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4.3 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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  • Audio CD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Land
  • ASIN: B00442CRVK
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  Audio Cassette  |  DVD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 579,829 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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4.3 out of 5 stars
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Format: Audio CD
This is an experiment by a classically trained composer to put a literary spin on his usually more music based approach. Cale said that it was Reed who had the literary background whilst he and Sterling in the Velvets had been more interrested in what happened musically. but here Cale takes a great literary source and tries to recreate the poetry of Dylan Thomas as fanatstical orchestrated songs. It must be something in the Welsh blood they share that helps the two great talents mesh together so well. You can tell the effort thats gone into this, not just a talk poem over music thing like Cale's work with Burroughs, but a reall taxing effort. Cale thought that he failed with this project a little because its hard to tamper with the internal music of Dylans words and rhythms, but Cale is forever undeservedly putting his own works and talent down, and this is far from a failure. Not quite in the same league as Music for A nEW society or Artifical Intelligence but still a good solid Cale effort, and with Eno on production you cannot fail.
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Format: DVD
Being a fan of the record - Words For The Dying - I thought I'd check out this documentary, and see if it gave any insight into the main players and the music.

We kick off in Moscow, and what better material for a documentary maker than John Cale and Brian Eno in one of the world's most overwhelming cities? Unfortunately (for us) it's all a bit dull. Brian doesn't want to be filmed because [paraphrasing] "When I'm on camera I censor myself, and the things I censor are the things that lead to something interesting happening". Thus, the only Eno bits are on a 'surveillance camera' in the hall they're recording, or short bits of interview with him explaining this.

Moscow isn't much shown in its most interesting light - save for the shots of Red Square, you'd guess these were the rushes from an episode of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. And when you think of that year of recording, 1989, it's all the more of a missed opportunity, given it was the liminal period between the Soviet era and what followed.

At the risk of sounding like a theorist, I think documentaries are hit or miss. Some filmmakers just seem to put a camera in front of things and it all works fine. Others, (example: Martin Scorcese) fashion a narrative like it's sculpture. Whoever it was that directed Words for the Dying, does neither.That's not to say that this is a bad effort, far from it. But the film does lack that sense of psychology and storytelling that would mark it out as something for the general viewer rather than just the music obsessive.

Things pick up a bit after the Moscow section with more recording in the UK.
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Format: Audio CD
It's taken me nearly 21 years to get round to listening to Words For The Dying, which is a shame as if I'd known it was going to be as good as it is, I'd've bought a copy on day of release. It is a work of genius.

As Jay-Z once said, "I've always stated that I don't believe in the lines and classifications that people put music in so they can easily define it" - and so it is with this John Cale work. In fact it's probably necessary to leave ideas of classification and genre at the door.

The nearest things that I can compare this to is Paddy McAloon's "I Trawl The Megahertz" and Heiner Goebbels' "Eraritjaritjaka" - even though it's not much like either in terms of sound. The similarities are more to do with each work's obsession with death, but not in a gothic/morbid sense, just dealing with the reality that every single on of us will one day going to be under the ground, or scattered over it. Cale's work is also, like the two mentioned above a form of 'classical' music. I put 'classical' in quotes there, since it's a virtually meaningless term - I think its something to do with violins innit?

Another similarity to Goebbels' "Eraritjarijaka" is that large parts of literary works are appropriated and recontextualised. Goebbels' piece is based on hundreds quotes from one-time Didsbury resident Elias Canetti. Cale's Words For The Dying uses Dylan Thomas's poetry to great effect - "Rage Against The Dying Of The Light" is transformed from overblown literary textbook stuff into something far more human, humble and (almost) comedic.

