John Cale - Slow Dazzle
It never really occurred to me that "Mr. Wilson" was a tribute to the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson, as it is darker and more eccentric that any BB number, but once learning that, I can see some musical influences in the song - and Brian certainly has his darker side. "Taking It All Away" is a mid-tempo piano number, with a nice chorus buoyed by a female chorus that moves into one of the tougher songs here, the aptly-titled "Dirty Ass Rock'n'Roll" - not super heavy guitars, but cool licks, sliding bass, cool horn section and leering delivery. This is followed by what sounds like could have been a 70's Top Forty pop tune, "Darling I Need You", with its 50's styled r'n'r piano line and prominent horns - damn catchy! I was trying to think what "Rollaroll" sounded like and then Manzanera's guitar came in and yep, it is reminiscent of early Roxy Music - fantastic playing by Phil, too!
Side two of the vinyl album opens with one of the highlights of Cale's career - his heart-stopping, crazed cover of "Heartbreak Hotel". With its Psycho-sounding synth line, demented guitar lick, dirge-like pace, heavy rhythms and Cale's screams and shrieks, this would be appropriate in a horror movie, where the victim is "so lonely I could DIE". Breath-taking! Luckily, the mood lightens in "Ski Patrol", an upbeat, almost country-ish number that is followed by his mix of Roxy Music and David Bowie in "I'm Not the Loving Kind", an emotional, dramatic piece that is another stand-out here, for a very different reason than "Heartbreak Hotel"! Here John reveals - dare I say it - his sensitive side to great effect, with more terrific guitar playing - not sure if that's Spedding or Manzanera though. Something else I always missed was the opening line to "Guts": "the bugger in the short sleeves fucked my wife" - a reference to an affair that Kevin Ayers had with John's spouse right before their June 1, 1974 concert. Obviously, this is another emotionally charged song, with plenty of barely-suppressed anger and power. Excellent. The record closed with a Cale monologue set to ambient noise, "The Jeweler", which, of course, makes one think of "the Gift" on White Light/White Heat. Nicely demented, as only Cale can be.
While there are parts that might be difficult for those not well-versed in Cale's legacy, I think that overall this is one of his more accessible records, since there is heavy rock as well as pop, noise and prose.