John Cale

Band members                              Related acts

- John Cale -- vocals, guitar, bass, viola, keyboards, percussion


  with Terry Riley 1971 line up

- John Cale -- bass, harpsichord, piano, guitar, viola, orga

- Bobby Colomby --  drums, percussion

- Bobby Gregg -- drums, percussion

- Adam Miller -- vocals

- Terry Riley -- piano, organ, soprano saxophone


  supporting musicians (1972)

- Adam Miller - vocals

- Del Newman -- drums, percussion

- Legs Larry Smith -- vocals

- Ron Wood - acoustic guitar


  supporting musicians (1974)

- Doreen Chanter -- backing vocals

- Irene Chanter -- backing vocals

- Michale Des Naris -- drums

- Eno --synthesizers

- Bry Haorth -- guitar

- Archie Leggatt -- bass

- Phil Mazanera -- guitar, slide guitar

- Judy Nylon -- vocals

- Fred Smith -- drums, percussion

- Liza Strike -- backing vocals

- Richard Thompson -- guitar

- Brian Turrington -- bass


  supporting musicians (1977)

NEW - Jimmie Ban -- bass (replaced Mike Viseglia)

- Bruce Brody -- moog

NEW - Kevin Currie -- drums, percussion (replaced Joe Stefko)

- Ritchie Fliegler -- lead guitar



  supporting musicians (1981)

- John Gatchell -- trumpet 

- Jim Goodman - keyboards

- Robert Medici - drums, percussion

- Peter Muny -- bass

- Sturgis Nikides -- lead guitar



- Marc Aaron -- lead guitar (1979)

- Jimmy Bain -- bass (replaced Mike Viseglia) (1977-)

- John Bidewell -- keyboards, backing vocals (1979)

- Doug Bowne -- drums, backing vocals (1979)

- Bruce Brody -- moog

- Trevor Burton -- bass

- Tony Carr -- percussion

- Phil Collins -- drums

- Gerry Conway -- drums

- Kevin Currie -- drums (replaced Joe Stefko) (1977)

- Deerfrance -- percussion, backing vocals (1979)

- Timi Donald -- drums

- Pat Donaldson -- bass

- Raymond Duffy -- drums

- Brian Eno -- synthesizers (-84)

- Ritchie Flieger -- lead guitar

- John Gatchell -- trumpet (1981)


- Andy Heermanns -- bass, backing vocals (1984)

- Archie Leggatt -- bass

- David Lichenstein - drums, percussion (1984)

- Andy MacKay -- sax

- Phil Manzanera -- guitar

- George Scott (RIP) -- bass, backing vocals (1979)

- Fred Smith -- drums

- Keith Smith --- drums

- Chris Spedding -- guitar

- Joe Stefko -- drums (-77)

- Chris Thomas -- keyboards, violin

- Mike Viseglia -- bass (-77)

- John Wood -- synthesizers

- Dennis Young -- lead guitar, backing vocals (1984)





Kevin Ayers and Company

- The Primitives

- Lou Reed and John Cale

- Theatre of Eternal Music

- The Velvet Underground




Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Vintage Violence

Company: Columbia

Catalog: CS-1037

Year: 1970

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: minor ring wear

Available: 2

Catalog ID: 4359

Price: $10.00



John Cale is a funny guy in that after some four decades in the music business, he's widely admired by his peers, but remains a virtual unknown to mainstream listeners.  A relatively small group of listeners know him as one of the founding members of The Velvet Underground, while an even smaller group have followed him through an interesting and frequently challenging solo career.  I'll readily admit that much of his post-VU work is just too weird for my tastes.  That said, there are some exceptions.  


An apparent power play with fellow VU member Lou Reed saw Cale leave the band in 1968.  (After all these years whether he quit or was fired remains a topic of contention.)  Cale quickly recovered his creative momentum, producing The Stooges self-titled 1969 debut, along with fellow VU alumni Nico's second solo LP "The Marble Arch".  In addition to earning his credentials with the underground music crowd, in many respects those two album laid some to the groundwork for future musical genres, such at punk and even new wave.


The production work apparently whet Cale's own appetite as an artist, so in 1970 he released his own solo debut - "Vintage Violence".  Ironically, anyone expecting to hear something avant-garde, or in the vein of his recent work with VU or the Stooges was in for a major shock.  At least to my ears, original material such as 'Hello There', 'Adelaide' and '' made for an album that was surprisingly conventional and even commercial in nature.  If that weren't enough, Cale even dared to sound balanced, happy and upbeat (check out the poppy 'Cleo').  Elsewhere, never known for his voice, Cale turned out to be more than a competent singer . At a minimum he certainly could hold a tune better than Lou Reed.  In fact, on tracks such as 'Gideon's Bible' and 'Big White Cloud' Cale's attractive Welsh accent and apparent affection for orchestrated pop even bore a passing resemblance to The Bee Gees (geez, there's a bizarre comparison).  Recorded back in the UK (reportedly completed in two weeks), the set has a hard-to-describe charm that makes it a personal favorite that I regularly play.  Cale also got first rate support from Garland Jeffrey's backing band Grinder's Switch (credited in the liner notes as 'Penguin').  (Perhaps that's why the one non-original is a cover of Jeffrey's 'Fairweather Friend'.)


