A full 20 favorites from this institution of a singer-songwriter, whose songs have been borrowed by Clapton, Santana, Skynyrd and so many others. You get Cocaine; After Midnight; I'll Make Love to You Anytime; Call Me the Breeze; Sensitive Kind; Lies; Magnolia; Crazy Mama; Cajun Moon , and more!
As best-of collections go, this one is uncommonly understated. Which is probably appropriate given that the singer/songwriter it celebrates is one of the most taciturn rock & rollers to ever saunter down a dusty road. Decades into a career that has produced more commercial success than one might suppose, Cale's Very Best
consists of one disc; outtakes and rarities padding a second disc don't fit Cale's less-is-more aesthetic. There's no essay elevating the Oklahoman as a great blues-rock pathfinder, though Eric Clapton
and Dire Straits
are among the platinum performers who owe him a debt; just musician credits and a modest dedication from Cale adorn the booklet. (Hey, at least the camera-shy Cale sat still for a photo shoot!) As for the music, this 20-song CD consists of a representative selection of hits for himself ("Crazy Mama" and "Lies" charted early in his career) and his partisans (Clapton scored with "Cocaine" and "After Midnight," while Lynyrd Skynyrd
made "Call Me the Breeze" a concert staple). The case could easily be made that Cale deserves something a bit more ambitious than this unambiguous overview, but who's going to make the case for the man? Not low-profile J.J., that's for sure. --Steven Stolder