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John Cale - Paris 1919 CD (album) cover

PARIS 1919

John Cale


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3.32 | 57 ratings

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5 stars PARIS 1919 is one of the most magical "rock 'n' roll" albums of all time. Indeed, I would not hesitate to include it in my personal Top Twenty (of popular music, that is) and I'm pretty sure John Cale himself would do the same, seeing as he includes tracks from it in nearly all his live shows. At the time I'm writing this he's due to revive the entire album live in Cardiff, with full orchestra and band. I guess he sees it as his ASTRAL WEEKS. And yes, it deserves a similar place in the canon.

Problem is, no-one seems to understand what the album is ABOUT. Although Cale's voice had a neurotic edge to it from the start, PARIS 1919's tunes are far less angst-ridden and aggressive than anything you find on later albums such as FEAR or MUSIC FOR A NEW SOCIETY. Most of the material seems to be about historical characters (Dylan Thomas, Graham Greene, Greta Garbo) and historical events (The First World War, the Spanish Civil War), but what is Cale trying to tell us? Most of the characters and events seem to be coming to him in dreams and visions. All Cale ever did was write his dreamiest songs about them. It's a surrealist's chocolate paradise!

For me personally, simply enumerating the album's song titles is sufficient: "A Child's Christmas in Wales", "Andalucia". "Paris 1919", "Half Past France", "Antarctica Starts Here": they're all exquisitely orchestrated bonbons which make the best possible use of strings and horns, and of the members of Little Feat who play on the album. Although Cale kept trying, he never again came up with such an extraordinary sequence of unforgettable melodies. My personal favourite is "Hanky Panky Nohow", which includes that memorable line, so innocently sung: "Nothing frightens me more / than religion at my door".

I look at Cale's old soulmates (Reed, Cohen, Nico, Bowie, Eno) and ask myself if any of them released a more unified or convincing album. The answer must be a resounding NO.

fuxi | 5/5 |


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