"Vintage Violence" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Hello There   (John Cale) - 2:48

2.) Gigeon's Bible   (John Cale) - 3:22

3.) Adelaide   (John Cale) - 2:18

4.) Big White Cloud   (John Cale) - 3:31

5.) Cleo   (John Cale) - 2:35

6.) Please   (John Cale) - 4:19


(side 2)
.) Charlemagne   (John Cale) - 5:03

2.) Bring It On Up   (John Cale) - 2:24

3.) Amsterdam   (John Cale) - 3:14

4.) Ghost Story   (John Cale) - 3:48

5.) Fairweather Friends   (Garland Jeffreys) - 2:32




Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Church of Anthrax

Company: Columbia

Catalog: 64259

Year: 1971

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: UK pressing

Available: SOLD

Catalog ID: SOLD 182

Price: SOLD $15.00


I remember picking this album up at a yard sale and being pretty apprehensive about it. -  I just knew that  a collaboration between John Cale and Terry Riley had to be full of  avant-garde experimentation with commercial concepts such as rhythm and melody abandoned to the culturally insignificant masses.  I actually put the LP back and then had second thoughts (how much did it matter when the dealer was asking 50 cents for a UK pressing).   And, as you'd expect, I was totally wrong.  Mind you, 1971's "Church  of Anthrax" isn't going to get confused with a slice of power pop, but  by the same token this album was far more conventional and enjoyable (yes enjoyable) than anyone would have ever expected.


Chronologically this album was actually recorded and shelved prior to the release of Cale's 1970 debut "Vintage Violence".  Columbia management apparently viewed the set as non-commercial and didn't change their minds until Cale's debut actually some attracted critical and commercial attention.  The result was "Church of Anthrax" saw daylight about a year after it was recorded.  Musically its hard to accurately describe this collection.  The five tracks are more conventional than most of Riley's solo work, but less mainstream than Cale's debut album.  If I had to tag the set, I'd suggest a comparison to some of the early Canterbury scene bands that blended avant-garde, jazz-rock, and progressive moves - maybe a more out-there version of Gong, or The Soft Machine.  Largely instrumental; (showcasing Adam Miller on vocals, Cale's 'The Soul of Patrick Lee' was the one vocal performance), tracks like '' and '' found the pair moving back and forth between surprisingly commercial and more experimental genres.  Riley was reportedly less than thrilled with Cale's production efforts; basically bailing from the project before it was completed.


Neither Cale, nor Riley fans are likely to be all that impressed,  Call if a mildly intriguing collaboration between the two composers and move on ...   


"Church of Anthrax" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Church of Anthrax (instrumental)  (John Cale - Terry Riley) - 9:05    rating: **** stars

To my ears the title track was probably the strongest of the five compositions.  Certainly the most mainstream song, 'Church of Anthrax was almost funky (seriously), showcasing Cale's nifty bass line over  Riley's repetitive organ riffing.   The song got progressively looser as it went along, with Riley and the uncredited drummer getting wilder by the minute.  Riley's sax added to the song's every growing wildness quotient.  I'm constantly surprised by how much I like this one. 

2.) The Hall of Mirrors in the Palace at Versailles (instrumental)  (John Cale - Terry Riley) - 7:59   rating: ** stars

Clocking in at just under eight minutes, the instrumental 'The Hall of Mirrors in the Palace at Versailles'  showcased Cale on keyboards and Riley on sax.  The song started out as a haunting, atmospheric ballad and gradually shifted into more experimental  jazz-rock territory. The track had its moments, but overall, didn't do all that much for me.   To my ears this one has a distinctive Soft Machine vibe.


(side 2)
.) The Soul of Patrick Lee   (John Cale) - 2:49    rating: **** stars

I remember listening 'The Soul of Patrick Lee' and wondering if there  was some sort of pressing mistake ...   how in the world did this pretty pop song get on this album ?    Featuring Adam Miller on vocals, the song sported a beautiful English folk-rock melody that would have sounded at home on an early Traffic album.   Anyone have any insight into Adam Miller ?    Great track even if it sounds completely out of place on this album.  

2.) Ides of March (instrumental)  (John Cale - Terry Riley) - 11:03   rating: ** stars

Another mildly, funky instrumental, 'Ides of March' featured both principals on keyboards (if you listen to the song on a good set of headphones, Riley seems to be playing a tack piano in the left channel and Cale's playing conventional keyboard in the right).  I will say that coming in at over 11 minutes, this one went on way too long and whatever appeal it started out with was quickly overtaken.  At about the five minute mark you started to wish this thing would come to an abrupt end.  By the time you got to the ten minute mark you were seriously thinking about getting up and moving the needle to the next song.   

3.) The Protégé (instrumental)  (John Cale - Terry Riley) - 2 :52  rating: *** stars

With drums, pounding keyboards and a touch of guitar, 'The Protégé' came the closest to a conventional rock sound, though it ultimately faded into background music.





Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  The Academy In Peril

Company: Reprise

Catalog: MS 2079

Year: 1972

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: original Warhol gimmick cover

Available: SOLD

Catalog ID: SOLD745

Price: SOLD $20.00



Admittedly John Cale isn't for everyone and I'll readily admit that large chunks of his catalog don't do a lot for my ears.   Still, he's an amazingly talented guy who was willing to take his fame and use it to record material that interested him, rather than his corporate mentors.   Still, you had to wonder what Mo Osten and Reprise were thinking of when they decided to sign Cale for 1972's "The Academy In Peril".   About the only thing I can come up with is Osten had never heard Cale's previous collaboration with Terry Riley ("Church of Anthrax"); was simply mesmerized by Cale's Velvet Underground roots; or had a secret hankering to sign a highly uncommercial artist who felt the need to release a classically-tinged album.   Bet Osten and his marketing buddies were surprised to hear this Cale produced collection !   So, based on my explorations of Cale's catalog, there aren't any really bad sets ('okay 'Caribbean Sunset' sucks), but there are some that you can live without and this is probably one of those.  Exemplified by material like the title track, 'Brahms' and 'John Milton', the album was largely instrumental and heavily influenced by Cale's classical music training.  There were a couple of exceptions - the opener 'The Philosophers' was a country blues number featuring Ron Wood on acoustic slide guitar, while 'Steam Days' was one of the prettiest melodies Cale ever wrote.  Still, if you were looking for some of Cale's more accessible stuff, be forewarned.







Finally, the Andy Warhol designed gimmick cover was pretty cool.







"The Academy In Peril" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) The Philosopher (instrumental)  (John Cale) - 4:25rating: *** stars

Wow this was  strange one (not saying a lot am I ?).   The core of the song featured Ron Wood playing a nifty acoustic slide guitar riff which then had an ever more sophisticated arrangement slapped on top of it including horns, percussion, and Cale's own viola.   Not exactly something you were going to ask your local top-40 station to play, but certainly interesting. 

2.) Brahms (instrumental)  (John Cale) - 6:55   rating: ** stars

Yeah, the title was pretty accurate since  the instrumental piece 'Brahms' featured Cale playing a classically influenced keyboard.  Technically it was quite pretty (especially the second half), but it wasn't going to shake your world.   It sure seemed to go on longer than the seven minute running time ...

3.) Legs Larry at Television Centre  (John Cale) - 3:35   rating: ** stars

Technically I guess this wasn't an instrumental since it featured Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band member Legs Larry Smith providing spoken word commentary on top of a pretty, classically inspired string piece.   The spoken word part was actually pretty funny - imagine Monty Python's John Cleese serving as producer while filming a video clip and you'll get a feel for the plotline.  

4.) The Academy In Peril  (John Cale) - 6:20rating: *** stars

Another classically inspired keyboard piece, the title track was actually one of the more listenable pieces on the set (well at least the mid-section).  


(side 2)
1.) Intro  - 0:57

     i.) Days of Steam (instrumental)  (John Cale) - 1:58   rating: **** stars

Once you got pas the opening minute featuring Cale expermenting on a piano, you were rewarded with what was probably the prettiest composition on the album. 'Days of Steam' would have made a nice theme song for a kids television program - very bouncy and the horn section had to be heard - how can anyone play that fast ?    Gawd only knows, why, but Reprise tapped it as a single, though I've never seen a stock copy. 




- 1972's 'Days of Steam' (instrumental) b/w 'Legs Larry at Television Centre' (Reprise catalog number REP 1158)





2.) 3 Orchestral Pieces   rating: ** stars

    i.) Faust (instrumental)   (John Cale)- 2:47

    ii.) The Balance (instrumental)  (John Cale) - 2:33

    iii.) Captain Morgan's Lament (instrumental)  (John Cale) - 3:10

One of those cases where the title was an accurate indicator of what to expect - With support from the Royal Philhamonic Orchestra, all three parts of the suite were pretty ('The Balance' was the best of the lot), but could well have been incidental music to a J.R. Tolken inspired movie.  

3.) King Harry  (John Cale) - 4:04rating: *** stars

With a light Carribbean feel, 'King Harry' was also the only non-instrumental ...   Again, technically there was a vocal on this one, though it was sung in a whisper (seriously).   Typically strange Cale ...  

4.) John Milton  (John Cale) - 7:54   rating: ** stars

The album's longest and most ponderous offering, the instrumental 'John Milton' was basically Cale tinkling away on piano.  I've actually fallen asleep while this was playing ...    The melody that was there was actually kind of pretty, but it was stark, somewhat ominous, and not exactly mesmerizing.   This could have been incidental music for some sort of Swedish belly button gazing intellectual movie.   






Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Fear

Company: Island

Catalog: ILPS 9301

Year: 1974

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/NM

Comments: cut lower right corner; sealed copy

Available:  SOLD 

Catalog ID:  SOLD 2219

Price: SOLD $40.00


So if you're interested in hearing where John Cale got his reputation for being dark, ominous, and quirky, well 1974's "Fear" would be a good place to start.   


