Tuesday, December 10, 2013

John Cale - Paris 1919

Paris 1919 is Cale's 1973 solo album, similar in feel to Vintage Violence, although more produced and
lush. Per Wikipedia, the title is a reference to the Versailles Conference which led to the rise of the Third Reich and Cale was quoted as saying that it is "an example of the nicest ways of saying something ugly", which does tend to describe his use of lovely melodies with obscure and macabre lyrics.

Recorded with a backing band made up of members of Little Feat, along with orchestration from the UCLA Symphony Orchestra, the sound is a mix of rock and strings, as in the opener "Child's Christmas in Wales" - most likely autobiographic in nature. The oddly-titled "Hanky Panky Nohow" is a string-laden ballad ballad with a catchy chorus while the orchestra dominates "The Endless Plain of Fortune". A bit less ponderous is the lovely ballad "Andalucia", which shows off John's vocal range and is followed by one of his heaviest numbers, the pounding hard-rocker "Macbeth". The title cut is reminiscent of orchestrated pop by bands like the Beatles or the Move, complete with sound effects and layers of harmonies. "Graham Greene" is an eclectic, almost reggae-ish tune, with again a bit of a nod to later Beatles psych-pop while "Half Past France" is a simple ballad and the closer, "Antartica Starts Here" is a quiet instrumental.

Again, this is Cale as a balladeer more than a rock'n'roller or an avant-noise master, but as a songwriter, few can match him.