Velvet Underground co-founder John Cale made his bow as a solo artist with 1970’s Vintage Violence, an eclectic and unexpectedly subdued art-rock offering. Those hoping for feedback-drenched freakouts and wailing celebrations of decadence were instead treated to a brace of thoughtfully poetic, even genteel tunes. After years of working in the shadow of Velvets leader Lou Reed, Cale loosened up and explored the full range of his songwriting talents in these tracks. The prevailing mood here is dreamy and slightly unsettled, filtered through oblique lyrics and folk and pop-flavored melodies. Some tracks — especially “Amsterdam” — have a delicately yearning quality. Others, like “Adelaide” and “Cleo” are sweet-centered lollipops of sound. Cale’s darker side is exposed in the sinister “Gideon’s Bible” and the expansive “Big White Cloud,” and you can hear the influence of the Band in certain spots, particularly on the piano-driven “Bring it on Up.” For the most part, though, the music is unmistakably Cale’s own, augmented by the sharp-elbowed playing of his backup band Grinderswitch. Vintage Violence lacks the maniacal intensity of Cale’s later output, but on its own merits, it’s a beguiling work that insinuates rather than screams.
Big White Cloud
Bring It On Up
13 Songs, 44 Minutes
February 13, 2001
℗ Originally Recorded 1969, Originally Released 1970, (P) 2001 Sony Music Entertainment Inc.