The Road To Escondido review by JJ Cale & Eric Clapton

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  • Released: Nov 7, 2006
  • Sound: 9
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 8.7 Superb
  • Users' score: 7.3 (98 votes)
JJ Cale & Eric Clapton: The Road To Escondido
7

Sound — 9
Eric Clapton's latest endeavor feels more relaxed and satisfying than many of his other recent releases, thanks in part to the addition of songwriter and friend J.J. Cale. The two singer-guitarists work exceptionally well together, producing an array of mellow, laid-back tunes on The Road To Escondido. While fans of Clapton's classic Cream days might not find the material as passionate as they'd like, you can still expect memorable and beautifully executed solos in almost every track. Probably the most significant aspect of The Road The Escondido is that it's the first full-length album shared by Clapton and Cale, best known for writing hits like Cocaine and After Midnight. Cale has spent most of his life behind the scenes, so the opportunity to hear both his vocals and guitar work is long overdue. The liner notes, unfortunately, do not list which singer/guitarist is doing which solo, which would have been a great addition to understanding the stylistic differences between Cale and Clapton. There are few exceptional tunes on the record, most notably Anyway The Wind Blows and Don't Cry Sister. They stand out for more than just the unique solos that are laid down and wouldn't even need sleek guitar riffs to make them solid songs. Anyway The Wind Blows has almost a train-like rhythm for the duration, but it also includes probably around 10 mini-solos, all of which are done in completely different styles -- a few blues-driven and one even with a more Middle Eastern flair. Don't Cry Sister has a more groove-oriented rhythm like Forever Man, and recalls some of Clapton's strong solo work in the '80s. The one setback that the CD suffers from is the hushed vocals that both Cale and Clapton deliver. At times you kind of wish Clapton would break out in a cry like he once did in Bellbottom Blues, but for pretty much the whole CD Clapton remains restrained in his vocal delivery. What might be lacking in the vocal area is made up in full with the flawless solos by the two guitar aficionados.

Lyrics — 8
The lyrics do stick to a more blues-based format, with a more straightforward, repeating approach to the verses and choruses. Most of the songs on the CD are written by Cale and not Clapton, and it's nice to see that the lesser-known guitarist has his time in the spotlight. The only drawbacks are that the quieter vocals don't always allow you to hear every line and there aren't accompanying printed-out lyrics in the liner notes. Don't Cry Sister is one of those blues tunes that are honest and have few frills, which is a nice throwback to the lyrics of blues greats like John Lee Hooker. Cale writes, Woke downhearted and you feel so bad; Somebody wants something of nothing you had; Love don't come too easy, you see; A little bit of you and a little bit of me. Some listeners might find these lyrics too bland, but they actually demonstrate that Cale is sticking true to the blues genre. The track Anyway The Wind Blows is actually one of the best-written songs on the latest record, primarily for the clever way that Cale shapes many of the verses. In one verse Cale writes, Guitar player been all around the world; But he can't play a lick for looking at the girls; One, two, three, four, five, six, seven; Well, you'd better change your ways or you won't get to heaven. He goes on to talk about a bow-legged woman and a guy named Fat Jack, which continues to give the song a novel quality that stands out from the bunch.

Overall Impression — 9
The latest work from Clapton and Cale may not appeal to harder rock fans, not only because it not only has a more adult-contemporary genre feel, but also because it delves into the country genre. The Road To Escondido is far from being a country CD, however, and has a lot to offer in terms of impressive guitar solos, organ/piano work from the late, great Billy Preston, and a nice touch of harmonica from Taj Mahal. Cale has earned the opportunity to display his talent as a guitarist and songwriter, and this side project succeeds in that mission. While the songs may not ever reach the classic status of Cale's famous Cocaine, they are pleasingly infectious. And if the CD does anything, it will hopefully give a wider audience a much-needed introduction to the work of J.J. Cale.