Cale's first album for Chris Blackwell's Island Records, "Fear" was self-produced with Roxy Music's Brian Eno and Phil Manzanera on board as executive producers.  Exemplified by the title track, 'Gun',  and the too-clever-for-his-own-good 'Momama Scuba' part of the album had a dark, skitter-ish, new-wavy feel that wasn't the easiest thing you've ever had to listen to.  That probably doesn't sound like the most inviting description you ever heard, but the fact of the matter was 'Fear" was an engrossing collection.  For ever "challenging" song there was something at the other end of the spectrum. 'Buffalo Ballet' showcased one of his prettiest melodies.  'Ship of Fools' was even better, while 'Barracuda' and the Beach Boys-flavored 'The Man Who Couldn't Afford To Orgy' could have both been hits (the latter was even released as a UK single). Admittedly it is an album that I find  hard to accurately explain in terms of why I like it so much.  Imagine the feeling you get when you've had two or three beers at a friend's house on  a cold, dark, and stormy night.  Surrounded by the disturbing bad weather you're comfortable and content; not really out or it, but you probably wouldn't want to risk driving.   Yeah, "Fear" gives me the same feeling.


"Fear" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Fear Is Man's Best Friend   (John Cage) - 3:53

Certainly not the most accessible, or uplifting tune he ever wrote, but one of the most interesting, particularly when the rest of the band joined in.  Around the 3 minute mark Archie Leggatt's bizarre, discordant bass lines took to the foreground and Cale and company began to go off the rails ...  With surprisingly good audio, YouTube has a June 1975 performance of the song from London's Crystal Palace:    rating: **** stars

2.) Buffalo Ballet   (John Cage) - 3:29

I'll be the first to admit Cale didn't have the most conventional, or commercial voice, but there's always been something cool about his Welch tinged delivery.  Add to that the reflective 'Buffalo Ballet' was one of the prettiest things he'd ever penned.   It looks like a rehearsal clip (Chris Spedding on guitar), but here's a live version taken from the same Crystal Palace performance   rating: **** stars

3.) Barracuda   (John Cage) - 3:48

Nah, it wasn't a cover of the Ann and Nancy Wilson tune ...   Eno was featured on synthesizers and there was lots of quirky Manzanera guitar, but the musical highlight came from Cale's own viola which sounded like a drunken mosquito.  Given its breezy, bouncy melody this was one of the album highlights and probably could have been a hit single.   rating: **** stars

4.) Emily   (John Cage) - 4:23

I'm not sure why, but there was something about this one that has always reminded me a Randy Newman song.   Pretty melody, though the ocean sound effects could have used a little help.   rating: *** stars

5.) Ship of Fools   (John Cage) - 4:38

For a guy with decidedly conventional tastes, I'm always surprised at how much of John Cale's catalog appeals to me.  A prime example, the simply gorgeous 'Ship of Fools',  I've heard the song dozens of times and still don't have a clue what it was about ("We picked up Dracula in Memphis; It was just about the break of day"), but the melody was simply so good, it didn't matter.   rating: **** stars


(side 2)
1.) Gun   (John Cage) - 8:05

'Gun' could almost have been mistaken as a conventional rocker ...   but then remember this is John Cale.  Built on a fantastic chugging-along rhythm pattern, the eight minute tune gave Manzanera an opportunity to play his little heart out.  Having Eno process the guitar through one of his synthesizers gave the song an even wilder, almost schizophrenic feel.   If you want to see eight minutes fly by in heartbeat, play this one ...     rating: **** stars

2.) The Man Who Couldn't Afford To Orgy   (John Cage) - 4:35

With Liza Strike (The Focus Three, The Jet Set),  sharing lead vocals and various sound effects, 'The Man Who Couldn't Afford To Orgy' demonstrated Cale had successfully studied and memorized his Beach Boys catalog.  Brian Wilson should have been proud. Given the song title and apparently subject, you had to wonder why Island tapped the  tune as a UK single.  There was no way commercial radio would have ever touched this one:

- 1974's The Man Who Couldn't Afford To Orgy' b/w 'Sylvia Said' (Island catalog number WIP 6020 A )   rating: **** stars

3.) You Know More Than I Know   (John Cage) - 3:35

A pretty, country-tinged ballad with some gorgeous harmony vocals from Doreen and Irene Chanter,  'You Know More Than I Know' wasn't a bad effort, but simply didn't measure up to the rest of the collection.  rating: *** stars

4.) Momama Scuba   (John Cage) - 4:24

The slinky rocker 'Momama Scuba' found Cale bringing out the "A" team -  guitarists Bryn Haworth (of Les Fleur de Lys fame), Phil Manzanera, and Richard Thompson.   In spite of the overwhelming instrumental fire power, this one seemed forced and lacked the same impact as the rest of the album.  The 'The Man Who Couldn't Afford To Orgy' "B" side, you had to wonder why Cale didn't use the sweet 'Sylvia Said' instead rating: *** stars





Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Slow Dazzle

Company: Island

Catalog: ILPS 9317

Year: 1975

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: original inner sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5485

