The modern rock video has become a monster. It is now about
image and sex, and the music is secondary. When The Beatles created what might
arguably be the first rock videos ("Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever")
they were attempting to maximize their availability for television. They couldn't
be everywhere...but if you leased the films...there they were. These slightly
surrealistic, jump cut images were basically promos for the new record, designed
to keep their faces in front of their audience. The live concert film came
next, with close up shots of the groups actually playing their songs. When
MTV crawled out of this primordial ooze, and became a repository for the rock
video...the monster had wings. Then everyone with a camcorder and a half naked
woman thought they could place a song on the MTV playlist. Interpretation
became the theme, and the weirder the better. The big news today is that Christina
Aguilera's new video is more shocking than anything we've seen yet! But what
about the music? Thank you J.J. Cale!
The Lost Session is just what it says, a session in a
studio, the musicians in a circle, drums, bass, piano, organ, a couple of
guitarists, playing songs. Grooves mainly. A beat, a riff, and some mumbling
vocals. But it rocks. J.J. Cale, who has influenced everyone from Eric Clapton
to Mark Knopfler is the most laid back performer I have ever seen. He sits,
through most of this 80 minute video, with one or another guitar on his lap.
He mumbles some instructions, "This one starts in A, and then it stays
in A," and starts to play. On his records dozens of lead guitarists are
listed, but on this DVD he plays all the solos himself, and he is smoking!
The band is good too, finding a solid rhythm, like bedrock, and going til J.J. says stop. And they look like they're having a good time. Nothing fancy, just some Okey musicians getting together for a pickin' session! Then, off to the side, sits a white haired gent with a long white beard. He is behind the organ, and every once in a while, he plays one of those stunning little organ solos that makes you go, "Wow!" His expression doesn't change. He looks out, inscrutably, over the proceedings. He is Leon Russell. Funky.
The program was recorded at Leon Russell's request, in the Paradise
Studio in Los Angeles in 1979. It features typical 1979 values: the color
is a bit washed, the editing a bit stodgy when compared to what we're used
to now but, when someone is playing a solo, you can see who it is and what
they're doing. No fancy jump cuts, no symbolism, just a solid hour and a half
of a band having fun, playing some blues and r&b. It is so refreshing!
They work their way through a representative selection of Cale's
tunes:"Cocaine", "Nowhere to Run", "Sensitive Kind",
"Crazy Mama", "After Midnight" and more. Each one is fairly
similar... a beat, a riff, a groove, a mumble, a solo, but each one is presented
as if it was the most important song in the world. These guys are pros. And
the interview material, in which J.J. Cale describes his customized guitar,
is hilarious and fascinating. Watch closely to see how a nickel and a dime
can be used for neck adjustment, and the importance of tie rods for added
The DVD includes five bonus tracks, music only, of other Cale
songs, a discography, biographies and a fully animated menu. The main program
offers none of the glitz and glamor that is available on MTV. It has none
of the sex and skin we see in video after video these days. The film doesn't
even pretend to make concessions to the audience and, in ignoring the viewer,
Cale just adds to his own mystique. Thanks go to Classic
Pictures for finding and restoring this lost footage and making it
available for J.J.Cale fans everywhere.
For more on J.J. Cale, go here