Mercy of the violist - Newspaper Kommersant No. 14 (7459) of 01/26/2023


One of the founding members of The Velvet Underground, John Cale, released a new album "Mercy", which brought together the most interesting representatives of the young generation of musicians, as he sees it. Album listened to Igor Gavrilov.

Lou Reed was a hardcore rock 'n' roller in modern music's seminal band, The Velvet Underground, who went through not only the electroshock therapy his parents gave him to rid him of his bisexual tendencies, but also the sweet-voiced pop in the doo-wap band The Jades and on Pickwick Records. And the Welsh violist John Cale received classical music at the University of London, and modern music at La Monte Young's Dream Syndicate. For him, belonging to the musical workshop meant involvement in high art.

United under the auspices of a group sponsored by Andy Warhol, Reed and Cale showed the world how "pop" and "art" can coexist within a single musical ensemble. They were both 100% avant-garde and songwriters whose songs are still heard in films and on commercial radio stations.

Lou Reed left this world almost ten years ago, and they parted ways with Cale back in the late 1960s. Participation in The Velvet Underground was a short period in the biography of John Cale - from 1965 to 1969. Only four years, if you don't count short nostalgic reunions in the 1990s. Four years against the backdrop of a huge life - now he is 80. However, it was his participation in the creation of a myth called The Velvet Underground that determined his occupation for the rest of the 20th century and now for more than two decades of the 21st.

All these years he remains in the world of songs and albums, experimenting with rock and pop music. Cale wrote music for himself and produced for others, wrote soundtracks for films and occasionally recalled his classical musical education - releasing instrumental albums, inventing songs for the piano and elegant arrangements for the spoken word. It is worth remembering that the "Falkland Suite", included in the album "Words For The Dying" (1989), was recorded by John Cale at the Gosteleradio studio in Moscow.

Convincing tracks with traditional pop roots have appeared regularly in John Cale's discography. His previous album of original material, Shifty Adentures In Nookie Wood (2012), was no exception. There was an incredible rock number “I Wanna Talk 2 You”, which even today easily pops up in memory, although many remember the album in the first place because of Cheburashka on its cover.

If in 2012 the new album sounded like a reminder that the whole guard of great songwriters - Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, David Byrne, Lou Reed, Tom Waits - are still in the ranks and should not be discounted, then to In 2023, this series has significantly thinned. And those who are with us rarely give out something completely fresh, mostly keeping quiet or reissuing back catalogs.

For the recording of his 17th studio album, Mercy, Cale brought in young artists, but not those who are already well-lit in the music industry, as, for example, Elton John did in his album The Lockdown Sessions (2021), but those for whom the appearance of Cale on the album is a rare and necessary chance to get new listeners, and not from among their peers, but from among experienced music lovers.

John Cale's partners on "Mercy" include Californian electronics artist Laurel Halo, English DJ Actress, psychedelic star of the second half of the 2010s Wise Blood, electropop duo Sylvan Esso and Colombian-Canadian singer Tei-Shi. By the way, all of them are over 30, so you can’t really call collaborators young people. Here it is worth remembering that John Cale himself came to The Velvet Underground as an experienced, albeit far from the 30th anniversary, musician. Participation in "Mercy" for guest artists is both an honor, recognition of merit, and, perhaps, that necessary "golden kick" that their careers lacked.

The most recognizable name on Cale's list of associates is Animal Collective, an established folk-psychedelic act with over 20 years of experience. In the song "Everlasting Days" they are responsible for the mysterious and frightening acoustic environment, but the voice of John Cale sings a perfectly clear melody. Only in the last third the rhythm accelerates, and the alliance of the classics of two different eras takes the song to a new compositional level.

In new songs, John Cale can recall icons of the 20th century like David Bowie or Marilyn Monroe, reflect on the theme of his rich biography (his video “Noise Of You” was filmed on this topic), or shine with old man’s nobility in a duet with Wise Blood “Story Of Blood” , but the song thought itself is always as if suspended in a special sound space, either in weightlessness, or in an environment like “Inside Out” from “Very Strange Things”. Cale sings and the sound of his voice slowly moves up.



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