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POP MUSIC REVIEW : Cale Taps Into Haunting Undercurrents

October 05, 1994|RICHARD CROMELIN

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO — John Cale came to the Coach House on Monday to promote a new double-CD compilation of his post-Velvet Underground music. So he played a set with hardly any songs from the collection.

A typically contrary gesture from the 52-year-old musician, whose varied body of work has been treasured by a loyal cult that's followed his moves from rock psychodrama to orchestrated Dylan Thomas poems, from stately, folk-like ballads to ambitious song cycles.

While the Welshman's thick, distinctive vocal tone still has its innate robustness, the gasps and screams his fans enjoy so much sounded a little underpowered at Monday's show. His heart didn't really seem in them as he played down his demented side, omitting his psycho anthems and confining his signature rants to the tail-ends of a few songs.

Instead, he emphasized the haunting, melancholy aspects of his work, tapping its undercurrents of intrigue, Angst and nostalgia. Cale's piano provided a resourceful and propulsive accompaniment, and his meditative solo on "Heartbreak Hotel" transformed for a second time a song that he radically reinvented 20 years ago, showing that while his music has been neatly boxed for consumption, his creative spirit remains vital.

* Cale plays tonight at the Troubadour, 9081 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, 7 p.m. $22. (310) 276-6168.

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