With all due respect to Tom Jones, The Greatest Living Welsh Musician was always John Cale. His contributions to the advancement of Rock music are legendary and tangible. But his greatest strength is in how his creativity isn’t necessarily tied to the avant-garde from which he came. Though his introduction of drone into the vocabulary of Rock was groundbreaking, I’ve always felt like the poignancy and dignity of his ballads were second to none…and I’m looking at you, Mr. Dylan. That we had material like the redemptive prairie ballad of “Buffalo Ballet” cheek by jowl with unsettling breakdowns like “Fear Is A Man’s Best Friend” within the space of two songs on the “Fear” album was a startling measure of his range and versatility.
I’ve seen the man live three times and the events were alternately shambolic, spellbinding, and off putting. But in two days is a concert that all eyes should be upon. On Friday he’s set to celebrate his 80th birthday [which technically happened in March] with a concert in Cardiff, Wales at the Wales Millennium Centre with a series of special guests who will not be on the rest of his UK tour. To wit:
- Sinfonia Cymru Orchestra
- Cate Le Bon
- Gruff Rhys
- James Dean Bradfield [Manic Street Preachers]
With that much firepower to draw upon, it’s sure to be a high-water-mark musical event. And believe it or not, there remain a selection of seats available in the Circle and Upper Circle of the Donald Gordon Theatre [pictured above], in the £20-40 price range that would have me capitulating if the circumstances were right for me. Alas, I’m thousands of miles away and I just found out about the event today. And…pandemic. But if you are within striking distance of Cardiff and have the interest [and anyone reading this should] then get those tickets now.
But wait… there’s more John Cale news. With his last album having been 2016’s re-think of “Music For A New Society” as “M:FANS” I’ve grown to think that Cale was content to sit back and meditate as he approached 80. Fortunately, this is not the case as his new album “Mercy” will be released on Domino on January 20th, 2023.
John Cale: Mercy – US – CD 
- Mercy [Feat. Laurel Halo]
- Marilyn Monroe’s Legs (Beauty Elsewhere) [Feat. Actress]
- Noise Of You
- Story Of Blood [Feat. Weyes Blood]
- Time Stands Still [Feat. Sylvan Esso]
- Moonstruck (Nico’s Song)
- Everlasting Days [Feat. Animal Collective]
- Night Crawling
- Not The End Of The World
- The Legal Status Of Ice [Feat. Fat White Family]
- I Know You’re Happy [Feat. Tei Shi]
- Out Your Window
There’s quite a bit of collaboration with acts familiar in name to me from both the pages of The Quietus as well as the forward thinking Big Ears Festival. The latter hosted Cale in 2014. It’s good to see Cale showing the new breed how its done. It’s in a quartet of format choices. Twelve track DL/CD/2xLP as well as a DLX 2xLP edition in transparent blue vinyl plus an added 7″ bonus single with two exclusive tracks. An alternative version of “Mercy” with Tony Allen and the song “Pretty People.”
The limited edition above is in a pressing of 1000 copies and if you want that extra 7″ it will set you back $45.00 for the bundle. The standard LP is at $29, The CD is $15, and the DL is available at CD quality at $9.99 or 24-bit high-res at $11.99. Thoughtful. I imagine I will be buying the standard CD at my local emporium, but for those who want more, pre-orders of all formats are available, just hit that button.