This live record by musical figurehead John Cale, was the first time the ex-Velvet Underground man had been captured as a solo performer, completely unplugged and stripped back from the avant-punk hubbub that made his name all those years ago. Fragments of a Rainy Season has resurfaced after being out of circulation in recent years but for a limited time, its available in several different formats including a limited edition triple gatefold vinyl. Across the LPs 28 tracks, Cale tackles songs from his back catalogue, previously unreleased outtakes and a smattering of covers including his interpretation of Leonard Cohens Hallelujah and Elvis Presleys Heartbreak Hotel; both of which are bewitching when its just the sound of Cales smooth rasp and the twinkle of piano.
The minimal sound that Fragments of a Rainy Season emits is alluring and you can imagine if youd attended any of the shows Cale played during his 1992 run of performances, youd have been captivated by such sparse arrangements. Theres a poignant thrum to the way Cales vocal trips over the sometimes plaintive and the occasional raucous piano. In some places, the piano can almost be called jaunty too; Paris 1919 is a fine example of this.
The clear standout moment, which is punctuated by the crowds jubilant claps and hollering is Cale rollicking through Velvet Undergrounds Im Waiting For My Man. Cale it would seem cant totally jettison the avant side of his cannon as the finale to the classic track finds our protagonist howling like a crazy person whilst making huge, cacophonous noises with his piano. The same can be said for the two versions of Heartbreak Hotel one of which is bare and vulnerable while the other is unhinged with blasts of violent strings piercing the nothingness between the moments Cale isnt singing or playing the piano. The inclusion of strings doesnt always result in a horror movie-esque moment; the alternative version of Paris 1919 with added orchestral flourishes is extravagant and pleasingly delicate.
This is most definitely a record for the Cale/Velvet Underground superfan a live recording to be cherished by a long term devotee to the weird and the wonderful.
Words and Thoughts of Adam Williams