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Old 11-01-2008, 09:54 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Slow Dazzle. 1975.



Cale produced an album with a predominant mix of MOR pop and rock and one avant garde surprise. A who's who of the 70's elite helps out with Brian Eno, Phil Manzanera, Chris Spedding and Chris Thomas. Starting with Mr Wilson we get a homage to Brian Wilson with a wonderful pop/rock song. Thumping keyboards and key changes aplenty whisk back and forth to an orchestral production that Mr Wilson would have been proud of. Taking It All Away is more pop that has a good lyric and female backing vocals under Cales slightly gruff vocal. Dirty Ass Rock "N" Roll is a rock and roll song that, though a good song, needed a just a touch more grunt. Piano and punchy rhythm with fine female vocals and horns. Darling I Need You is more MOR pop/rock and has one wondering why Cale is writing a love lyric considering the bitter lyrics of other tracks. Rollaroll follows the same musical path but has lyrical content that veers away from the love of the previous track. Heartbreak Hotel is covered and is reconstructed to become something that sounds like a classic Cale song. The tempo of the album is changed for a moment. This is Cale at his experimental best as we are taken on a ride of his vocal sounding slightly insane and menacing, the female backing vocals wail away when required and the instrumentation is dark and rocks slowly. Ski Patrol takes us back to the pop rock feel of the previous tracks though this is a poor song that does not have the usual redeeming quality of at least a good lyric. Entirely disposable. I'm Not The Loving Kind is a slow anti love song
"When my lady passes me by
I leave the love I thought I had in mind
Send no flowers or words of regret
I'm not the loving kind"

In context of the next track, Guts, all is revealed with this MOR track. Guts has a bitter lyric that jumps out and hits hard.
"The bugger in the short sleeves ****ed my wife
Did it quick and split
Back home, fresh as a daisy to Maisy, oh Maisy"

Reportedly Cale sang this about Kevin Ayers who had a dalliance with his then wife. Oddly this verse is sung in an almost whispery style and musically lacks the spite of the lyric. Cale may be the only musician that can sing a song like this and make me think that Robbie Williams could have covered it and made it sound like a love song. The final track, The Jeweller, is classic Cale avant garde. Think The Gift from the VU classic White Light/White Heat and one knows what one will get. The music a soundscape of synths and viola drones. The spoken lyric is mesmerising and concerns a Jeweller who has the misfortune of one of his eyes turning into a part of the female anatomy. Completely out of place in the MOR pop/rock context of the album but for me a perfect end.

This is a strange album to look back at. Heavy in the pop/rock sensibilities of the day and, other than 2 tracks, lacking any sense of musical adventurism. I have no criticism of Cales singing, in fact that is always a strength, no criticism of the musicianship or production but it does feel slightly dated. A couple of these tracks Cale has performed live and they are better for that. I do like Slow Dazzle but it had its time and Cale had produced better previously and has, with hindsight, produced better into the future.
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Old 11-01-2008, 10:22 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Thoughts on Paris 1919?
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Old 11-01-2008, 10:28 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Thoughts on Paris 1919?
Fear is next with Paris 1919 to follow
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Old 11-01-2008, 11:03 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Awesome. Do you prefer w\VU or solo? Reed or Cale (each at his best)solo?
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Old 11-01-2008, 11:12 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Awesome. Do you prefer w\VU or solo? Reed or Cale (each at his best)solo?

Great questions considering. I had actually intended to sum up my thoughts at the end of the thread. Can you hang in there?
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Old 11-01-2008, 04:18 PM   #16 (permalink)
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with bated breath...
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Old 11-02-2008, 12:13 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Fear 1974.


Fear is the first and best of the 3 Island Records. Cale shows his song writing prowess in that he turns what are potentially standard pop/rock songs into, at times, slightly left of centre lyrical treats that ask what is on his mind. Fear Is A Mans Best Friend and is a sublime start. Beautiful piano dominates initially with a well sung lyric by Cale. The track picks up the pace late as the vocal stretches and then heads into noisy soundscapes with Cales voice very edgy. The beautiful Buffalo Ballet is next, a slow ballad of lovely strummed guitar, piano and strings. A lyric that I presume is written to the US frontier. Barracuda is a mid tempo piece of funky pop/rock and works well with wonderful violin making crazy sounds in the middle and at the end. Again a fine lyric that points to women trouble. Emily is slow pastoral pop with found sounds of the tide racing behind lazy piano and dreamy synths. Even when just the bass and piano take over for a few seconds and that tide races again one sits back and relaxes as Cale sings about lost love. Ship Of Fools does not let what is turning into a seamless album down. Chiming keys with another lyric that has me thinking about Cales state of mind.
"By the time we got to Swansea it was getting dark
Mumbles, jungles, bugles and the prized
The tides turned west at Ammanford
As if they didn't know what to do
But Garnant stood its ground and asked for more."

