Rhino are on pleasant form at present, reissuing the original `Nuggets', issuing those legendary Judee Sill albums, releasing the definitive Replacements' compilation, and now reissuing a remastered/expanded version of `Paris 1919', one of Cale's most popular albums. First things first, the packaging and sound is much better, it's nice to see the compact disc look like a Reprise record, but the many bonus tracks are merely curios, like most DVD-extras. The out-take `Burned Out Affair' is rather great, but I'm not sure I'd listen to any of the other versions again - perhaps this is due to the fact `Paris 1919' is kind of perfect anyway?
Following his exit from the Velvet Underground, Cale flipped between the avant and rock worlds, frequently fusing them together - whether as arranger/uncredited producer on Nico's `The Marble Index', or as producer of The Stooges' debut, or collaborating with Terry Riley (`Church of Anthrax'), or releasing the overlooked and rather splendid `Vintage Violence' (a precursor of the material here). Recorded with a band - Cale alongside Lowell George, Wilton Felder & Richie Hayward - with the UCLA Symphony Orchestra and producer Chris Thomas, `Paris 1919' remains one of Cale's strongest albums - though I'm as enamoured with `Fear', `Helen of Troy' & `Music for a New Society'. This probably is the one, however...
It's pop music, of sorts, `Child's Christmas in Wales' has the studio nous of Steely Dan and operates in a similar plain to the Eno-era work of Roxy Music. `Half Past France' and `Paris 1919' make clear that this is one of those European albums, alongside Nico's `The Marble Index' and `Desertshore' - Cale fusing his classical/avant-classical sensibilities with some gorgeous songs. Hard to single out a track on the album - it's so perfect - one of those albums that can just be played all the way through. `Macbeth' can be seen to anticipate the `Dirty Ass Rock'N'Roll' side of his canon, but otherwise this remains fixed at some point between classical and rock and roll.
Cale has often recorded great tracks - `The Jeweller', `Gun', his definitive take on Cohen's `Hallelujah' (ripped off by Jeff Buckley), `Riverbank', `Cable Hogue', `Mr Wilson', `Mercenaries (Ready for War!)' etc, I would have said his work is often well served by compilations like `The Island Years' and `Seducing Down the Door', if not the fantastic live solo recording `Fragments of a Rainy Season.' But `Paris 1919' needs to be owned too - a classic album given a thoughtful reissue.