Paris 1919 (album)

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This article is about the 1973 album by John Cale. For the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, see Paris Peace Conference, 1919.
Paris 1919
Studio album by John Cale
Released 25 February 1973
Recorded Sunwest Studios, Los Angeles, United States
Genre Art pop,[1] baroque pop[2]
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 Reprise Records. Musicians such as Lowell George and Wilton Felder worked with Cale on the release. Its title is a reference to the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, and song contents explore various aspects of early 20th century Western Europe culture and history.

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.[3][4] It has been suggested that a big reason for the sound was the employment of Chris Thomas as producer for Paris 1919, with Thomas having worked producing Procol Harum.[4] The album has received critical praise from several publications over the years. Reviewer Jason Ankeny of Allmusic labeled the album as one "of John Cale's very finest solo efforts". Critic Stephen Holden of Rolling Stone called the release "one of the most ambitious albums ever released under the name of 'pop'"; he considered it a "masterpiece" for the artist.[3][4]


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.[5]


AllMusic considers it the most accessible and traditional of Cale's albums,[3] and the best-known of his work as a solo artist.

Paris 1919 takes its influences from pop and rock artists such as Brian Wilson, the Bee Gees, and Procol Harum, particular the latter band's popular 1972 live album Live in Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.[5] 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,[5] while "Antarctica Starts Here" is inspired by the 1950 Billy Wilder film Sunset Boulevard starring Gloria Swanson.[6]

The album's title makes reference to the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, an event that established a new partitioning of Europe that as well as the assignment of unilateral war reparations. With the event having arguably contributed substantially to the rise of the Third Reich and the emergence of World War II, Cale described the record as "an example of the nicest ways of saying something ugly."[5]

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[3]
Robert Christgau B+[7]
Pitchfork 9.5/10[8]
Rolling Stone favourable[4]
Tiny Mix Tapes 4.5/5 stars[9]

The album was released to warm critical reception. For example, 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."[10] Rolling Stone writer Stephen Holden remarked, "Paris 1919 is one of the most ambitious albums ever released under the name of 'pop'". He stated that the songwriting means that it "requires a great deal of listening in order for its full implications to be perceived", with the album ending up as a "masterpiece".[4]

Subsequent positive reviews continued to be published many years later. Allmusic critic Jason Ankeny gave the album four-and-a-half stars, praising its "richly poetic" songs for functioning as "enigmatic period pieces strongly evocative of their time and place". He also wrote that "there's little here to suggest either Cale's noisy, abrasive past or the chaos about to resurface in his subsequent work" since Cale for "better or worse... never achieved a similar beauty again."[3] Paris 1919 received a full reissue on 19 June 2006 by Rhino Records UK. The revamped version features 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. Notably, Pitchfork Media gave the reissue a 9.5 out of 10 rating.[8]

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,with new orchestral arrangements by Cale and composer Randall Woolf. 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.[11][12][13]


The Wire placed Paris 1919 in their list "One Hundred Records That Set the World on Fire (While No One Was Listening)".[14] The February 2016 edition of Uncut placed the album at number 99 in their list of the Top 200 Greatest Albums of All Time.[15]

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.[16]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written 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. ^ Pickard, Joshua (12 March 2016). "Record Bin: The mischievous genius of John Cale's "Paris 1919"". Nooga. 
  2. ^ Mendelsohn, Jason; Klinger, Eric (6 November 2015). "John Cale - Paris 1919". PopMatters. PopMatters Media, Inc. Retrieved 30 August 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Ankeny, Jason. Paris 1919 at AllMusic. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d e Rolling Stone review
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ "LAist Interview: John Cale: LAist". LAist. 25 September 2010. Retrieved 28 March 2015. 
  7. ^ Christgau, Robert. "Robert Christgau: CG: John Cale". Retrieved 4 January 2013. 
  8. ^ a b Murphy, Matthew (1 September 2006). "John Cale: Paris 1919 - Album Reviews - Pitchfork". Retrieved 4 January 2013. 
  9. ^ Kern (27 April 2007). "John Cale - Paris 1919 - DeLorean". Retrieved 4 January 2013. 
  10. ^ LA Times article: "At his best."
  11. ^ Werksman, Hans. "Fear Is a Man's Best Friend - Discography John Cale: Paris 1919". Retrieved 25 January 2013. 
  12. ^ Werksman, Hans. "Fear Is a Man's Best Friend - John Cale setlists - New York 2013-01-18". Retrieved 25 January 2013. 
  13. ^ Werksman, Hans. "Fear Is a Man's Best Friend - John Cale setlists - New York 2013-01-19". Retrieved 25 January 2013. 
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ " - Uncut Lists". February 2016. Retrieved 18 August 2016. 
  16. ^ Werksman, Hans. "Fear Is a Man's Best Friend - Covering John Cale". Retrieved 25 January 2013.