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John Cale - The Academy In Peril CD (album) cover


John Cale


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3.47 | 21 ratings

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Easy Money
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Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars After his highly successful collaboration with minimalist Terry Riley, John Cale decided to release one more album in the vein of a serious composer, unfortunately the resultant Academy in Peril did not reach the same high standards. Not all is serious here though, along with Mr Cale's unique compositions we also get some very weird cinematic episode music.

Three piano and three orchestral pieces represent the 'serious composer' side of this album. Although I'm familiar with almost any form of 20th century composition you can throw at me, Cale's style on this album always alluded me, to say it is unique is an understatement. After many listens I can best describe this style as neo-romantic with a strong minimalist influence. Although Cale presents lush chord progressions that move very freely, the passing tones are replaced with still silences giving the music a fragmented effect. When I say the chord progressions roam freely, that too is an understatement in that sometimes there seems to be an element of John Cage's (Cale's ex-teacher) dice throwing decisions here; aleatoric chord progressions? If that is the experiment, I don't think it worked. Overall Cale's works presented here are interesting and very individualistic, possibly Erik Satie and Lukas Foss are the only other composers that bear any semblance, but quite bluntly, I don't think they are all that good.

Likewise the odd collection of cinema like instrumentals that make up the rest of the album are also interesting, but not very substantial. Most of them have an American kitsch sound featuring instruments such as acoustic slide guitar or calliope type woodwinds. One humorous cut on here has always stood out and made owning this album a pleasure though. Legs Larry at Television Centre presents tense dramatic string quartet melodies that build until a sharp mincing lispy voice comes on the overhead speaker giving pointed directions to the camera crew while they apparently film the quartet. It's a hilarious piece that I have played for many friends who always crack up when Legs Larry pauses and forcefully lisps, 'move in for the kill' to his cameraman while the music builds it's foreboding atmosphere.

As a long-time John Cale fan I enjoy listening to this album and hearing his not quite successful attempts at composition, but likewise I am always willing to give this album another chance in case someday it really hits me what he is trying to do here.

Easy Money | 2/5 |


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