What does all this mean?
Gun changes the tempo entirely and the album is not hurt at all. 8 minutes of rocking and pounding rhythm and guitar work by Manzanera that is exciting as it is long. Cale sings a story as a Cop on the job. The Guitar solo by Manzanera from the 4 minute mark may just be the best solo on any Cale album period. Crunching brilliance. The Man Who Couldn't Afford To Orgy by the wonderful title alone should be an absolute rocker but no! We have a slow paced pop song that sings in an almost sad voice with seductive female cooing away "Come on, honey, keep breaking my heart
Ooh, you're breaking my heart. Aah, aah"
. But Cale lucks out
"Sorry to hear it, sorry to see it
Sorry to mention I couldn't afford to orgy
Seems such a bother, one thing, another
Tempting and teasing, just for an orgy"

Oddly sexy synth finishes and leaves me thinking that this titillating pop just maybe too edgy for the masses and too mainstream for those that like it more hardcore.
You Know More Than I Know follows and Cale sings another slow catchy pop song with jangly piano and female backing vocal. Mommama Scuba closes with a slow moody piece that has Cale singing about women (again). Repetitive rhythm and edgy leads guitar late in the song makes for a good finish.

Fear is easily the best Island years album. The lyrics are showing Cale in, one would have presumed on first listening on release, women trouble and after reading excerpts as to his life at the time this proved ultimately true. There is a certain edginess that is even there at the slower moments and this is what gives the album intensity to this day. Considering Cales experimentalist background this is not one for those that have a desire for the avant garde but then any Cale fans would understand that is not the way with this idiosyncratic musician. A class album. If anyone is interested in either Fear, Slow Dazzle or Helen Of Troy all three albums are available as one compilation called The Island Years.
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Old 11-07-2008, 07:14 AM   #18 (permalink)
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Paris 1919. 1973.



An album of generally soft pastoral style pop Paris 1919 starts with Child's Christmas in Wales. Considering the title the lyric is rather obscure but I guess Cale knows how this relates to a Child's Christmas in Wales as I don't. A catchy start that relies very much on the melody with standard guitar, organ and rhythm section. Hanky Panky Nohow has more obscure lyrics and we know now that we are in for lyricist's feast even if we have (just) another catchy pop song. What is this about? The religious side of prostitution or the prostitution of religion? I could be so off the mark that those comments are no doubt laughable but.........who cares. An oddly attractive piece of pastoral pop even so. The Endless Plain Of Fortune follows and is more pop with wonderful orchestration that serenely meanders along for 4 minutes though the lyric again has me questioning the motives. Transvaal. Segovia? Who's Amanda. I have always been curious at to the lyrics and I am none the wiser. And then Andalucía follows. Is this a travelogue? Andalucía is another soft pop song with some nice acoustic guitar and nice little shakers in the background as Cale sings in what at times is his most innocent. We get all Shakespeare now with Macbeth and Banquo even gets a mention. Is this what it is all about? Songs about Classical Literature? But after the pop of the previous songs this song rocks. Most peculiar. The albums title track follows and is a masterpiece. Paris 1919 is an orchestrated chamber pop song that stands out as one of the best compositions that Cale has ever written. A ghost song? More lyrics that have had me thinking that I am missing the theme. This wondrous song has me humming along. Graham Greene is next. Literature! Literature! More bouncy pop with a Cale's slight Welsh accent pronouncing the words very precisely. How many songs called Graham Greene would mention Chipping and Sodbury and Enoch Powell? Nice trumpet break there John! Half Past France has us in Cale travelogue mode with mentions of Dunkirk, Paris, Norway, Dundee and Berlin. What an itinerary! The poignant lines are "Wish I'd get to see my son again" and "People always bored me anyway" The toil of touring? Who knows but a nice song none the less. We finish up with Antarctica Starts Here and the album ends where it started with a slow gentle pop song as Cale sings in whispery tones about the life of an actress who seemingly only comes to life while in character. At least that is what I think it is about! But who knows.

This is a very good album that has stood the test of time. Considering Cale's avant garde roots and the fact that this was released at the height of Glitter, Paris 1919 was a bold and brave recording for it's time. It neither met the the needs of the teens that were the soul of the Glitter rock movement and was far too gentle for the Prog and harder Rock fans of say the Zeppelin, Sabbath, Purple ilk. Goodness know what the VU/Reed crowd thought. Lyrically it is as thoughtful and as challenging as anything that came out at the time and indeed today they stand up. A fine album that has stood the test of time.
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Old 11-07-2008, 08:37 AM   #19 (permalink)
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Church Of Anthrax. 1971.




