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John Cale - Words For The Dying CD (album) cover

WORDS FOR THE DYING

John Cale

 

Prog Related

2.30 | 8 ratings

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fuxi
Prog Reviewer
2 stars Whenever it's pointed out that John Cale is a bona fide classical composer who has somehow "chosen" to be a rock musician, my heart skips a beat, for I have seen little evidence of Cale's compositional gifts. I could be wrong. If Cale personally wrote the orchestral arrangements for albums like PARIS 1919, SLOW DAZZLE and HELEN OF TROY, I'll gladly eat my words, since that would mean he's almost as gifted an arranger as Bob Ezrin or Randy Newman. I also admit Cale is a marvellous viola player, not only on his own albums (sporadically, at least) but also (and just as sporadically) for Nico, Eno and others. Finally, I admit I've never heard any of the soundtracks that are listed under Cale's name. It's entirely possible that some of these consist of lush orchestral scores, but somehow I doubt it. I once went to see an Andy Warhol film (FLESH or TRASH or some such) and as soon as it started the words MUSIC BY JOHN CALE appeared on the screen and all the Cale freaks in the (student) audience roared. Unfortunately, the film featured no music whatsoever, at least not until the final credits started to roll!

If there's one album which confirms my suspicion that Cale can't be much of a composer, it's WORDS FOR THE DYING. (Now don't get upset, I know Cale's a great ROCKER!) When this was first released, it was hailed in the rock press (not in the classical music press) as a masterpiece worthy of Brahms or Benjamin Britten. Well, let me disabuse you: there are no tunes worth speaking of, the orchestra sounds chaotic and uninspired, and worst of all Cale (who can be an amazingly sensitive vocalist) gives the impression he does not even understand the Dylan Thomas poems he has chosen to set to music. The album is clearly a dud of the same magnitude as Deep Purple's CONCERTO FOR ROCK GROUP AND ORCHESTRA, and unfortunately there aren't even any Ritchie Blackmore solos to tempt you. The two brief "Songs Without Words" (i.e. piano solo pieces) Cale has attached are equally devoid of interest. Only "The Soul of Carmen Miranda" (a simple electronic pop song, featuring Eno on synth) is Cale at his near-best.

fuxi | 2/5 |

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