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Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This collaboration between Eno and Cale is a good album but a slight disappointment coming from two such noted innovators. Eno and Cale's paths have crossed many times - both played on June 1 1974, and Cale was a guest on Eno's Music for Films, for example - so a full blown collaboration was always on the cards. According to Cale in his autobiography, he and Eno had a rather fraught working relationship during these sessions, which may account for the slightly muted feel of much of the album.

Most of Wrong Way Up sounds more like Eno than Cale. The more uptempo numbers have a similar feel to some of the shorter songs on Before and After Science, with a skewed take on the rock song played over complex, African influenced rhythms. Robert Ahwai adds some Fripp styled rhythm guitar to a few of the songs, and is especially effective on One Word and Spinning Away. Cale's light Welsh baritone is used to good effect on In the Backroom, and on many of the other songs their two voices harmonise surprisingly well. The two best songs are the simplest ones on offer. Cordoba is the only track to feature no guest musicians, and is a mournful song with a haunting vocal by John Cale, who has played the song live (there's a good version on the solo live album Fragments of a Rainy Season). The River is effectively an Eno solo song, and is another haunting song with minimalist backing which reacalls some of the slower songs from Another Green World and Before and After Science.

Fans of Eno's more song based albums will enjoy Wrong Way Up, and his trademark surreal lyrics and bizarre sounds are present and correct, but unlike his collaborations with Robert Fripp and David Byrne there are no real surprises here.

Report this review (#41556)
Posted Thursday, August 4, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars A thoroughly underrated LP on PA....this is the best Eno OR Cale LP in yonks. Yeah, it's not an Eno ambient album, it's more akin to the four pop/prog albums he put out in the seventies. Yeah, it's not a Cale classical expirement or an attempt at tone poetry, it's more in the mode of his Island LPs in the 70s. The two harmonize, lyricize and do some amazing things musicwise to create an absolute classic pop album - in my opinion, the best pop record of the nineties. It's intelligent music with a plasticine's a timeless period piece from the's absolutely full of contradiction - it's modern sounding, yet a throwback. The songs individually are fantastic, but as a collecitve whole they gain meaning and gradeur. Any fan of poppy Eno or Cale will adore this record.

4.5 stars....a must have for fans. Eno or Cale beginners would be better served elsewhere, but for those in the know this is the place to go!

Report this review (#99988)
Posted Thursday, November 23, 2006 | Review Permalink
Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A decent collaboration between John Cale and Brian Eno, this albums leans more towards a pop prog sound as opposed to ambient soundscapes, which is down to John Cale's influence perhaps. The album also has the great Rhet Davies on vocals. This is the fellow who helped produce epic 70's albums like the ' Music inspired by the Snow Goose' by Camel. So lots of influences and sounds jumbled together to make for a very interesting hybrid of sounds. Highlights would have to include ' In the Backroom', the catchy ' Lay My Love' and the closer ' River', largely an Eno composition. John Cale is a great talent and it is equally good to see Wong Way Up in the PA's 'Brian Eno' collective offerings.
Report this review (#118497)
Posted Monday, April 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
2 stars "Wrong Way Up" indeed. This is a simple album of simple, pleasant pop songs. Nothing at all progressive, and not terribly interesting. In fact, the entire album sounds reminiscent of some of Eno past productions, most notably The Talking Heads (which for the most part bore me to tears).

As I noted above, the songs are all pleasant, there is no hint of the underlying darkness that seemed to loom about the early Eno albums, making them interesting listens. Here we get song after song of tribal rhythms, with Eno and/or Cale singing not very interesting lyrics (for the most part).

Report this review (#245177)
Posted Sunday, October 18, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars No, Eno and Cale's WRONG WAY UP is not what I'd classify as a "prog" album. It is, rather, a pop album , and one which I thoroughly enjoy.

This 1990 release found Brian Eno (who should need no introduction here) and former cello prodigy John Cale (ex Velvet Underground) entering the studio for a collaborative effort which would see Eno putting aside his longstanding ambient experiments to record his first new pop songs (with vocals, yet!) since 1977's BEFORE AND AFTER SCIENCE. As a confirmed Eno fan from way back, I was excited to discover WRONG WAY UP, and doubly pleased when I got it home to find an album of solid, well-crafted songs. (I have always favoured Eno's pop persona over his "king of ambient" incarnation. The ambient albums are fine, and particularly suited to relaxing, but they sure don't make me grin, or tap my foot.)

