File under obscure favorites. If I may recommend a must have album that never shows up on any of those circle-jerk best-of lists, please take the time to discover John Cale’s Vintage Violence. Cale is still best known for using the viola to produce a vicious haze of electronic feedback with The Velvet Underground, and he’s carried on being forbiddingly weird throughout his solo career. Unlike Lou Reed, Cale’s walks on the wilder side never fluked their way onto the radio, and he’s never gotten up there with the big boys in terms of record sales and accolades. Which might be just fine as far as he’s concerned. He does what he wants, and if it’s not always easy to enjoy, that’s fine. But, despite a reputation for being even grumpier and more avant-garde than anyone else in his circle, he is also a master of stately emotional ballads. Which is his most accessible side, and where this particular album makes a great introduction. This is some truly underrated work, and it’s an injustice that John Cale isn’t widely accepted as one of the best songwriters and composers of his time.

Ghost Story

I was just noticing; what does it tell you about me and my blog that I have a tag for John Cale and none for John Lennon? Because you may have never heard of Cale, but he’s so much a part of my life he’s at a Beatles-level height of importance. The Velvet Underground is like mother’s milk to me. If you didn’t grow up learning this stuff, you’re at a severe disadvantage and I pity you. If you need to get started on Cale, Vintage Violence is a good place. It’s his first and also his mellowest album. He goes from there to some weirder places, not all of which even I will follow.  He’s an uncompromising artist, one of those who doesn’t care at all if he appeals to anyone or not. He doesn’t have that problem that Lou Reed has where he suddenly catches himself becoming too popular and esteemed and has to make a grand effort to make himself unappealing again. He also doesn’t have as much money as Lou Reed does. But that’s the deal – don’t give ’em an inch of rope, John.