[Review] John Cale: Paris 1919 (1973)

More pop music filtered through John Cale’s peculiar and politely restrained madness.

Kronomyth 4.0: Garde blanche.

In the house of Cale, Paris 1919 is the tea room that looks out into the garden of pop oddities first revealed on Vintage Violence. I had called that album “the very definition of disarming” (with no recollection today of what I meant by that), unless I was trying (and ultimately failing) to say that the very alarming cover of Vintage Violence gave no indication of the charming music within. You can, however, judge Paris 1919 by its cover. It is a perfectly genteel album of warped, stilted pop songs that, for thirty-one minutes, defy ready comprehension or resistance.

Again, the closest parallel for me would be Brian Eno’s gentrified relation, as John Cale shares the same interest in absurdities (“Elephants that sing to keep the cows that agriculture won’t allow”) that nearly intersect reason in the wide berths of the listener’s imagination. Cale also has a limited vocal range, nasally I suppose but also earnest, which must have lent confidence to Eno’s stepping out behind the microphone.

Reconciling the sweet and sentimental Cale of Paris 1919 with the angry, intense Velvet Underground is harder work; you’d have to look to “Sunday Morning” or “Femme Fatale” and sweeten them considerably to effect the comparison. This and Vintage Violence may be the charming anomalies in a difficult catalog, but they’re by no means shallow. The closing “Antarctica Starts Here,” hoarsely whispered beyond the edges of reason, makes plain that even the preceding pop songs like “Andalucia” and “Paris 1919” have been tainted with a little madness from the start.

Original elpee version

A1. Child’s Christmas in Wales (3:20)
A2. Hanky Panky Nohow (2:43)
A3. The Endless Plain of Fortune (4:10)
A4. Andalucia (3:50)
A5. MacBeth (3:03)
B1. Paris 1919 (4:03)
B2. Graham Greene (2:58)
B3. Half Past France (4:17)
B4. Antarctica Starts Here (2:47)

CD Reissue Bonus Tracks
10. Burned Out Affair
11. Child’s Christmas In Wales (alternate version)
12. Hanky Panky Nohow (drone mix)
13. The Endless Plain of Fortune (alternate version)
14. Andalucia (alternate version)
15. MacBeth (rehearsal)
16. Paris 1919 (string mix)
17. Graham Greene (rehearsal)
18. Half Past France (alternate version)
19. Antarctica Starts Here (rehearsal)
20. Paris 1919 (piano mix)
21. MacBeth (different instrumental backing track)

All selections written and arranged by John Cale.

The Players

John Cale, Wilton Felder, Lowell George, Richard Hayward, Bill Payne with J. Druckman Esq. (orchestral manager). Produced by Chris Thomas.

The Pictures

Album design and photography by Mike Salisbury. 1993 CD package design by Richard Keyes.

The Plastic

Released on elpee in March 1973 in the US (Reprise, MS 2131), the UK (Reprise, K 44239) and Germany 9Reprise, REP-44239) with lyric insert.

  1. Re-issued on compact disc on October 26, 1993 in the US (Reprise, 2131-2).
  2. Re-released on expanded compact disc on June 19, 2006 in the UK (Rhino, 74060-2).
  3. Re-released on 180g elpee on August 3, 2007 in the US (Four Men With Beards, FMN125).

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