, Cale’s baroque if heartfelt response to the Anglo-Argentinian War, which finds him setting the poems of his beloved Dylan Thomas to music.When building songs around another’s words, the results often sound forced, but Cale does a magnificent job of compressing Thomas’s lyricism into neat melodic phrases, themselves just components of a vast harmonic mega-structure scored for Russia’s Orchestra of Symphonic & Popular Music of Gostelradio.“I love helping someone achieve his goals,” the Welshman would later reflect, sounding distinctly Eno-like, before adding, a tad grandiosely, “I always try to approach it from the point of view, ‘What would a Zen master do in these circumstances?’ And that is not to give the artist a direct answer to all his questions, but to suggest a solution by other means.” The solution Cale prescribed Nico for her sophomore album, , turned what was always going to be a fine album – Nico having found her true, troubled writing voice, with digressive lyrics attending to motherhood, mortality, Richard Nixon and peyote tripping with Jim Morrison – into a fierce, filigreed masterpiece.
Still, (ELEKTRA, 1969) Historically Cale is a remarkably sympathetic producer and arranger, his work for other artists (The Stooges, Patti Smith, Modern Lovers and so on) notable for its lightness of touch; he isn’t one to impose his own “sound” on his charges, instead happy to treat his role as that of enabler.
Having contributed to the German beauty’s polite solo debut , and though he didn’t produce it – that duty fell to Frazier Mohawk – he arranged it and played virtually all the instruments (electric viola, piano, bass, electric guitar, glockenspiel, bells, mouth organ and bosun’s pipe).
The settings he creates for Nico’s voice and harmonium treads confidently the thin line between lavish, neo-classical grandeur and ascetic, atonal minimalism, a very European sound that anticipates Bowie’s .
You can read more about Cale and his Field Day appearance here; below, Kiran Sande picks out his 10 favourite albums from the Cale catalogue.
JOHN CALE (TABLE OF THE ELEMENTS, 2001) Abandoning his classical education, John Cale landed an apprenticeship with Xiannis Xenakis and worked with John Cage before falling into the orbit of West Coast drone magus and purveyor of profoundly psychedelic”holy minimalism” La Monte Young.