At the time of its original release in 1973, John Cale – the former Velvet Underground member – described the album as “an example of the nicest way of saying something ugly”. And he wasn’t wrong.

On the face of it, 'Paris 1919' is Cale’s most accessible album: full of lush, gentle melodies like 'Andalucia' that wouldn’t be too out of place on the Velvet’s eponymous third album and mixes up rock, soul and classical elements. It’s a million miles away from his work with the likes of minimalist composer Terry Riley, the experimentation of the Velvet Underground or producing the likes of Patti Smith or the Stooges. He even roped in members of Little Feat as part of his backing band.

But anything other than a superficial examination of the lyrics reveals some wide-ranging concerns of Cale’s and something of a bitchy side to the Welshman. There’s the grand sweep of European real politick in 'The Endless Plain of Fortune' and the title track; organised religion gets a sharp poke in the ribs in 'Graham Greene' and he’s not adverse to a spot of bitchiness either:

“It must all seem like second nature
Chopping down the people where they stand.”

And it’s all very literate. Getting a reference include poet Dylan Thomas, and William Shakespeare as well as Graham Greene.

Despite the rather ragtag assembly of concerns, Cale does manage to make it all hang together. Behind the abstruse thoughts there’s some gorgeous arrangements with lush, fanciful strings that give it all a sense of apocalyptic elegy. On the cover Cale is seen in reflective mood wearing a smart, brilliant white suit. On the back, four pictures – still with Cale in the white suit – see Cale slowly fall over. The existing world is about to collapse.

'Paris 1919' has recently been re-released and inevitably, as with any reissue nowadays, there’s the usual array of outtakes and alternate versions. The only one here of any real interest is 'Burned Out Affair' which was recorded at the time but never made it onto the finished album.










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