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The Road to Escondido

4.4 out of 5 stars 289 customer reviews

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After years of admiring each other's musical masterworks, guitar great J.J. Cale and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer/Grammy-winner Eric Clapton have teamed up to create an original album together called The Road to Escondido. The resulting hybrid sound defies labels, and instead finds influence across the spectrum of blues, rock, country, and fold. The songs are warm and rich with deep-flowing rhythms while using an economy of words to express much.

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J.J. Cale penned two of Eric Clapton's career-defining solo hits, "Cocaine" and "After Midnight." And since Clapton has often fashioned his persona in a WWJD manner (what would J.J. do?), this collaboration is long overdue. But despite the rather slick production and long list of guest backing musicians (including four bassists, four drummers, five other guitarists, and three percussionists), The Road to Escondido is still dominated more by Cale than Clapton. The relatively reticent Okie wrote 11 of the 14 tracks, and it's his low-key soufflé of blues, jazz, and country that shapes and directs the disc's tone, with Clapton along for the ride. The opening "Danger" sets the dusky mood as the duo rides a typical Cale swamp groove that gives way to a tightly wound Slowhand solo. They trade lead vocals on a lovely version of the after-hours jazz blues classic "Sporting Life Blues," and the ubiquitous John Mayer makes an impressive appearance on the subtle blues of "Hard to Thrill."

Clapton hasn't sounded this relaxed or involved in his own material for years. The traditionally laid-back, if not quite snoozy, Cale responds with a comparatively energized performance, likely due to the high-profile company. When the two harmonize on the mid-tempo foot tapper "Anyway the Wind Blows," the result is so natural and spontaneous it's a shame these two didn't join forces earlier. On paper, it appears that Cale has the most to gain from partnering with an established superstar, but the fact is this collaboration yields Eric Clapton's most engaging and contagious roots-rock release in a long time. --Hal Horowitz
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (November 7, 2006)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Reprise
  • ASIN: B000I5X81A
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (289 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,042 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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JJ Cale and Eric Clapton are an intriguing team - as JJ wrote and recorded a couple of songs that later became huge commercial succeses for Eric Clapton (After Midnight and Cocaine). Actually, comparing the JJ Cale vs the Eric Clapton versions of these two songs shows the similarities of the versions - not their differences - to be particularly striking. Eric primarily brought his celebrity to these tunes - which helped some great music get exposed to a broader market.

Not surprisingly, at first listen TrtEscondido sounds a lot like a number of JJ Cale albums - many of the tracks showing JJ's characteristic laid-back shuffle, with a comfortable bluesy feel through-out. A closer listen though underscores some subtle collaborative synergy not apparent in Eric's covers of JJ's earlier work. Much of the unique feel of this collaboration is found in the contrasting vocal work of these two artists.

I was amazed by how similar, yet complimentary, the vocal stylings are of JJ and Eric. A real treat on this collection is the track "Missing Person" where they trade off the verses and join at the chorus for a fabulous duet - voices that sound like they were meant to sing together. And yes - of course the instrumental break doesn't disappoint - as these two masters creatively tag team rifs dissipating into some inspired keyboard work before the final chorus.

This probably isn't the best album in the catalog of either of these artists. It is, however, a very tasty collaboration of two extremely talented musicians who clearly respect and appreciate each other's delightfully complimentary talents.
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"In Spanish and Portuguese, escondido means a hidden place. That's the straight definition. But the word often also implies somewhere dark as well as hidden - a sinister locale with the emphasis on sin. This is a post-jazz honky tonk (or roadhouse or juke-joint, etc.). This is the "place" of The Road to Escondido. The bands in most honky tonks were straightforward - usually a drummer, bass player, one or two guitars, and a singer. Point is, most honky tonk music is direct and raw. J.J. Cale and Eric Clapton guitar fans should love Escondido." Tom Watson

Much has been written about the friendship of J.J.Cale and Eric Clapton. This CD clenches it, they are the best of the best. Eric has recorded several of J.J. Cales's songs and made his mark in the record world with "Cocaine". This CD is a synergistic work that shows that neither has the upper hand. The artistry of both has made the guitar playing of both as perfect as before, and it often blends into one whole. J.J. Cale has written eleven out of the fourteen songs. This is a collection of songs dedicated to Billy Preston whose last recordings are present. Guitars can be heard with such skill and love, Doyle Bramhall II, Derek Trucks, John Mayer, Albert Lee and the acoustic piano of Billy Preston will amaze you,

'Danger' rhythm and great guitar and sung solo by Eric Clapton- written by Cale

'Heads In Georgia'-slow, bluesy, soul- 'that lonesome ole highway , seems to be our way go down'.

'Missing Persons'- sprightly bounce of a serious side- 'That woman used to be mine, but she is a Missing Person'.

'When This War Is Over'-country honky-tonk and shuffle- great examples of how two musicians can catch the mood of each other and sing serious words.
"It will be a better day".
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What few people seem to fail to recognize is how great of a singer/songwriter J.J. Cale is. The fact that most people know him as the guy who wrote Eric Claptons Cocaine and After Midnight goes to show that a lot of people have never really dug into the vast catalouge of songs that J.J. has recorded himself. I like J.J. Cale better then I like Eric Clapton, so lets begin here...
This is a J.J. Cale album more than it is an Eric Clapton album. Cale wrote eleven of the fourteen tracks, and even though Clapton plays a pretty solid guitar, and sings harmony alongside, its basically JJ's show. Which is cool if you ask me. Clapton is no doubt, an admirer of JJ Cale. If you listen to his 1978 recording of Cocaine, and then listen to the Cale original, you may notice that they sound almost exactly the same. The only major difference between the two was the artist name on the front of the record. Claptons version became a huge hit. The mellow sounds of the songs on this record flow very nicely, and its good to think that perhaps this artist is going to get a little more recognition than usual, now that E.C has stamped his name on the bill.
Thing is, this is a long overdue collaboration, and listening to it, it is obvious why. Everyone mentions how this is Claptons best album in years, and it is true. But for JJ Cale, it is about the same quality as all of his other records... for instance his album To Tulsa and Back, which came out about two years ago, was equally as good. JJ Cale writes songs that are smooth and easy, but not soft. I dig. Read some other reviews and they will all say this album is good, because it is. I also don't want to sound like I'm trying to discredit Clapton for what he brings to the album. I just wanted to say that if you dig this one, you should maybe check out a few more JJ Cale albums, before you go looking for something similar from Eric Clapton.
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