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Old 10-30-2008, 07:56 AM   #10 (permalink)
4ZZZ
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Helen Of Troy. 1975.



Cale released 3 albums with Island records with this being the final. Though reaching some good highs it does have a few tracks that don't work and I am surprised that it is as highly regarded by Cale fans as it seems to be. An interesting band line up on this album to say the least. How about Phil Collins, Brian Eno and Chris Spedding for a start. I presume that all the Guitar solos are by Spedding as Cale, brilliant all round musician that he is, has never been a lead guitarist.
Helen Of Troy starts out with My Maria. One of Cales obscure lyrics. Does he love a catholic girl? Guitar along with female choir. The title track, Helen Of Troy, follows and is to me Cale at his near brilliant best with a guest vocal that is sadly off-putting. The effeminate voice that he uses for various verses has the glam rock of the day in mind but the song does not deserve such a throwaway vocal. The lyrics are of the *** hag variety and may seem a little old hat today. They may have had some impact in 1975 though VU 1968 would have been the time. There is some great singing by Cale and the Rhythm section is chunky and allows the horns, Guitar and synths to work well. China Sea follows and is a soft pop song that Cale is more than capable of producing. This may have been better passed on to another artist (1975 Donny Osmond?) as it is far too saccharine for my Cale tastes. Engine follows and is vintage Cale. A somber start with lovely soft vocals and slowly played piano and then hits the heights with the vocal going gruff and manic and the song changing direction into a mélange of noise. Save Us is an off kilter track with organ and thumping bass. Cable Hogue is a slow paced almost ballad like song of slow guitar being strummed and slow paced rhythm that is saved by Cales voice. I Keep A Close Watch is a wonderful song that was used to fantastic effect on the brilliantly manic Music For A New Society from 1982. This version has a more lush orchestral production and though I prefer the future version it is still a fine song that could easily have had good airplay if covered by famous crooners. Pablo Picasso follows. A Jonathan Richman track that Cale covers brilliantly. Great lead guitar and crunching rhythm over Cale sing speak vocals. Coral Moon is slower paced song that lacks the intensity of the last couple of tunes. Nice in a meandering way but feels like filler. Cales vocal is a bit too far back in the mix. Baby What You Want Me To Do is a Jimmy Reed cover and allows the guitar to crunch away on what is a standard blues number. Nice little toe tapper but Cale can do throwaway blues covers like this in his sleep. Sudden Death is also a slow number with a blues feel that has a good lyric that saves the song as in the end it just feels again like filler. Leaving It Up To You is the final track and is a great end to the record. A fantastic lyric with a growling gruff and manic Cale vocal with fine guitar playing. "I'd do it now, I'd do it now, right now, you fascist I know we could all feel safe like Sharon Tate." A Cale fan site that I read states "Island Records replaced the track Leaving It Up To You with Coral Moon on the Helen Of Troy album, because it mentioned Sharon Tate, wife of film director Roman Polanski, who was killed in 1969 by the Charles Manson gang. Things turned sour, and Cale and Island did go their separate ways. The CD version contains both tracks."

I am in the minority of Cale fans in that I consider this album a bit of a failure. Sure there are the odd tracks that stand out but my feeling is that the general haphazard approach that works for Cale most of the time just did not gel with this album. It feels as if it was put together with little thought to the general flow. Most of the time the lyrics are as good as ever but they can not always carry a song that feels rushed or uninteresting. Given Cales split with Island records and the (pointless) controversy over the Leaving It Up To You lyric he may have been disinterested in taking a few of these tunes as far as they could have gone.
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