John Cale – Slow Dazzle (1975)

FrontCover1John Davies Cale, OBE (born 9 March 1942) is a Welsh musician, composer, singer, songwriter and record producer who was a founding member of the American rock band the Velvet Underground. Over his five-decade career, Cale has worked in various styles across rock, drone, classical, avant-garde and electronic music.

He studied music at Goldsmiths College, University of London, before relocating in 1963 to New York City’s downtown music scene, where he performed as part of the Theatre of Eternal Music and formed the Velvet Underground. Since leaving the band in 1968, Cale has released 16 solo studio albums, including the widely acclaimed Music for a New Society. Cale has also acquired a reputation as an adventurous producer, working on the debut albums of several innovative artists, including the Stooges and Patti Smith.

Slow Dazzle is the fifth solo studio album by Welsh musician John Cale, released on 25 March 1975, his second album for record label Island.

“Mr. Wilson” is about seminal American musician Brian Wilson; the Beach Boys founding member has been a strong influence on Cale’s work over the years. The song reflects the strong, divisive personal struggles in Wilson’s life. The music’s tone fluctuates from paranoid and unhappy to warm and pleasant moment by moment.


“Heartbreak Hotel” is a cover of the Elvis Presley song (written by Mae Boren Axton and Tommy Durden) with fundamental elements of the track changed such the singing taking in “chilling” screams and dark synthesizer elements added to the background.

The track “Guts” opens with the line “The bugger in the short sleeves fucked my wife”. This refers to rock musician Kevin Ayers sleeping with Cale’s wife before the concert that’s captured on the June 1, 1974 album; John Cale related the details in his autobiography, with Victor Bockris, What’s Welsh for Zen, that was published in 1998.


“The Jeweler” is a spoken word piece under an instrumental backdrop that recalls, at least in its poetic and freeform structure, the track “The Gift” from the Velvet Underground’s album White Light/White Heat. While Cale speaks in a calm, monotone voice, “The Jeweler” features a drone-like set of unsettling sounds that appear to build and build without reaching a conclusion. The non-vocal side of the track is somewhat reminiscent of contemporary 1970s-era horror film scoring.

The cover photography was by Keith Morris. It is also the second consecutive album to feature both Brian Eno and Phil Manzanera of Roxy Music.

Slow Dazzle was released on 25 March 1975. No singles were released off the album, although there was a promotional-only single of “Dirtyass Rock ‘n’ Roll” b/w “Heartbreak Hotel”. (by wikipedia)


Recording again with Phil Manzanera, along with noted journeyman guitarist Chris Spedding, Cale kept up the focus and amazing music on Slow Dazzle, easily the equal of Fear in terms of overall quality. With Brian Eno again helping out on synth work, Slow Dazzle comes across as a little more fried and unsettling than earlier work. Even the warm, epic lift of the chorus of “Mr. Wilson,” very much a tribute to the Beach Boys’ main man and one of the best he’s ever received, is surrounded by strings and piano both lovely and paranoid. The more accurate tone of the record can be found in such numbers as “Dirty Ass Rock ‘n’ Roll,” an intelligent, sly demolition of the lifestyle done to a glam-touched chug topped off with brass and backing singers, and even more dramatically with “Heartbreak Hotel.”


One of the most amazing cover versions ever, and arguably the best Elvis Presley revamp in existence, the slower pace, freaked-out Eno synth arrangement, and above all else Cale’s chilling delivery make it a masterpiece. Then there’s “Guts,” which deserves notice for its low-key but still sharp feedback snarl and steady, cool rhythm, but perhaps has its best moment with Cale’s gasped, killer starting lyric: “The bugger in the short sleeves f*cked my wife.” For all of the stronger rock power, Cale’s obviously not out to be pigeonholed, thus the calmer swing of many other numbers, like the great ’50s rock tribute “Darling I Need You,” featuring great guest sax from Andy Mackay, and the quick, almost sprightly “Ski Patrol.” In terms of his own performance, Cale’s voice again sounds marvelous, balanced perfectly between roughness and trained control, while his piano skills similarly find the connection between straightforward melodies and technical skill. (by Ned Raggett)


John Cale (guitar, keyboards, clavinet, vocals)
Gerry Conway (drums)
Timi Donald (drums)
Pat Donaldson (bass)
Brian Eno (synthesizer)
Phil Manzanera (guitar)
Chris Spedding (guitar)
Chris Thomas (violin, piano)
Geoff Muldaur (background vocals on harmony vocals on “Guts” and “Darling I Need You”


01. Mr. Wilson 3.17
02. Taking It All Away 3.00
03. Dirty-Ass Rock ‘n’ Roll 4.45
04. Darling I Need You 3.39
05. Rollaroll 3.59
06. Heartbreak Hotel 3.14
07. Ski Patrol 2.13
08. I’m Not The Loving Kind 3.12
09. Guts 3.27
10. The Jeweller 5-07

All tracks composed by John Cale,
except 06. which was written by Mae Boren Axton, Tommy Durden & Elvis Presley



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