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John Cale - The Island Years CD (album) cover


John Cale

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4 stars This set must be one of the best bargains in an overcrowded market. It offers you three complete albums on two CDs (all properly remastered), together with some astonishing bonus tracks. The albums in question are FEAR, SLOW DAZZLE and HELEN OF TROY, all of which I have reviewed separately.

FEAR is widely regarded as a classic, and deservedly so. SLOW DAZZLE is less well-known; apparently it was Cale's attempt at making a "commercial" album, and of course he went on to spoil the effect by including a couple of near-psychotic tracks. When the time had come to record HELEN OF TROY, Cale must have known he was going to leave Island. He just owed the label one more album on which he could do whatever he wanted. He went into the studio and poured out all his negative emotions. As its original cover photograph suggested, HELEN OF TROY is a truly uncomfortable album, which would provide Cale with material for his legendary live shows in decades to come! The only other band I can think of who were expressing similar levels of paranoia and aggression in music at the time, is the New York duo Suicide. By the way, Cale's band on HELEN OF TROY sound unhinged but absolutely gorgeous.

THE ISLAND YEARS is not for the faint-hearted, but it is an excellent set if you want to acquire three of John Cale's most unsettling albums in one go.

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Posted Monday, February 15, 2010 | Review Permalink

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