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Review: John Cale, “Conflict and Catalysis: Productions and Arrangements 1966-2006”

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Catalysis (ca-tal-y-sis): The action of a catalyst, especially an increase in the rate of a chemical reaction.

With his induction into Ace Records’ Producers series, John Cale joins an esteemed group including Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Sly Stone, Phil Spector and Burt Bacharach.  If Cale isn’t always thought of in the same breath as those giants, it’s simply because his career has been so diverse, encompassing writing, performing and arranging for artists ranging from The Stooges to Siouxsie and the Banshees.  Well, there’s simply no better place to appreciate the man’s art than on Conflict and Catalysis (Big Beat CDWIKD 299), the illuminating new anthology devoted to John Cale, producer and arranger.  Taking in the 20 songs on display here, it’s clear that Cale’s catalysis as a producer has led to some of the most distinct work in these artists’ career, making the conflicts along the way well worth the while.

These tracks could be the work of multiple producers, so impossible is it to pin Cale to one stylistic approach.  The musically rebellious Welshman trained at Goldsmith College at the University of London, nurturing his talent on the viola.  He was in the vanguard of the avant-garde Fluxus movement and was an associate of John Cage but perhaps ironically, also a devotee of Aaron Copland.  Cale’s participation in the 18-hour performance of Erik Satie’s “Variations” even landed him a spot on Garry Moore’s popular game show I’ve Got a Secret.  All of this experimentation and fearlessness towards dissonance and musical repetition made him the perfect foil for Lou Reed when they founded The Velvet Underground.  Cale and Reed frequently clashed, but when they found themselves in synch, the results were astonishing.  Reed’s dark, earthy lyrical poetry formed a distinct union with the multi-instrumentalist Cale’s electrically-amplified viola, piano and bass guitar, creating a sound that was only rock music in the sense that it challenged convention.

What will you find on Ace’s career-spanning compilation?  Hit the jump to explore! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

March 22, 2012 at 10:05

Start of a New “Movement”: EMI Releases New Peel Sessions Compilation

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Last week’s revelation that American media conglomerate Clear Channel had let go of dozens of local radio DJs made music fans yearn for the simpler times of when jockeys weren’t limited to playlists from on high and could shape the public’s music taste in a positive way.

Ironically, as the Clear Channel news spread, EMI prepares the release of a new compilation devoted to one of England’s most famous radio presenters, the late, great John Peel. Peel, a jockey on BBC’s Radio 1 from 1967 until his death in 2004, was a pioneering force on the British music scene, embracing the cutting edge of music in every new decade, particularly the wild punk, reggae, ska and indie sounds that were emerging as the 1970s gave way to the 1980s.

Of course, playing the singles wasn’t enough: Peel frequently invited his favorite new acts to BBC’s Maida Vale Studios to record live sets for his shows. These “Peel sessions” fast became treasured recordings for serious music fans, and while the BBC often erased their tapes not long after they were done airing them, Peel’s tapes have enjoyed years of commercial release, first on his own label, Strange Fruit, in the 1980s, then on various major labels, either as part of standalone releases or bonus tracks on expanded reissues.

Very little of the tracks on this new comp – Movement: BBC Radio 1 Peel Sessions 1977-1979 – are being released for the first time. (At the very least, many of these tracks came out on Strange Fruit EPs and compilations, and are making their debut on a CD distributed by EMI, the project deriving from material commonly controlled by the label and the BBC.) But the idea of a sampler of tracks from such greats as The Jam, Joy Division, The Specials, XTC, Adam and The Ants, The Psychedelic Furs and others is pretty appealing – particularly given EMI’s announcement, which ends with the promise of more Peel compilations in the future.

Movement is available today in the U.K., and the track list is after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

October 31, 2011 at 13:06

News Roundup: However Far Away, Banshees Banished and Intrada Releases

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  • A pair of sour notes from our friends over at Slicing Up Eyeballs. First, a source from Universal Music Group tells Cure fan site Chain of Flowers that the planned triple-disc reissue of Disintegration has been delayed a third time. The set – which features the original LP, a disc of demos and outtakes and an expanded version of the live album Entreat – was originally slated for a Feb. 16 release before being pushed back to April 6. In the U.S., where distribution is being dealt with by Rhino Records, the Amazon pre-order link still has the same date. Of course, that may yet change, as other retailers (including Amazon’s Canadian branch and Best Buy) have taken that date off the books.
  • Additionally, the site also reports that Universal’s reissuing of the Siouxsie and The Banshees discography has been cancelled. “As the final four albums don’t have enough extras to warrant the double disc ‘deluxe’ treatment they have halted our programme four albums short,” founding Banshee Steven Severin wrote in a post on his Facebook page. Asked why Universal was pressing for double-disc sets of the remaining four albums (Through the Looking Glass (1987), Peepshow (1988), Superstition (1991) and The Rapture (1995)) when only the band’s debut LP, The Scream (1978) had been given the double disc treatment, Severin responded, “It’s a way of using ‘policy’ to only focus on the big sellers. You have to read between the lines.”
  • In somewhat happier news, indie film score label Intrada has announced two new titles. Henry Mancini’s semi-obscure score to The Hawaiians (1970) will be reissued in a two-disc set, limited to 1500 copies, that includes the original soundtrack LP with the complete score sourced from Mancini’s personal 1/4″ tape sessions in mono. Meanwhile, the label is also reissuing in unlimited quantities the original soundtrack to Manhunter, the 1983 adaptation of Thomas Harris’ novel Red Dragon (this was the first film to feature Hannibal Lector, although Brian Cox’s portrayal is worlds apart from Anthony Hopkins’ Oscar-winning role). The LP, making its debut on CD, features music from post-punk and electronic acts including The Prime Movers, Red 7, Shriekback and The Reds and includes one previously-unreleased bonus track. Have a go at them here and here.

Written by Mike Duquette

March 1, 2010 at 21:06