Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Rock of Ages: John Cale - "Paris 1919" (1973)

The other mastermind behind The Velvet Underground, John Cale moved onto a rather excellent solo career that got overshadowed by the giant Lou Reed. His music is much more baroque at times, yet he can still lash out a crunchy rocker here and there (see his track "Gun" form Fear.) The more revered record of Cale's catalog is Paris 1919, a collection of intriguing tracks that range from baroque pop to fast boogies. The titular track in question is a very beautiful and dainty track, but one that fills the listener with joy and wonderment. "Paris 1919" takes a less melancholy turn from its predecessor, "Eleanor Rigby" by The Beatles. The comparison lies in the composition itself and that's about it. Entirely composed of strings and some embellishment from French horns, the song has an air of elegance to it.

Although the song is comprised of grandiose instrumentation, it is sparse all at once. Strings and horns only fill the air, but John Cale seems to command it with a lightness that lets the notes soar on their own. "Paris 1919" is a perfect pop song that takes the unconventional route of using baroque instruments rather than rock instruments. John Cale's career is one of mystery. His time in the Velvets and his solo career output some of the best art rock and straight up best pop music I have ever heard, but beyond inspiring bands like Yo La Tengo, his name is oft forgotten or overshadowed by his other Velvets half, Lou Reed. They both created some of the best art rock of the 1970's and "Paris 1919" may be one of the best pop songs of that era.

Up Next: The Greatest Rock Song Of All Time

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