This is a collaboration with minimalist composer Terry Reilly. Consisting of 5 songs in total this was no doubt what the more avant garde/experimentalist fans of Cale were after as the VU days that had not long passed were still a strong memory. This is an album that is rather unique in my Cale listening, in fact if I had been given the opening track blind I would have thought that I was listening to a jazzy jam by say someone of Keith Emersons ilk. The opening track is the title track Church Of Anthrax and is a rather jazz oriented 9 minute improvisation of keyboards and saxophone. Late into the song the familiar drones of Cales VU and earlier days appear and make this a chunky opener. The Hall Of Mirrors In The Palace At Versailles follows and having visited this wondrous room I for the life of me had never imagined that this was a tune that would somehow suit the ambience. Be that as it may it is a nice piece with minimalist piano under a free form sax. I am reminded of something that Nyman may have composed from his soundtrack work for a Peter Greenaway movie. The Soul Of Patrick Lee is a vocal pop song that is an odd change of direction considering the non pop/rock nature of the 2 previous songs. This may have been better on a Cale solo album considering that he headed in the direction of Pop with several of his 1970's recordings. Ides Of March follows and normal service is resumed. Chunky piano and off beat drum start out and end this 11 minute song. To me there is an almost ragtime feel to this song though in a thoroughly modern and minimalist kind of way. I like the drumming as it compliments without being overbearing. We finish with a short 3 minute track called The Protege with the piano the prominent instrument and the drums keeping a good beat.

This is a minimalists dream and I suspect that those of the progressive jazz ilk will be impressed as well. Considering that Cale and Reilly both play keyboards, the most prominent being the piano I am presuming that they are duelling as most of the time there are two playing as counter points. Reilly also plays the Sax with Cale playing his trusty viola. A good album for the progressively inclined.
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Old 11-10-2008, 08:23 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Vintage Violence. 1970.



Cale was 2 years out from The Velvet Underground when he released this his first solo album. Considering that he was considered the experimentalist within VU this album may have been a shock to the hardcore fans of his avant garde bent.
Hello There starts with a piano based pop song with blues elements and a lyric that proved that Cale was not only a composer of good tunes but a good word smith. This is apparently a lyric about his VU departure. Oh and Spain gets a mention.
Gideon's Bible follows and is again catchy pop with the hook and the lyric and the male chorus doing a few ooohs! in the background and even the trusty viola adds a bit of fill. China gets a mention this time.
Adelaide follows and we have a boppy little song with a male basso in the back occasionally, harmonica and it is a complete shock to the rock/avant-garde system. What is this all about ex Velvet Underground member? This is pop with a sing song Cale singing "Oh, Adelaide, Adelaide, I want you tonight Adelaide, Adelaide, I want you tonight". Adelaide gets the obvious mention and he wants to go back there. I have never been to the place but have been told it has lots of Churches and some great wineries a bit of a drive out but that does not seem to be what the song is about.
Big White Cloud is well..........an Elton John circa 1974 song in disguise. Ahead of his time is Cale. Nowhere gets a mention.
Cleo. This is pop pap with cheesy hand claps and the background vocals that make one think of The Partridge Family. Nowhere gets a mention.
Please is bit more of the Frank Sinatra style of ballad though it does at times have a country feel about it. Maybe I meant Glen Campbell as I think he would have enjoyed singing this one. Trinidad gets a mention.
Charlemagne is another meandering pop song and there is another hint of country. Is it the slide guitar? I think so. Mississippi and San Sebastian get the mention.
Bring It On Up. More Country style pop, a drinking song and no mention of anywhere in particular.
Amsterdam. A slower style ballad that starts with just a strumming guitar and not Cales best ever vocal. Somewhere called Amsterdam gets a mention. Apparently the journey to this place done her well.
Ghost Story. This remind's me of something that The Walker Brothers may have sung. A 60's pop song but then this is 1970 so what am I talking about. Catchy and summery with a wonderful organ, a great lyric and the last minute of the song gets a bit more complicated. The best song so far and Liverpool, Detroit and Holland get a mention.
Fairweather Friend follows and is a Garland Jeffries song. Purely a Rock N Roll song and a French emissary gets a mention just to keep the travelogue going.
The copy of this album that I have has 2 bonus tracks, another version of Fairweather Friend and a song called Wall. Wall is completely out of place. This is 6 minutes of a viola drone that is what some would have expected from the most avant-garde member of VU on his first solo album. The only problem is that this was from the 2001 re-release. Also being an instrumental there is absolutely no mention of anywhere on this planet. My imagination does take me to the bandstand on The Esplanade in Bognor Regis, West Sussex, England on a winters day though. Not really sure why.

So what did I think of this album? I don't particularly dislike it per se but it just seems so inoffensive (or is that offensive?) depending on how one wants to view it. On a personal level after the wonderful VU I would have expected something more daring from my hero. Be that as it may I think that Cale the composer was testing his ability to write pop songs with West Coast roots and at times it failed in the presentation but so what! The next few albums were also basically pop albums anyway and though a touch hit or miss at times, he went on to produce many brilliant songs on all of them. The other thing to take out of this album is that he is damn fine lyricist and within those lyrics has always mentioned many destinations around the world and I think that that is not such a bad thing for those of us with an imagination. I just have not found a lyric of his anywhere that mentions sunny Bognor, though he has not mentioned Bangor in the land of his birth so I should not complain to much.
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