Eno and Cale had worked together before, on the highly-regarded live concert supergroup recording KEVIN AYERS, JOHN CALE, ENO & NICO: JUNE 1, 1974, and these two seasoned and justly famous art musicians jell very well again here. WRONG WAY UP is a polished, professional and pleasurable album of ten songs which run from one at just under three minutes, to one at over five minutes. (Most are around 4.5 minutes.) Artful string accents, memorable melodies, cool beats and grooves, plus excellent vocals and harmonies are the order of the day. For my tastes, there's not a weak cut in the set, but my especial favourites include the catchy opener "Lay My Love," featuring lots of Cale's cello; Cale's beautifully spare and moving "Cordoba," in which he sings of a seemingly futile attempt to reconnect with a dying friend; Eno's absolutely uplifting "Spinning Away" with its ringing, African-style guitars; the up-tempo "Been There Done That;" and the sing-along, soothing album ender "The River."

If you're a "prog only" type who disdains any and all pop, don't buy this CD. If, however, you have an appreciation for intelligent, finely-executed pop, and/or if you enjoy feel-good Eno songs such as "King's Lead Hat" and "Backwater," then try WRONG WAY UP for a change of perspective. Good stuff.

Report this review (#284818)
Posted Friday, June 4, 2010 | Review Permalink
1 stars I must recognize that I preferred those guys while there were playing in their respective and legendary early bands: Roxy Music and The Velvet Underground.

The combination of both talented Eno & Cale led to some sort of new wave average album. Sub-par "Talking Heads" as far as I am concerned. And it is not the best of them which was achieved in the seventies. No: this album leans more on their eighties catalogue.

At least, the TH feeling is definite during the first two songs from this album. What's next is of no great stuff, I'm afraid. A song as "In the Backroom » is rather insipid, insignificant and dull. Then starts the poppish side of this album with "Empty Frame": it is only a dreadful rock ballad without any inspiration.

The melancholic and very quiet "Cordoba" provides a short and intimate break but it is not frankly the type of song I can cope with. After this one, the duo leads us back to some average mood again with "Spinning Away". Up to now, I have to say that this album from the duet is rather a major disappointment. I was expecting much more from them.

At the end of the day, the first two songs are the best that you can expect from this album. The lousy "Been There, Done That" on the contrary is one of the most awful experience although "Crime In The Desert" isn't anything better. On the contrary.

The worse though is reached with the closing track: some sort of country ballad ("The River"). The whole of this album is pretty weak and only deserves one star according my standards. Not to mention that there isn't anything prog in here.

A definite wrong way...

Report this review (#457480)
Posted Sunday, June 5, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars This album is rather poppy but I like it for the most part. Yes, one might have expected something more artistic and surprising from these two musicians, but clearly that wasn't their intention. I have to confess that I've returned to only a few of these ten songs via compilations and the majority of the songs have faded from my memory. Maybe that speaks against the quality of them? If I happen to return to the album and find out that my review goes wrong somehow, I'll fix it afterwards.

There are a lot of "beats and grooves" as Peter put it in his review. I enjoy the very uplifting 'Spinning Away' and its crispy guitar sound. Cale's melancholic and moving 'Cordoba' is fine in a different way. The closing track is a pleasant ballad with a cowboy feel to it, called 'The River'. Some tracks are probably too full of playing (a long list of guest musicians!) especially for friends of Eno, and too uptempo pop for friends of either of them. If one listens to it without large expectations there ly will be something to enjoy. Though it's surely not as good as it could (should) have been, it offers nice additions to the vocal output of Eno which is not too wide at all.

Report this review (#588975)
Posted Friday, December 16, 2011 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
3 stars BRIAN ENO has worn many hats as producer, songwriter and designer but he was first and foremost a musician who embarked on many paths simultaneously since his first albums arose in the early 70s. Although he is most known for all the innovative ambient albums that he has released, he has also put out a ridiculous number of collaborative albums over the years as well beginning on "No Pussyfooting" with Robert Fripp back in 1973. WRONG WAY UP sees him collaborating for the second time with Velvet Underground legend John Cale (the first album was "June 1, 1971" with Nico). While you would expect two eccentric art rock and experimental pioneers in the musical world to create some highly original music that takes you somewhere completely new, it is not really the case on this one as it sounds somewhat like a lost Talking Heads album.

WRONG WAY UP is one of the more accessible albums by ENO and friends. The dominant focus is on catchy melodies accompanied by a huge assortment of instruments but only acting as subordinate entities never stealing the limelight. There is plenty of electronic art pop going on here but there are also lush string sections that include violin and viola. Other than the melodic pop song approach there is strong emphasis on percussion as well making this sound like an experimental 80s new wave style at times. The percussion list is long and includes dumbeks, Shinto bells, tablas and other Indian drums. The tracks are mostly mid-tempo but some like "Cordoba" are slowed down. The piano blues can also be heard on "Crime In The Desert." The finale "The River" sounds like it should be on a Chris Isaak album!

