Paris 1919 (album)

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Paris 1919
Studio album by John Cale
Released 1 March 1973
Recorded Sunwest Studios, Los Angeles, United States
Genre Art rock, baroque pop
Length 31:30
Language English
Label Reprise
Producer Chris Thomas
John Cale chronology
The Academy in Peril
Paris 1919
June 1, 1974

Paris 1919 is the third studio album by Welsh musician John Cale. It was released in 1973 by record label Reprise. Musicians such as Lowell George and Wilton Felder worked with Cale on the release.

In contrast to the experimental rock of much of John Cale's work before and after Paris 1919, the album is noted for its orchestral-influenced style, reminiscent of contemporary pop rock music.[1] It has been suggested that one reason for the sound was the employment of Procol Harum producer Chris Thomas as producer for Paris 1919.[2] The baroque pop ethos of some songs have been positively compared to 1960s-era releases by artists such as Brian Wilson and The Left Banke. The album has received critical praise from several publications over the years, with reviewer Jason Ankeny of Allmusic labeling the release as one "of John Cale's very finest solo efforts" and Stephen Holden of Rolling Stone calling it "one of the most ambitious albums ever released under the name of 'pop'"; he also called it a masterpiece.[2]


Paris 1919 was recorded in 1972 and 1973 with producer Chris Thomas, and, although musician credits were never given on the album's packaging until the 2006 Rhino expanded CD edition, it features Little Feat members Lowell George on guitar and Richie Hayward on drums, in addition to Wilton Felder of The Crusaders on bass as well as orchestration provided by the UCLA Symphony Orchestra.[3]


Paris 1919 is made up of songs with arcane and complex lyrics; musically, the album is a shift from his previous works with composer Terry Riley and his avant-garde experiments with La Monte Young towards a more baroque pop sound. It is considered the most accessible and traditional of Cale's albums,[1] and the best-known of his work as a solo artist.

Paris 1919 takes its influences from Brian Wilson, The Bee Gees and Procol Harum's 1972 live album Live in Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.[3] Lyrically, Cale recalls possible childhood memories in "Child's Christmas in Wales", whose title is a reference to a prose poem by Dylan Thomas and a reference to Thomas' poem "The Ballad of the Long-Legged Bait" in its second verse. Cale makes cultural and literary references to writer Graham Greene, William Shakespeare's Macbeth, Enoch Powell, Chipping Sodbury, Andalucia, Dunkirk, and Segovia,[3] while "Antarctica Starts Here" is inspired by the 1950 Billy Wilder film Sunset Boulevard starring Gloria Swanson.[4]

The album's title makes reference to the Versailles Conference, the partitioning of Europe that, through the assignment of unilateral war reparations, arguably contributed substantially to the rise of the Third Reich; Cale described the record as "an example of the nicest ways of saying something ugly."[3]

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[1]
Robert Christgau B+[5]
Pitchfork 9.5/10[6]
Rolling Stone favourable[2]
Tiny Mix Tapes 4.5/5 stars[7]

The album was released in March 1973 by Reprise Records to warm critical reception. The Los Angeles Times called Paris 1919 "the idiosyncratic pinnacle to Cale's thrilling yet perverse career, despite the fact it never topped the charts."[8] Paris 1919 was reissued on 19 June 2006 by Rhino Records UK, featuring the original album remastered, in addition to the outtake "Burned Out Affair", alternate and rehearsal versions of every song on the album, a hidden, unlisted instrumental version of "Macbeth", and the sound effects of the chirping birds found in the title track. Pitchfork Media gave the reissue a 9.5 out of 10 rating,[6] and Allmusic gave the album 4-and-a-half stars, calling the songs "...richly poetic, enigmatic period pieces strongly evocative of their time and place. ...Indeed, there's little here to suggest either Cale's noisy, abrasive past or the chaos about to resurface in his subsequent work -- for better or worse, his music never achieved a similar beauty again."[1]

Live performances[edit]

Cale has performed Paris 1919 live in its entirety throughout the world, beginning in Cardiff on 21 November 2009, with his regular band and a 19-piece orchestra. The show was staged again in 2010 in London, Norwich, Paris, Brescia, Los Angeles, and Melbourne, then in 2011 in Barcelona, Essen, and Malmö, as well as two shows in New York City in January 2013.[9][10][11]


The Wire placed Paris 1919 in their list "One Hundred Records That Set the World on Fire (While No One Was Listening)".[12]

Songs from Paris 1919 have been covered by such notable musicians as Yo La Tengo, Manic Street Preachers frontman James Dean Bradfield, Owen Pallett, the Dave Soldier String Quartet, Love and Rockets' David J, Okkervil River, Jay Bennett and Edward Burch, and Sally Timms.[13]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by John Cale. 

Side A
No. Title Length
1. "Child's Christmas in Wales"   3:21
2. "Hanky Panky Nohow"   2:46
3. "The Endless Plain of Fortune"   4:13
4. "Andalucia"   3:54
5. "Macbeth"   3:08
Side B
No. Title Length
6. "Paris 1919"   4:07
7. "Graham Greene"   3:00
8. "Half Past France"   4:20
9. "Antarctica Starts Here"   2:47


  • Chris Thomas – original album production
  • Mike Salisbury – original album design and photography
  • Andy Zax – reissue production
  • Dave Schultz – remastering (at DigiPrep, Los Angeles)
  • Matthew Specktor – liner notes
  • Greg Allen – reissue art direction and design
  • Bob Rush – additional booklet photography
  • Project supervision for Rhino UK: Stuart Batsford and Mick Houghton
  • Project assistance: Brian Kehew, Bill Inglot, Rick Conrad, Patrick Milligan, Cheryl Pawelski, Mason Williams, and Robin Hurley


  1. ^ a b c d Ankeny, Jason. "Paris 1919 – John Cale | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 4 January 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c Rolling Stone review
  3. ^ a b c d Taken from the liner notes to the expanded edition of Paris 1919, released by Reprise/Rhino UK. Notes written by Matthew Specktor, Los Angeles, 2006.
  4. ^ "LAist Interview: John Cale: LAist". LAist. 25 September 2010. Retrieved 28 March 2015. 
  5. ^ Christgau, Robert. "Robert Christgau: CG: John Cale". Retrieved 4 January 2013. 
  6. ^ a b Murphy, Matthew (1 September 2006). "John Cale: Paris 1919 - Album Reviews - Pitchfork". Retrieved 4 January 2013. 
  7. ^ Kern (27 April 2007). "John Cale - Paris 1919 - DeLorean". Retrieved 4 January 2013. 
  8. ^ LA Times article: "At his best."
  9. ^ Werksman, Hans. "Fear Is a Man's Best Friend - Discography John Cale: Paris 1919". Retrieved 25 January 2013. 
  10. ^ Werksman, Hans. "Fear Is a Man's Best Friend - John Cale setlists - New York 2013-01-18". Retrieved 25 January 2013. 
  11. ^ Werksman, Hans. "Fear Is a Man's Best Friend - John Cale setlists - New York 2013-01-19". Retrieved 25 January 2013. 
  12. ^ Roy, Daryl Stephen; Uncle Fester (1992). "100 Records That Set the World on Fire (While No One Was Listening)". The Wire. Archived from the original on 19 October 2007. Retrieved 18 March 2015. 
  13. ^ Werksman, Hans. "Fear Is a Man's Best Friend - Covering John Cale". Retrieved 25 January 2013.