Saturday, March 12, 2011

John Cale

I was reminded yesterday of yet another semi-obscure musician whose work I have always loved: John Cale, formerly of the Velvet Underground. I'm really not familiar with his entire oeuvre, just mainly the VU stuff, a couple of solo albums, and Songs for 'Drella, the tribute he did with Lou Reed, in honor of Andy Warhol. I'm not what anyone would call a big Warhol fan, beyond being very grateful that he gave us the Velvet Underground back in the day, but the tribute album is stunning, with Reed and Cale at the tops of their respective games, both musically and lyrically.

John Cale has an uncanny ability to write the simplest, prettiest songs with the most shimmering accompaniments, and I forget that if I haven't listened to him in awhile.

Back in October, on a Halloween show I recorded so I will never forget it, Malcolm Tent featured a song of Cale's called "Ghost." I had never heard it before: a sweet, baroque-sounding gem, telling, obviously, a ghost story. It utterly captivated me, and I went around humming it for days before I decided -- hey! Why not google around and see if I can find out what album it's on? Maybe the rest of the album is just as good, or better.

The album in question dates back to 1973, and is entitled "Paris 1919." Every song tells its own story, and the musical arrangements all have that sweet, pretty, chamber orchestra sort of feel to them. It is beautiful, charming, delightful, utterly captivating as the one song which was my introduction to the work.

Yesterday after lunch, I found myself filled with a longing to listen to the whole album, so I cued it up on my mp3 player and turned to the work at hand.

One song in particular spoke to me, so strongly I grabbed a post-it and a pen and wrote a note to myself so I wouldn't forget: find lyrics and tab for "Hanky Panky Nohow." The chord progression sounded simple, and so eloquent and lovely in its simplicity. But such an obscure piece! It would be a miracle if I could find it.

But I did find it, on my first search, and since the chords were not ones I knew off the top of my head, another quick google gave me all the information I needed. The chords are indeed simple, yet sound so sweet and elegant, and it's under my fingers already: so satisfying! Now, all I have to do is memorize it.

I wish I could do the song in the original key, as it sounds so rich that way, but my voice will not go that low, and if I sing it up an octave, it sounds too "girly" for my tastes. I want it to sound deeper, richer, huskier. I was afraid it would sound silly with a capo on the 6th fret, but it doesn't.

So, there is another gorgeous song I've been gifted with this week, along with "Dancing Barefoot" and "I Hope That I Don't Fall in Love With You."

I have played so much this week, my calluses actually have grooves in them, and my forefinger is starting to blister from messing around with barre chords. I really never thought I'd see the day when I would even attempt barre chords, but now I am actually playing some. I feel like I have made a lot of progress in this past year.

And I love my new Ibanez so much, I'm thinking I have to give it a name soon....

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