22 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Maiden2
    Clapton! i just saw him at american airlines arena. excellent. hes still got it. god bless him
    dustyoffski
    p.s. (i always seem to do a p.s.). On the sort of review of the cd the road to escondido above, none of the guest musicians musical contributions overpower, or take away,in anyway, the musical spotlight that JJ Cale and Eric Clapton share on every song on the cd. Rather they add tastfully to the depth and appeal of each song.
    dustyoffski
    Ever go to music heaven? well this great cd may be the closest there yet. Long time inspirer of Eric Clapton, JJ cale and Mr Clapton team up at last for this wonderful musical collaboration. The Author of some of Claptons most famous songs such as "After Midnight" and "Cocaine", JJ Cale writes 95 percent of the songs on this work. Everything about this cd is of the highest quality. First the music then the musicianship, then the writing in its simplistic best, the guest stars, and the booklet in the cd case with its homefelt photos, the paint on the cd, even the jewel case itself is nice. If you enjoy real down home bluesy and rythem music this may just be the holy grail. I certainly hope Mr Cale, and Clapton choose to make another cd as fine as this. I was traveling for half a day recently, and played every cd i had brought with me in the car. The road to escondido came up and i was ever so careful to load that into the cd player. I recommend Headphones, or a real high end player for this cd, not that its needed at all it just makes it even better. A nice Car cd sound system should do wonders for this work. I listen to every track throuout the ride, taping my brake foot, drumming on the steering wheel with my finger and snapping my fingers. Yea its that good. By the time the cd ended and the gas and rest stop came, my spirits were so uplifted and relaxed i could have danced a little jig all the way to the restroom lol. You get 14 songs! which is quite alot nowadays. Most of them are subtle gems, and i mean most great songs in their own way. Clapton around this time, was tapping into his old bands music and contacting them, such as Cream, which played very refined gigs at, Royal Albert Hall, and Madision Square Garden in 2005, also he played with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers of which he had not played with for 38 years prior. Clapton was reaching out, and of course one person was JJ Cale a major influence on Clapton. Cales singing when joined with Clapton blends perfectly on all. Mr Cales voice is very enjoyable as is Claptons. The guitars which both play are also blended so perfectly, one can almost not tell who is who in many instances. But one of the main reasons Eric Clapton was called "god" on guitar can be evidenced on this cd a few times. One on the stunning opening track called "Danger" one of the best on here. The guitar parts soar Claptons spot into the stratosphere, albiet a bit too deep in the sound mix, making a thick atmosphere of possibility. Some of the famous guest musicians include Billy Preston!! on organ some of his last works before his death, Derek Trucks!! on slide guitar and Doyle Bramhall the 2nd!! all ingrained into the entire cd. The Organ works and keyboard works wich JJ Cale also did, are so beautifuly done all throught the songs. The claim that this cd is "overpolished" by studio workings, could'nt be a more unessesary one. Its very well produced and has alot of depth, which headphones could also reveal the magic parts to your ears. Many styles of music are displayed here, but mostly in the simple but very sweet musical framework of mr JJ Cale. There is Plenty of clear Clapton styles that Clapton fans will delight in. I'll be listening to this one until im old and grey, which means i will rarely play it. In fact im going to buy a few more to keep sealed. This cd should appeal to alot of different people particulary but not completely men, who have experienced life to a level of age that one isnt old, but seasoned. That could mean from age 29 on. Music is for everyone though. This music has so much quality and subltly of playing and is so well produced, i could'nt begin to share each songs qualities individualy as there are many. The bottom line is, get this cd, its great. I like all 14 songs, but here are some standouts. Danger, Missing person, Heads in georgia, Sporting life blues, Its easy, Hard to thrill which john mayer co wrote, Anyway the wind blows, Don't cry sister cry, Last will and testamant, Ride the river, and many more!..... This work of musical art, is steeped in the blues as well, blues fans might want to pick it up. .The songs do grow on you, give it a few listens. ultimate guitar rating would be: sound rating 9-10, lyrics 9-10 (its jj Cale, unique), overall 9.5 to 10
    sloehand
    The songs really grow on you. You have to give it several spins until it registers with you but when it does it is an amazing cd. I saw Clapton a few months ago in Toronto and I can honestly say he gets better with age. Freakin' amazing. Sloehand
    rollingstones
    i just bought this cd and it blew my mind. I love it. I cant believe it only got a 6.6 rating it deserves at least a 9. Clapton is amazing
    TexasKat
    This album is already -- one of my ALL TIME FAVORITES ! Too bad it wasn't released in time for this years Grammy Awards. I hope & think they deserve that recognition. Eric Clapton & JJ Cale are both outstanding, in their own rights, but JJ's voice is truly exceptional! My tip: Don't wait -- BUY IT!
    Stop Messin'
    This album is amazing. I''ve been playing this and BB King Christmas for a while now lol Clapton & Cale make a great team.
    TOB00
    Man I wish I could see Clapton live. He's a God. He's the reason I picked up guitar, him and Blackie.
    Me Too. The guy is the friggin best guitar player to be even born. If jesus played guitar, eric clapton would still be better. i wonder though, if old Slowhand maybe did a duet with unearth or dragonforce, if they would slow down or if he would speed up. CLAPTON IS GOD
    leggomyeggo256
    to everyone giving bad ratings: at least be man enough to leave a comment saying why you don't like it. Don't you have any balls?
    tuluks
    local_hippy wrote: Eric clapton is one of the most creative musicians i've ever heard. From Where cud i download it for free ?
    hey man, if you are a true fan you would buy the CD stead of DLing fo free.
    clapton-floyd
    I saw him back in May, it was a amazing night. I'm gonna have a look at this album. He's the reason I picked up the guitar, along with David Gilmour.
    acoustic87
    Yea, I wish I could see him too. He is coming to my town, but the tickets are going through the roof. About $95 for a noose bleed section. Still it is worth it, because Robert Cray is opening. Damn!
    limefan913
    Man I wish I could see Clapton live. He's a God. He's the reason I picked up guitar, him and Blackie.
    irockaflyingV
    Maiden2 wrote: Clapton! i just saw him at american airlines arena. excellent. hes still got it. god bless him
    Me too lol it was the best concert i have ever been too and probably ever will
    local_hippy
    Eric clapton is one of the most creative musicians i've ever heard. From Where cud i download it for free ?
    dustyoffski
    You havent heard the song "After Midnight" properly whatsoever!!! if u havent heard the 1988 or 1989 revamped studio version. That version is one of the greatest rock and blues songs ever composed and is a must hear. Its nothing at all like its 1969 studio original musically, lyrics the same, and 100 times better than the 1969 version.