John Cale Fragments of a Rainy Season

John Cale Fragments of a Rainy Season
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Although not quite as celebrated as his Velvet Underground bandmate Lou Reed, John Cale has an impressive body of solo work. In 1992, just as he was at that crossroad between youth and middle age, he encapsulated his artistic perspective with the live album Fragments of a Rainy Season. It featured his prettier tunes, but it also captured him reinterpreting songs from his '70s and '80s art-punk days.
 
On this reissue, we get songs that sound much like their originals, such as "Cordoba" from 1990's Wrong Way Up — albeit stripped down — but we also get more mellow versions of harsh-edged tunes like "Guts." Cale's quirkiness and even his anger are still present, but his delivery is emotive and stately, as befits the seasoned veteran he was even then.
 
The distillation works in at least two ways: the more punk/garage numbers lose their noisiness so that you can better hear the melody and emotion, and the more ballad-like tunes that originally had lush orchestration are reduced down to sparser versions that emphasize the intimate lyricism. Either way, there is a more direct conduit to Cale the man and Cale the artist.
 
This reissue also features previously unreleased material, which (as usual) is better suited to the dedicated completist than the average fan (I don't know how many versions of "Fear (Is a Man's Best Friend)" you really need to hear), but Cale's take on "I'm Waiting for the Man" alone is almost worth the price of admission. (Double Six / Domino)