Music » Livewire

John Cale

Tuesday, December 12, at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

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John Cale is an enigmatic, dour Welshman with a quirky sense of humor, exquisitely refined aesthetic sense, and a checkered, fascinating rock-and-roll résumé. Cale, who turns 60 this month, is a founding member of the Velvet Underground, but because he refused to play second fiddle to the preening, autocratic Lou Reed, was dismissed in late '68, thereby launching two distinguished solo careers. Reed has come closer to commercial success than Cale, but Cale's musical legacy may be richer in the long run. It's certainly less egotistic. Entranced with the notion of drone, Cale recorded wonderfully impressionistic, classically tinged albums for Warner Bros. and Columbia in the '70s, produced records for the Modern Lovers and Iggy Pop, and worked with everyone from American avant-gardist Terry Riley to British guitar genius Chris Spedding. Cale's '80s work for Ze and IRS is less memorable, though his voice remains resonant with loss, his phrasing a paradigm of wounded elegance. He makes music rich and unpredictable, no matter the genre. Latter-day CDs, particularly 1996's Walking on Locusts, prove he's retained his touch.

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