ENO's discography is a hit-and-miss collection of everything ranging from early experimental glam rock to bizarre ambient worlds so i was honestly expecting a little more from this one given John Cale's legacy as one who likes to go to new places as well. On WRONG WAY UP there is an ethnic flavor to many of the tracks given the instruments on board but the vocals and the overall sound really remind me of synth pop bands of the 80s like Level 42 or even Thomas Dolby. Not really a bad thing as the album comes off well and there really aren't any particularly bad tracks, but this album doesn't blow me away either and doesn't have enough hooks for me to want to return to it often despite the groovy rhythms, symphonic backings and passionate dual harmonies. I like it but don't love it.

Report this review (#1412969)
Posted Tuesday, May 12, 2015 | Review Permalink
Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
3 stars This is truly an underrated album. It is also very unexpected. When you hear of Brian Eno and John Cale doing an album together, you would expect maybe ambience or at least very experimental music. You would be mistaken. This album has some of the most accessible music either artist has been involved in. But, believe me, it does not make it a bad album. Yes it is lacking somewhat in progressiveness, but the faster songs are so cheery and catchy that you have to sing along. And the harmonies, mostly based on heavy layering, are excellent to the "nth" degree. That is what I love about it most is the harmonies, sort of like a more modern Moody Blues type harmony, but better.

The first track is sung by Eno, but I would imagine it involves auto tune, because I have never heard him sing like this. The violin and keyboards are exiting and catchy. The same feeling melds into the next track "One World", even more upbeat with Eno and Cale both sharing vocals with lots of harmony. "In the Backroom" is a slower tempo and more of what you would expect with the vocals more subdued and no harmonies, just singing by Cale. The rhythm is consistent throughout, but there are some interesting things going on in the instrumentation. "Empty Frame" has a nice mid tempo swing feeling to it. Eno has lead vocals on this and there is some brass involved in the background and there are some harmonies here, but not as choir like as before. The guitar towards the middle is nice, but it's mixed a little deep. Vocals again seem too perfect for Eno, but it still sounds great.

"Cordoba" is a very laid back slow song lead by Cale. This one is more ambient and slightly experimental sounding, but it is not typical enough to be considered pop. It is a lot darker than anything that has come previously, so probably more what you would have expected from these two. Very sparse and the voice is solo with limited harmonics and some distortion in the orchestration towards the end giving it a unsettling feeling. "Spinning Away" is more of a nice, funky feeling with that feeling being provided by a strumming guitar while the keyboards are smooth creating a nice contrast. Eno has lead on this one and the beautifully layered and uplifting harmonics are back. The stings are back on this one too, and give this song great atmosphere. "Footsteps" is a mid-tempo song sung by Cale and is very 80s sounding especially with the synth melodies going on here. This one would have fit well on any Wang Chung album, in other words, I don't care for it as much.

Cale leads again on the next song "Been There, Done That". This one is upbeat and was released as a single and actually had some success. It is decent, but I would have picked one of the other previous upbeat songs for the single. But it has memorable lyrics that are easy to sing along with. "Crime in the Desert" has a nice piano hook that plays though the song, upbeat once again and a return to the layered harmonics that are so appealing. The synths are reminiscent of a more upbeat Vangelis tune. This one is the 3rd in a row lead by Cale. The last track on the original release is "The River" and is lead by Eno. This on has an annoying computerized drum and keyboard loop that changes chords with the vocals. It is more subdued like "Cordoba", but not as experimental. Eno's voice has an echo to it, giving it a slightly mysterious sound. The chorus is nice with the vocals, but it can remind you of sitting around a campfire singing and once you get that visual, it gets a little corny. Since the original had only 10 tracks, by this time it was starting to wear out it's welcome, so it ended at the perfect place.

The remastered version released in 2005 had 2 bonus tracks, but 1 of those tracks was different in the UK and the US. "Grandfather's House" was the UK bonus track. It is a slow ambient song, but the electric piano or vibe is a little annoying and reminds you of the terrible late 70s, early 80s Chicago albums. However, the lyrics are nice. "You Don't Miss Your Water" was the track available in both the UK and US versions. This one is better, but it is still slow with no percussion. It is driven with guitar this time, so it's not tacky like the previous one. It also has the layered harmonics. "Palanquin" was the bonus track in the US that replaced "Grandfather's House". Out of the two different bonus tracks, "Palanquin" is better in that it uses acoustic piano instead of electric, so it's not so dated sounding. It is a beautiful, atmospheric track, all instrumental, and with a new age feel, but still nice.

Overall, I really love this album and I did the first time I heard it. I do admit that it tends to wear itself out towards the end, but the bonus tracks, at least on the US reissue, do breathe life back into the album at the end. I know there isn't much there that is considered progressive, but the harmonics push this far and above any typical pop music out there. I consider it an excellent addition to my collection, but not to my prog music collection. So I have to settle for a "Good" rating, but it's pushing the 4 star rating.

Report this review (#1950181)
Posted Saturday, July 21, 2018 | Review Permalink

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