It's difficult to get stuff like this right, and very easy to get it wrong. Liverpool Oratorio anyone? Me neither. Cale succeeds though, brilliantly.
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By Peter Uys HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 14 Sept. 2000
Format: Audio CD
Here Cale goes orchestral and interprets the lyrics of Dylan Thomas. I must be honest, it's not rock 'n roll but it's very listenable and there are people who will appreciate it more than myself, who love his psychotic rock style as in Slow Dazzle. But there's one track here that's different and incredibly beautiful: The Soul Of Carmen Miranda, a collaboration with Brian Eno filled with mournful and eerie synth sounds, is one of Cale's most magnificent, moving songs. If not here, get it on his compilation Seducing Down The Door.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x93fcf42c) out of 5 stars 14 reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x93c16234) out of 5 stars For Fans of Cale or Eno, it's Worth a Few Bucks 22 Mar. 1999
By Nariaki Imamura - Published on
Even though the self-absorbed filmakers think we want to see as much of them as we do of Eno or Cale, there are still some interesting scenes of the two working on recording tracks from the album. We even get to see Cale lose his temper and shout a four-letter expletive at the boys' choir. What makes the video worth the purchase are the moments where the camera sits still long enough to let you see Cale and Eno interact while in the studio. Unfortnately there are far less of these moments then there are of pretentious camera-jiggling around Moscow at night, but if you are a fan and it is worth it to you to see this rather rare footage of these guys at work, I'm afraid it's a necessary purchase.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x93c1663c) out of 5 stars Songs For the Living 7 Dec. 2004
By R. J MOSS - Published on
Format: Audio CD
This is devotional music, pure but not so simple. Cale's,'Words For The Dying' has a sustained mood of sombre atonement. The lyrics are Dylan Thomas's and Cale flights them with the sublime sadness of a lover's rent heart. The international news of the day relayed the larger wound of the Falkland's War. It hovers over the project, and Cale responded to it, writing a suite of music performed here by the Orchestra of Symphonic & Popular Music of Gosteleradio from the former U.S.S.R. The voices of Llandaff Cathedral Choir School in Wales were enlisted as a counter to Cale's cool, haunting tones, and I suspect, congealed that crucial Welsh touchstone. Their edifice of plaintive, innocent voices is just one of the brilliant moves on this Brian Eno produced triumph. I suspect that those raised on the Spoonriver Anthology find Richard Buckner's repossession of its text leaves an indelible imprint. Cale has done this for these poems. Both Bob Dylan and Dylan Thomas crossed my path during my 16th summer, the former at its inception, the latter at its close as part of my high school's curriculum. Both bards literally made the written word sing with emotion in fresh, intoxicating ways. My mother tongue had been reborn. Cale's take on his countryman's verse has re-seeded these emotions.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x93c166c0) out of 5 stars A curiosity. 9 Feb. 2006
By Michael Stack - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Perhaps the most unusual recording in John Cale's catalog, "Words for the Dying" is an album in three parts-- "The Falklands Suite", orchestral treatments on the poetry of Dylan Thomas, "Song Without words", a piano chamber performance by Cale, and "The Soul of Carmen Miranda", a collaborative effort with Brian Eno that would lead to the sublime "Wrong Way Up".

Cale has a background is classical music and orchestra performance, so to find him composing for an orchestra is not all that surprising. The Falklands Suite works out to be a bit of an oddity-- performed with Cale as solo vocalist on top of a Welsh boys' choir and a Russian orchestra, Cale expresses himself musically in broad strokes, with a tendency towards lushness and drama and an unfortunate inclination towards somewhat irritating staccato punctuations. The arrangements themselves are fine (several of the pieces get a solo piano performance on "Fragments of a Rainy Season"), it's just that this doesn't seem to come together right. Either the orchestra feels lethargic ("Interlude II"), Cale sounds somewhat disinterested (the stunning arrangement of "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night") or the choir seems to totally miss the intent behind either the arrangement ("Lie Still, Sleep Becalmed"). When you're very lucky, it seems all three of those come together ("On a Wedding Anniversary"). Having stated all of this, it makes for a reasonably pleasant listen, it's just that it doesn't really hold together.

"Song Without Words" is pleasant enough-- Cale's solo piano performance has a nice edge to it and his playing is lovely, although admittedly the composition is not particularly intriguing and the piece really doesn't seem to go anywhere. The gem of the album is "The Soul of Carmen Miranda"-- with a lovely atmosphere and an intriguing sonic landscape, Cale's somewhat disaffected vocal takes on a stunning resonance and both the wordless harmony between him and Eno (brief though it may be) and the viola line that follows it are nothing less than stunning.

Still, one track on a CD isn't really a good batting average. And while I haven't performed a side-by-side comparison, I'm not inclined to suspect that this 2006 reissue is remastered-- it sounds fine, but I don't hear a difference to speak of between this and the previous release (probably because there is none). My copy has had issues playing for a while, so I don't particularly feel I wasted my money (on the other hand, I never felt the burning need to replace that damaged copy before this reissue surfaced...). If you already have the previous issue of this recording, this one is probably worthless for you. If you don't, it's likely you don't need this-- this one is for Cale collectors and perhaps the completely rabid Eno fan.
HASH(0x93c16a8c) out of 5 stars John Cale. What need one anything else- some days. 7 Dec. 2013
By LAURA - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
The "4 stars" are for the Welshman. Not his best album, in any sense, save for one song that could rank among the greatest adaptations of poetic verse ever. Yet again, not on the album. My opinionated opinion, and Master Cale indeed is quite right to save the best for live versions - I have some thank you. But and yes anything the man produces is genius. - Avoid harassing me about syntax, please read Emily Dickinson. If you don't manage to see him in concert - sorrow.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x93c16a38) out of 5 stars a profoundly moving masterpiece 7 Aug. 2006
By seedwick - Published on
this is arguably the greatest music documentary ever filmed. it certainly blows spinal tab right out of the tub. the filmmakers and musicians seem to have acted as one mind to bring us this condensed golden nugget of pure hillarity, this sublime comic fugue, this subtle, silvery spiderweb of laughs that will surely ensnare even the most stony-faced fly. so many great moments: the stiff interviews with perfectly timed awkward pauses, the endless takes of bellowing, bathetic singing, the crazy violinist...

it's too bad that dylan thomas had to say good night before this came out, but i'm sure he's whirring happily in his grave. i hope one day this same team tackles some of the other luminaries of poetry.
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