Price: $20.00


Mind you there's no way you'd ever mistake John Cale for ABBA, or a similar top-40 pop act, but 1975's "Slow Dazzle" was the album where I discovered he was more than an en avant-garde crackpot ...   Self-produced with exceptional backing from Brian Eno, Phil Manzanera, Chris Spedding and others, the collection of largely original material sported a strange mixture of punk paranoia, old fashioned commercial pop and rock moves, and occasional nods to his more experimental roots.  Yeah, I know that sounds like an impossible combination for anyone to pull off, but Cale somehow found the recipe.  Ironically some critics actually slammed the set as being too commercial, demanding a return to his more experimental endeavors.  The album started out with 'Mr. Wilson' which was a fawning tribute to Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys (who would've ever thought Cale was a fan) and stood as one of Cale's best and most commercial compositions - love the way he sings Californ-EYE-A.  Hard to believe it wasn't a hit single. The same was true for the ballad 'I'm Not the Loving Kind' (easily his prettiest ballad) and the unexpected pop ditty 'Ski Patrol'.   Elsewhere tracks like 'Dirtyass Rock 'n' Roll' (sporting his best Bob Dylan impression) and 'Guts' (a tale of marital infidelity apparently inspired by Kevin Ayers affair with Cale's wife that featured some of his most disturbing lyrics including a chorus that I've always heard as 'he's got no guts - and stitches don't help at all').  The song aptly displayed Cale that could rock out as hard as any of his competitors.  Other highlights included the positively blood chilling cover of 'Heartbreak Hotel' (every time I hear the Presley version I now think about Cale's cover version), 'Taking It All Away' and 'Darling I Need You' (both sporting  insidiously catchy choruses).  To be honest, the only track that didn't strike a chord with me was the bleak story teller narrative closer 'The Jeweler'.   Interesting while most critics seem to gravitate to "Fear" which was the first release in Cale's Island Trilogy, this is the LP that I find the most appealing and enjoyable.  Well worth checking out !!!


"Slow Dazzle" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Mr. Wilson   (John Cale) - 3:15

2.) Taking It All Away   (John Cale) - 2:56

3,) Dirtyass Rock 'n' Roll   (John Cale) - 4:42

4.) Darling I Need You   (John Cale) - 3:36

5.) Rollaroll   (John Cale) - 3:59


(side 2)
1.) Heartbreak Hotel   (M. Axton - T. Durden - Elvis Presley) - 3:09

2.) Ski Patrol   (John Cale) - 2:05

3.) I'm Not the Loving Kind   (John Cale) - 3:07

4.) Guts   (John Cale) - 3:28

5.) The Jeweller   (John Cale) - 4:28




Cale) -

Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Guts

Company: Island

Catalog: ILPS-9459

Year: 1977

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: minor ring wear

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4801

Price: $15.00


Best time to listen to:  Ever had one of those work days where your boss has driven you crazy with stupid decisions and demands?  Here you go.



Cost: $66.00


1977's "Guts" generated considerable media attention, though little of it had to do with the album itself.  Earlier in the year Cale and his touring band (keyboardist Bruce Brody, guitarist Richie Fleiger, drummer Joe Stefko and bassist Mike Viseglia) had been touring the UK.  Supposedly unhappy with the group's unenthusiastic performances, in the middle of a show in Croyden, Cale decapitated a chicken with a meat cleaver, throwing the pieces into the middle of a stunned audience.  Drummer Joe Stefko and bassist Viseglia (who were both vegetarians) walked off stage and quit the rest of the tour in protest. A roadie had actually killed the chicken before handing it to Cale, but that was a technical detail that didn't seem to matter to folks.  English papers condemned Cale for months on end.


Overlooking Cale's run in with chickens, "Guts" was an excellent retrospective showcasing material from his three previous studio sets for Chris Blackwell's Island Records (including the UK-only "Helen of Troy").  Backed by an impressive array of studio help including Phil Collins, Chris Spedding and a sizable chunk of Roxy Music, the compilation goes along way to underscoring Cale's rock credentials and the debt many punk rockers owned to his  explorations of alienation, fear, hate and violence. No frills, pounding rock with a razor sharp edge, it doesn't get much tougher than the title track's description of a marriage gone astray, or the stunning ballad 'Fear Is a Man's Best Friend'.  The fact is that anyone who thought Lou Reed was the hard-assed rock and roller in the VU only needs to check this one out to see how wrong they were.  Among the highlights were the previously unreleased 'Mary Lou', the shrill 'Gun' and 'Leaving It Up To You' (a lyric that mentioned the late actress Sharon Tate ensured that the latter song was quickly deleted from the original "Helen of Troy" album).  Elsewhere, a pounding 'Pablo Picasso' served as a nice nod to Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers whose debut record Cale produced the previous year.  Cale wasn't quite as charitable in the furious title track which was supposedly inspired by Kevin Ayers' affair with Cale's wife.  Just be warned that while Cale's bile filled vocals will be difficult for most Americans to understand, this album is likely to cripple or even kill sensitive friends in your social circle.  Shame the retrospective was limited to nine tracks.  I'd suggest you just go find the original Island releases.


