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The supporting crew on Cale’s final Island album makes for a lineup that could never have happened again — at least, in terms of future results, imagining, among others, Cale, Chris Spedding, Brian Eno, and Phil Collins once more in the same room together seems totally unlikely. Regardless of the oddity, Cale once again led a great ensemble band (Spedding now having fully taken over from Manzanera on guitar) through another set of great, inspiring songs. Whoever is putting in the guitar solos, Spedding or Cale, sometimes misfires, sometimes succeeds brilliantly — consider opening song “My Maria,” where the earlier efforts are intrusive but the concluding parts a perfect addition to the building smack of the song. Cale’s songs generally tend towards the uneasy throughout, his sometimes strained but never forced singing, high volume at points, making the most of the material. The atmosphere of the album as a whole is perhaps the most band-oriented of the three Island records, with further arrangements sounding like additions more than intrinsic parts of the songs. It’s not a criticism, though, more an interesting experiment with often strong results, like the strident horns and heavily treated noise on the title track. “I Keep a Close Watch” is the secret emotional sucker punch on Helen of Troy — Cale long harbored a sadly unfulfilled dream that Frank Sinatra might cover it, and there’s little doubt why. Taking the opening line from Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line” as inspiration, with a much different thematic intent, it’s an unabashedly romantic number with a great string and horn arrangement. There are, again, gentler moments that call to mind earlier tributes to the Beach Boys here and there, such as “China Sea,” along with a great rendition of Jonathan Richman’s “Pablo Picasso.” Overall, Helen of Troy finds Cale at his edgiest, with fascinating results.

-Ned Raggett,

John Cale-HELEN OF TROY (1975)



  1. Thanks for all your work and your great choices (like that Lee Hazlewood string of posts)! This is my favourite blog for sure.Btw, Helen Of Troy is my favourite John Cale album, Animal Justice is great too.

    • funkentelechology
    • Posted November 15, 2009 at 6:30 pm
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    Thanks for this, I've been looking for this for a while! For some reason, I've always liked the second side of "the Academy in Peril," almost more than any other Cale solo effort, even more than Vintage Violence, which is a very close second. (Although, I have yet to heard Helen of Troy.)

    • funkentelechology
    • Posted November 15, 2009 at 6:33 pm
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    Wow – sorry for this follow up, but looking over Cale's discography, I never noticed "Church of Anthrax" before, which he did with TERRY RILEY! I'll defenitely have to check that out.

  2. Thanks… it's impossible to find high quality John Cale albums on the web. I listen to my Cale records constantly. Great upload!

  3. wow, thank you for this great John Cale album.may your days be sunny : Kill.Waas

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