Picks and Pans Review: Honi Soit

updated 06/29/1981 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/29/1981 AT 01:00 AM EDT

John Cale

Though Cale has had a profound influence on punk, New Wave and classical-rock fusion musicians, his sway over record buyers has been almost nil. Cale does have credentials. Born in Wales in 1941, he studied classical composition in London, won a Leonard Bernstein fellowship to study at Tanglewood, later played with avant-garde composer LaMonte Young's Theater of Eternal Music and, in 1964, founded the Velvet Underground with Lou Reed. Since departing that band in 1968, Cale has produced albums by Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, Jonathan Richman, Squeeze and Nico—the Velvet's original chanteuse—and turned out 11 solo albums, including landmarks like Vintage Violence and Paris 1919. Honi Soit is his first album to make the charts. It combines his classical background and penchant for lyricism with a muted hue of the ferocious rock he played in the late '70s. The subject matter is vintage Cale—violence, deceit, the upheaval of war. (The album title is the opening of a French aphorism meaning "Shame on Him Who Evil Thinks.") Unlike Warren Zevon, who offers a comic book fascination with guns and muscle, Cale in Wilson Joliet and Riverbank presents the testimony of a troubled but unblinking witness. His scarring version of the cowboy classic The Streets of Laredo makes one wonder how many cowpokes ever felt really at home on the range, or anywhere.

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