Top positive review
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A great album with so so extras
on 4 July 2006
Mention the name John Cale in casual conversation and there is a risk you will be discussing the pervasive influence of the Velvet Underground on contemporary music till you eyelids wither from boredom. That or you will be regaled on how "Music For A New Society" is a bleak masterpiece. Or just as likely the other person will look at you like you have suddenly acquired a badger sprouting from your left nostril and enquire "John who?"
What is beyond doubt is Cale is a great artist , and while "Music For A New Society " is a very fine album there is a very persuasive argument that his masterpiece is "Paris 1919". Released in 1973 Cale titled the album after the 1919 Paris peace conference where the burnished glitterati of the world set out its agenda and order for the 20th Century. There are nine songs spread over 31minutes encompassing powerful themes-ennui, homesickness, turmoil, and the erosion of political boundaries- to ambiguous often imponderable lyrics.
The music is stately and melodiously sumptuous, utilising plump orchestration and tense layers of keyboard. Whether it is the baroque magnificence of the title track or the lilting yet gorgeous ballad "Andalucia" the album is relentlessly brilliant. "Hanky Panky Nohow" is an esemplasitc tower of melancholic melody. "Half Past France" sounds uncannily like a track off Enos "Before And After Science" four years before it was released. "Childs Christmas In Wales "glows with layers of tender instrumentation and effulgent detail. "The Endless Plain Of Fortune" is wonderfully sombre and portentous with a lovely high register guitar counter pointing the monochromatic walls of orchestration. "Macbeth" is by contrast verging on glam rock with a stomping arrangement and juicy scowls of guitar. "Graham Greene" is a perky vaudeville misprint with it's eccentric but caustic couplets including the choice line "Welcome back to Chipping and Sodbury". Final track "Antarctica Starts Here" is sung in a stage whisper and is a repressed little song with softly stroked keyboard notes, gentle acoustics and sparse but languid bass backing.
At the risk of being controversial I would say that this expanded version is rather superfluous. The extra tracks apart from one new song -"Burned Out Affair" which is nothing to get carried away about -are all demos or inferior versions ruined by extraneous chatter. The original album is perfect as it is ....these just break the spell that Paris 1919 so effortlessly and ravishingly casts.