, Jon Landau said, "This quiet and leisurely album from an excellent guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter is a charmer. J.J. Cale has a unique approach to funk, blues, and country and all it involves is taking things at just as relaxed and mellow a pace as the human metabolism will allow. Here it results in one of the most enjoyable debut albums heard in some time." Village Voice critic Robert Christgau was less receptive to the "lassitude affected" by Cale and his collaborators. In Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981), he said that while "Call Me the Breeze" and "Crazy Mama" are "absolutely beguiling", the rest of the record's "murmured blues meditations are so easy on the spirit that even though they have their charms they invite the mistrust of moralizers like myself—there's just too much talent here to justify such slight results." Thom Owens of AllMusic later wrote that "Cale effortlessly captured a lazy, rolling boogie that contradicted all the commercial styles of boogie, blues, and country rock at the time" of the album's release.
All tracks written by J. J. Cale, except where noted:
- "Call Me the Breeze" – 2:35
- "Call the Doctor" – 2:26
- "Don't Go to Strangers" – 2:22
- "Woman I Love" – 2:36
- "Magnolia" – 3:23
- "Clyde" (C. W. Beavers, J. J. Cale) – 2:29
- "Crazy Mama" – 2:22
- "Nowhere to Run" – 2:26
- "After Midnight" – 2:23
- "River Runs Deep" – 2:42
- "Bringing It Back" – 2:44
- "Crying Eyes" – 3:13
- J. J. Cale – guitar, vocals
- Karl Himmel – drums
- Chuck Browning – drums
- Tim Drummond – bass
- Carl Radle – bass
- Norbert Putnam – bass
- Bob Wilson – piano
- David Briggs – piano, organ
- Jerry Whitehurst – piano
- Weldon Myrick – steel guitar
- Buddy Spicher – fiddle
- Shorty Lavender – fiddle
- Walter Hayness – dobro
- Mac Gayden – slide guitar
- Ed Colis – harmonica
- Diane Davidson – backing vocals
- Cover artwork - Rabon
- Engineer – James Long
- "Music". JJ Cale official website. Archived from the original on 2014-12-31. Retrieved 2011-03-09.
- "After Midnight by Eric Clapton Songfacts". Songfacts.com. Retrieved 2013-09-04.
- Halsey, Derek (October 2004). NPR JJ Cale http://www.swampland.com/title= JJ Cale Check
|url=value (help). Retrieved July 4, 2019. Missing or empty
- Allmusic review
- Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: C". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved February 23, 2019 – via robertchristgau.com.
- Crazy Mama Songfacts
- Landau, Jon. "JJ Cale: Naturally". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on June 12, 2009. Retrieved June 22, 2019.
- Owens, Thom. Review of Naturally by J. J. Cale. All Music Guide to the Blues: The Definitive Guide to the Blues (2003), edited by Vladimir Bogdanov, et al. p. 94.