Search - John Cale :: Helen of Troy

Helen of Troy
John Cale
Helen of Troy
Genres: Alternative Rock, Special Interest, Pop, Rock
  •  Track Listings (12) - Disc #1

The Velvet Underground co-founder's 1975 solo album for Island, never released in the U.S. Phil Collins, Brian Eno &Chris Spedding all guest on the album, which features 12 tracks, including a cover of Jonathan Richman's c...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: John Cale
Title: Helen of Troy
Members Wishing: 5
Total Copies: 0
Label: Universal/Polygram
Release Date: 7/15/2002
Album Type: Import
Genres: Alternative Rock, Special Interest, Pop, Rock
Styles: Hardcore & Punk, Experimental Music, Progressive, Progressive Rock
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 731452211620


Album Description
The Velvet Underground co-founder's 1975 solo album for Island, never released in the U.S. Phil Collins, Brian Eno &Chris Spedding all guest on the album, which features 12 tracks, including a cover of Jonathan Richman's classic 'Pablo Picasso' (which coincidentally Cale had produced for Richman before when he fronted the Modern Lovers). 1998 Island Records release.

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CD Reviews

"I'd do it NOW...!!!"
Lypo Suck | Hades, United States | 05/28/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"John Cale is a genius. Period. And on no albums was his genius-ness more prominent and seminal than on "Paris 1919" and the Island trilogy - "Fear", "Slow Dazzle", and "Helen of Troy", released in the early to mid 70s. Most people have a tendency to site "Fear" as their favorite of the Island trilogy, but "Helen of Troy" has always been mine. Here's why:To me "Helen of Troy" is not only the most consistent in terms of quality, but it's the most accomplished and successfully diverse. You see, Cale's solo work has never sat easily in one stylistic mold, yet every song still has his unmistakable mark in every note. And it's on "Helen of Troy" where he creates his most stylistically divergent set of songs yet, and it works perfectly.The album starts off with "My Maria", a hauntingly melodic song that manages to harness in both a spine-tinglingly beautiful chorus *and* some of guitarist Chris Spedding's gnarliest guitar shredding ever committed to vinyl. It's also got this awesome marimba thing during the verses. Then you've got "China Sea", a gem of a pop song that incorporates a heavy Brian Wilson influence; a bouncy beat, infectious melodies, a sophisticated arrangement, and Cale's beautifully gruff voice crooning about junkies and what not. "Save Us", on the other hand, pre-dates the Birthday Party's chaotic skronk by about 6 years. Pounding drums, low, discordant de-tuned, aggressively strummed guitars, and manic shards of atonal organ make up the verses, while the chorus slips into what could only be described as Todd Rundgren on a particularly bad trip. Cale, of course, shouts and growls his head off the whole way through. Tortured and utterly frightening. "Engine" starts off with a nice little Brian Wilson-esque piano part, then builds up into one of the most violent, cathartic explosions ever laid down on tape. Again, the Birthday Party (as great as they were) wished they could've been this scary. And then we've got the lovely, mesmerizing "I keep a Close Watch", a gentle Wilson-esque "symphony to god" that features some of Cale's most accomplished, orchestral arrangements since "Paris 1919". The lush strings and the sad, weak-in-the-knees melodies form the perfect atmosphere for Cale's bitter words about his thoroughly [messed] up love-life. "Leaving it Up to You" finds Cale in [upset] mode again, and when he screams "I'd do it NOW, RIGHT NOW YOU FASCIST!", it ALWAYS makes my hair stand on end. Few pop singer/songwriters have ever grunted, growled and shouted with such heartfelt sincerity. This has to be one of the most demented, tormented pop songs in the history of rock. But that's Cale in a nutshell. Sad, beautiful, accomplished, violent, and highly emotional, all in the span of 3 minutes. Then you've got the rumbling quasi-funk of the title track (about life w/ transvestites), the tortured howling on "Cable Hogue", the glass-shattering, manic slide guitars on Cale's version of Jonathan Richman's "Pablo Picasso", and the random, metallic noises interspersed throughout "Sudden Death" which all make up an extraordinary album of tremendous depth, well-crafted songs, and a sublimely cathartic experience. In times when bands seem content to paint themselves into the limiting, factionalized corners of specific genres and sub-genres, it's refreshing to hear Cale deftly meld so many styles into ONE unique, poetic vision. What's upsetting is that so few people have chosen to follow his lead, and that I can't really think of ANY records where the artist maintains this much control over a multitude of styles, while maintaining such a high level of gut-wrenchingly intense, heartfelt honesty. I can't recommend this enough."
Uneven, experimental effort.
Michael Stack | North Chelmsford, MA USA | 04/01/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)

"Helen of Troy is the weakest of the three Island Cale albums, but its of marginal value with "The Island Years", which has Cale's entire output from his time on Island and (at least as I write this) is comparably priced to this release. All three Island albums have something to offer, and there's some extra material on the set.

Cale assembled an album largely experimental in mood and style-- while normally this would work well for me, I found this one failed more often than it succeeded. There are some stunningly brilliant moments-- guitar-driven "My Maria", with its great arrangement and brilliant vocal harmonies, the absolutely lovely, introspective, and lush ballad, "I Keep a Close Watch", Cale's cover of the rocking Modern Lovers song "Pablo Picasso" loses some of the originals off-kilter delivery, but adds some great bite to the piece, the tortured lead vocal on "Cable Hogue", and the mighty "Leaving It Up To You" (on most versions). The latter is a dark, haunting, explosive, tormented song, paranoid and deranged, Cale hisses, spits, wails, and screams his vocal in a way quite unmatched anywhere else on record by anyone. It alone is worth the price of admission, but the song was deemed so disturbing it was often pulled from the album by the label.

Beyond that though, the album seems to fail more often than not-- some of the songs are reasonable enough-- "Helen of Troy" is actually a great song marred by a horrible voiceover, "Save Us" is decent enough, but the rest of the record is largely forgettable.

Of course, "Leaving It Up To You" is worth the price of admission alone, but "The Island Years" is a much better value."
A Tight Album!
Morten Vindberg | Denmark | 01/05/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

""Helen of Troy" is probably the tightest sounding, of Cale's three Island albums, which is really not very surprising, since it was recorded with his touring band consisting of Chris Spedding on guitar, Timmy Donald on drums and Pat Donaldson on bass. Cale's vocals sound very strong throughout the album and his song-writing generally on par with "Fear" and "Slow Dazzle". Maybe the album is not quite as varied as its predecessors and the general sound may appear slightly harder and a couple of tracks like "Engine" and "Pablo Picasso" could be hard to the delicate ear to listen to.

On the other hand there are also softer melodic moment with the beautful "China Sea" ( the most Brian Wilson inspired track on the album ) and the ballad "I Keep a Close Watch", which Cale is said to have hoped that FRank Sinatra would record.

A favourite of mine is the sparsely instrumentated "Cable Hogue", with heartful vocals and a Pink Floyd sounding acoustic guitar.

"Coral Moon", which replaced the controversal "Leaving it Up to You" is also a nice track showing the softer side of Cale.

Songs like "Helen of Troy" and "Sudden Death" have a great dramatic feel to them, but Cale's version of "Baby, What You Want Me to Do", though tightly played, somehow doesn't really work in this context, and its a track that may well be the first you want to skip over.

Though not among the very best Cale releases, still a very good album."