"...Makes Me Feel Alright..."
*** 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.
His 5th studio album "5" was issued on vinyl album in August 1979 on Shelter/Island ISA 5018 in the UK and Shelter 3163 in the USA. It's first CD appearance was May 1990 on Mercury 810 313-2 (along with "Really"), but it was Ok-sounding rather than great. Tracks from it 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 sonic beauty of this 2013 remaster - beautifully transferred and fully realizing the magic that was always there.
Released in Japan 26 June 2013 on Universal UICY-75631 (Barcode 4988005771629) - it's a SHM-CD (Super High Materials) and features repro LP artwork. The SHM-CD doesn't require a special CD player and is a better form of the CD format which picks up the nuances of the transfer better.
Just hearing the opening of "Thirteen Days" and I know I'm in the territory of a different beast here. The sound quality is gorgeous - all instruments suddenly playing around your speakers. As was the nature of most of his albums - depending on the take or studio he recorded in - sound quality varied from track to track - and "5" is no different. "Boilin' Pot", "Don't Cry Sister" and "Fate Of A Fool" are right out front and feature some pronounced hissy moments - but nothing that doesn't take away from the overall sonic smack (there's real improvement here). But the real fireworks go to the two gorgeous ballads "Sensitive Kind" and "Mona" which now sound truly epic - superbly remastered (lyrics from "Mona" title this review). "Friday" too has wonderful clarity and punch as does the beat-box feel of "Let's Go To Tahiti".
The only real bummer is that once again the track error of putting "Out Of Style" (an out-take) on here instead of "Katy Kool Lady" has been repeated. The song is listed as Track 4 on Side 2 of the artwork of course - but the song never turns up. There are some words on the OBI strip about it - but because its in Japanese - I can't make out what they're saying. To my knowledge this cool song still remains CD-AWOL from his catalogue anywhere in the world - which is ludicrous. There was an opportunity missed here to rectify that silly mistake. The booklet has the lyrics and little else (there was no inner sleeve to the LP), but it's the sound I keep returning to.
Another point worth noting is that "Classic Album Collection" with its 5CDs in 2013 claims on both Amazon UK and USA sites to be 2013 remasters - they're not - they're exactly the same CDs as was used in the 1990s. I suspect this 2013 'remastering' claim belongs only on these Japanese issues. I've ordered "Okie" and "Troubadour" on the strength of this.
I've loved this album for decades and its a blast to finally hear it sound so great. I know these SHM-CD repro reissues are pricey - but I've found they're so worth 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...
The albums in this June 2013 Japanese CD reissue series are:
1. Naturally (1972 - his debut) on Universal UICY-75627
2. Really (1973) on Universal UICY-75628
3. Okie (1974) on Universal UICY-75629
4. Troubadour (1976) on Universal UICY-75630 [SEE REVIEW]
5. "5" (1979) on Universal UICY-75631
6. Shades (1981) on Universal UICY-75632
7. Grasshopper (1982) on Universal UICY-75633
8. No. 8 (1983) on Universal UICY-75634