"Guts" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Guts   (John Cale) - 3:26   rating: **** stars

For anyone who didn't think Cale could handle a convention rock song - I present 'Guts'.  Yeah, the lyrics ensured this one would never get close to a radio station, but the song was powered by a crushing melody and a refrain that was criminally addictive.  One of the best songs Cage has ever written and recorded.

2.) Mary Lou   (John Cale) - 2:47   rating: **** stars

I'm not a big dancer (two left feet), but the rollicking 'Mary Lou' always makes me want to get up and give it a shot.  

3.) Helen of Troy   (John Cale) - 4:16   rating: **** stars

The title track from the third Island LP (Cale never consented to the collection being released) ...  I know Cale didn't think the songs were finished, but I have to say 'Helen of Troy' sounds pretty stunning.  Great melody with a pounding beat and Eno featured on synthesizers.   Not sure what point Cale was trying to make with the effeminate spoken word segments.  Certainly a questionable decision in this day and age.  

4.) Pablo Picasso   (Jonathan Richman) - 3:21   rating: **** stars

I grew up with and always loved the Jonathan Richman original, but Cale's raw, churning cover just wipes the original.   

5.) Leaving It Up To You   (John Cale) - 4:30   rating: **** stars

Another classic performance featuring an angry and shrieking John Cale.  The created controversy due to the brief reference to the late actress Sharon Tate.  "I know we could all feel safe like Sharon Tate."   In the face of criticism, Island dropped the song from latter pressings of the "Helen of Troy" album; replacing it with the song Coral Moon''.  


(side 2)
1.) Fear Is a Man's Best Friend   (John Cale) - 3:54
   rating: **** stars

The lead off track from 1974's "Fear", 'Fear Is a Man's best Friend' certainly wasn't the most accessible, or uplifting tune he ever wrote, but was one of the most interesting, particularly when the rest of the band joined in.  Around the 3 minute mark Archie Leggatt's bizarre, discordant bass lines took to the foreground and Cale and company began to go off the rails ...  With surprisingly good audio, YouTube has a June 1975 performance of the song from London's Crystal Palace: 

2.) Gun   (John Cale) - 8:05   rating: **** stars

'Gun' could almost have been mistaken as a conventional rocker ...   but then remember this is John Cale.  Built on a fantastic chugging-along rhythm pattern, the eight minute tune gave Roxy Music's Phil Manzanera an opportunity to play his little heart out.  Having Eno process the guitar through one of his synthesizers gave the song an even wilder, almost schizophrenic feel.   If you want to see eight minutes fly by in heartbeat, play this one ...     

3.) Dirtyass Rock 'n' Roll   (John Cale) - 4:42   rating: *** stars

I won't say it was bad, but compared to some of the other tunes on the retrospective, 'Dirtyass Rock 'n' Roll' just sounded kind of ...  well, bland and uninspired. The shrieking female backing singers didn't help things.  It rocked, but so does a Ford commercial.  Island tapped it as a promo single in the States:





1975's 'Dirtyass Rock 'n' Roll' b/w 'Heartbreak ' (Island catalog number IXP-3)






4.) Heartbreak Hotel   (Mae Axton - Tommy Durden - Elvis Presley) - 3:09   rating: **** stars

Cale's Presley cover is probably reason enough to buy "Slow Dazzle".  It is so radically different that Presley fans should be warned and given an opportunity to leave before spinning the cover.




Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Animal Justice

Company: Illegal

Catalog: IL003

Year: 1977

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: 12" 3 track 45; UK pressing

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5488

Price: $20.00


Touring in support of his "Guts" album, in the middle of a show in Croyden, UK John Cale supposedly decapitated a chicken with a meat cleaver, throwing the pieces into the middle of a stunned audience.   A roadie had actually killed the chicken before handing it to Cale, but that was a technical detail that didn't seem to matter to folksTouring drummer Joe Stefko and bassist Mike Viseglia (who were both vegetarians) walked off stage and quit the rest of the tour in protest.  1977's "Animal Justice" was a three track, 12" 45 recorded with replacement bassist Jimmy Bain and drummer Kevin Currie.


"Animal Justice" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Chicken Shit   (John Cale) - 3:32   rating: **** stars

The absolutely brutal title track provided further commentary on Cale's earlier chicken hacking episode.  I've always taken it to be a dig at Stefko, Viseglia and the members of the press that went after him for the chicken stunt.  While hard to understand (OMG, did you see what he did ..."), the spoken word sections were actually pretty funny.

2.) Memphis   (Chuck Berry) - 3:31   rating: *** stars

Slowed down to a funeral procession pace and injected with a brittle, threatening vibe, Cale's heavy metal cover of the Chuck Berry classic 'Memphis' was okay.  I could certainly live without it.


(side 2)
1.) Hedda Gabbler   (John Cale) - 7:53
   rating: **** stars

The final track, the ballad 'Hedda Gabbler' has always struck me as being one of Cale's most impressive compositions.   The song sports one of his prettiest melodies, though other than the fact it shares a title with a play by Henrik Ibsen, I don't have a clue what the song's actually about.  I've tried to understand the play's plotline, but it's just kind of a confusing mess to me ...  




Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Sabotage/Live

Company: I.R.S. / Spy

Catalog: SP 004

Year: 1979

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5667

Price: $15.00


Self-produced, 1979's "Sabotage/Live" captured John Cale live at New York's famed CBGB's.  It didn't take long to figure out that Cale was in a rather foul and frustrated mood, apparently not very pleased with the politics of the day.  Backed by a hyper aggressive band (lead guitarist Marc Aaron, keyboardist Joe Bidewell, drummer Doug Bowne, percussionist Deerfrance, and bass player George Scott), the collection featured Cale literally slashing his way through new material.  This is easily one of the angriest and loudest albums I've ever heard with Cale taking repeated shots at such uplifting topics as colonialism, ('Captain Hook') genocide ('Evidence') and various forms of war mongering ('Mercenaries (Ready For War)'), etc.  Judging by the bruising 'Baby You Know' personal relationships weren't off limits either.  (Sad that some three decades later we're still confronted with the same issues.)  Elsewhere, propelled by some bizarre bass work from the late George Scott, the lone non-original was a cover of Rufus Thomas' 'Walkin' Dog'.  It may well be the weirdest Stax cover you'll ever hear.  Ironically, the album included two of Cale's prettiest compositions - sung by Deerfrance 'Only Time Will Tell' could have been a single, while the album ended with the stunning 'Chorale'.  Talk about a startling juxtaposition.  Devoid of any glitz, the production emphasis was clearly on capturing the band's raw energy and intensity.  Not that it made for the most listenable album - 'Sabotage' would definitively be in the running for quickest-song-to-clear-a-room contention.  Still, with a good stereo or set of headphones it's pretty easy to imagine what it must have felt like to see Cale at CBGBs - loud and sweaty.  


I.R.S. actually tapped the album for a single:



- 1979's 'Mercenaries' b/w 'Rosengarden Funeral of Sores' (IR 9008)


"Sabotage/Live" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Mercenaries (Ready For War)   (John Cale) - 7:33

2.) Baby You Know   (John Cale) - 3:52

3.) Evidence   (John Cale) - 3:28

4,) Dr. Mudd   (John Cale) - 3:42

5.) Walkin' the Dog   (Rufus Thomas) - 4:06


(side 2)
1.) Captain Hook   (John Cale) - 11:26

2.) Only Time Will Tell   (John Cale) - 2:37

3.) Sabotage   (John Cale) - 4:59

4.) Chorale   (John Cale) - 3:42




In 2000 the album was reissued by the Diesel Motor label on CD (catalog number 1002).  Sporting a slightly modified cover (note where the title's placed), the CD version supplemented the original LP with four added tracks; three taken from Cale's "Animal Justice" EP, rounded out by the 'B' side 'Rosengarden Funeral of Sores'.


- Chickenshit   (John Cale)

- Memphis   (Chuck Berry)

- Hedda Gabler   (John Cale)

- Rosengarden Funeral of Sores   (John Cale)






Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Honi Soit

Company: A&M

Catalog: SP 4849

Year: 1985

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: small cut out notch lower edge; original lyric inner sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 1805

Price: $15.00


Best time to listen to:  Hot day while you're cutting the lawn


For his first new studio set in six years John Cale apparently decided to shake things up.  He turned to an outside producer in Mike Thorne, though Cale was credited as executive producer.  He also hired a new band featuring keyboardist Jim Goodman, drummer Robert Medici, bassist Peter Muny, and guitarist Sturgis Nikides.  Those changes alone were enough to ensure 1981's "Honi Soit" attracted critical attention.  Those decisions also saw Cale turn in one of his more conventional and commercial sounding LPs.   Most folks will probably just laugh, but Cale's always been capable of writing a hook and he aptly demonstrated the talent on tracks like 'Dead or Alive', 'Magic & Lies' (both which would have been great singles), the pastoral 'Riverbank' and the surprisingly funky title track (yeah, never thought I describe a Cale song with that word).   Irregardless of the sound, lyrically material like 'Strange Times In Casablanca', 'Wilson Joliet' and 'Fighter Pilot' continued to reflect a mix of obscurities and the full array of Cale's personal baggage embedding healthy doses of anger, fear, self-loathing, and all those emotions that make critics fall over themselves in praise of serious artists.  If there's an album out there with a darker sense of forbearing I'd like to know what it is (perhaps Neil Young's "On the Beach" ...).  Cale even managed to mutate 'Streets of Laredo' into some sort of post-apocalyptic industrial rant ...  Cool, if in an extremely disturbing fashion !  Andy Warhol designed the cover, though Cale apparently pissed him off when he decided to add color to what was originally a black and white image.  


"Honi Soit" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Dead or Alive   (John Cale) - 3:51   rate: **** stars

One of the most commercial tunes Cale ever wrote and also one of my favorites.  I'm sure his hardcore fans were appalled by the stab at commerciality, but you couldn't help but want to get up and shake your groove thing to this one.  And the trumpet solo was killer.  Easy to understand why A&M tapped it as a single:

- 1981's 'Dead of Alive' b/w 'Honi Soit' (A&M catalog 45-2329)

- 1981's 'Dead of Alive' b/w 'Honi Soit' (A&M catalog SP-17154) 12" format


And the walls came tumbling down ...  Cale even cut a video for the tune: 

2.) Strange Times In Casablanca   (John Cale) - 4:13  rating: *** stars

The dark, snarling, in-your-face 'Strange Times In Casablanca' sounded like Cale had been listing to more than his share of British punk bands - Hugh Cornwell and the Stranglers quickly came to mind.  

3.) Fighter Pilot   (John Cale) - 3:10   rate: **** stars

The combination of the dark lyric; Eno's bubbling sound effects and the chirpy female backing singers made 'Fight Pilot' a fascinating mess.  He's gonna die ...

4.) Wilson Joliet   (John Cale) - 4:23   rate: **** stars

It took a while for 'Wilson Joilet' to find it's feet, but once Cale got going, this one was worth the wait.  Always loved Robert Medici measured drumming on this one.

5.) Streets of Laredo (arranged by John Cale) - 3:34  rating: *** stars

If you've ever heard Cale's deconstruction of 'Heartbreak Hotel', then his adaptation of 'Street of Laredo' won't come as a total surprise.  Slowed down to a biting crawl, Cale turned this traditional tune into the aural equivalent of a coarse grinding wheel.  Be warned, this one isn't going to be for everyone.


(side 2)
1.) Honi Soit (Le Premiere Lecon de Francaise)   (John Cale) - 3:20  rating: **** stars

Given I don't speak French, I've always wondered what in the world the plot line was.  From Wikipedia I know the title translates something along the lines of "May he be shamed who thinks badly of it (The first lessons in French)."  Regardless, this group sung ditty was almost funky ...

2.) Riverbank   (John Cale) - 6:26  rating: **** stars

'Riverbank' was a beautiful, mesmerizing piano powered ballad. Cale at least once claimed the song was inspired by Liverpool's docks, though the lyrics seem to be a reflection of the effects of war on bystanders.  I believe the song became a standard in his live show.

3.) Russian Roulette   (John Cale) - 5:15  rating: **** stars

Talk about an abrupt transition - one minute you're listening to one of Cale's prettiest ballads and then 'Russian Roulette' shifts into no-holds-barred bar band territory.   

4.) Magic & Lies   (John Cale) - 3:26  rating: *** stars

The closer 'Magic & Lies' was a strange tune, repeatedly switching between bouncy pop and dark Brechtian influences.




Genre: rock

Rating: ** (2 stars)

Title:  Caribbean Sunset

Company: Ze

Catalog: ILPS 7024

Year: 1984

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: still in shrink wrap; original inner sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5498

Price: $15.00


A lot of folks don't realize that John Cale's extensive catalog includes some material that's quite commercial.  That isn't to imply those works are particularly good or bad, rather to underscore he's done far more than the avant garde stuff critics tend to rave about.  Self-produced, 1984's "Caribbean Sunset" was kind of an odd effort in the repertoire.  Exemplified by songs like the title track, 'Hungry for Love' and 'Praetorian Underground' the set offered up one of Cale's most mainstream releases.  Mind you nobody was going to mistake this for top-40 pop, but every one of these songs sported recognizable melodies and song structures - the ballad 'Where There's A Will' would have actually sounded good on radio.  Yeah, it wasn't his most original work.  'Model Beirut Recital', 'Magazines' and the funky (!) 'Villa Albani' sounded like David Byrne and the Talking Heads castoffs.  While one of his most mainstream releases at the same time the album sounded surprisingly raw and unpolished (check out 'Experiment Number 1' which sounded like a demo track complete with Cale barking out direction and chord changes to the backing band of bassist Andy Heermanns, drummer Dave Lichtenstein and guitarist David Young).  The album also had a distinctive 1980s feel which today sounds kind of dated (to say nothing of the hideous sweater Cale was wearing on the cover).  Not great, but not nearly as bad as the reviews would have you believe ...  Worth picking up if you can find a copy on the cheap. which takes a little effort since it was released with virtually no publicity and instantly vanished into cutout bins.   Ze also tapped the album for singles in the English and German markets:


- 'Caribbean Sunset' b/w '' (Ze catalog number IS 157)

- 'Hungry for Love' b/w 'Caribbean Sunset' (Ze catalog number 106302-100)


"Caribbean Sunset" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Hungry for Love   (John Cale - David Young) - 3:26

2.) Experiment Number 1   (John Cale) - 5:42

3.) Model Beirut Recital   (John Cale - David Young) - 4:30

4.) Caribbean Sunset    (John Cale - Sloman) - 5:15


(side 2)
1.) Praetorian Underground   (John Cale - David Young) - 3:06

2.) Magazines   (John Cale - David Young) - 3:26

3.) Where There's A Will   (John Cale - Sloman) - 245

4.) The Hunt   (John Cale - David Young) - 3:56

5.) Villa Albani   (John Cale) - 5:35


YouTube has a performance of the title track at  an October 1984 performance at Essen's Rockpalast concert hall: