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Words for the Dying


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Audio CD, September 19, 1989
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$41.98 $8.49
Vinyl, January 1, 1989
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 19, 1989)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Warner Bros / Wea
  • ASIN: B000008DXC
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #58,043 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Introduction
2. There Was A Saviour Interlude I
3. On A Wedding Anniversary
4. Interlude II
5. Lie Still, Sleep Becalmed
6. Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
7. Songs Without Words I
8. Songs Without Words II
9. The Soul Of Carmen Miranda

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Nariaki Imamura on March 21, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
Even though the self-absorbed filmakers think we want to see as much of them as we do of Eno or Cale, there are still some interesting scenes of the two working on recording tracks from the album. We even get to see Cale lose his temper and shout a four-letter expletive at the boys' choir. What makes the video worth the purchase are the moments where the camera sits still long enough to let you see Cale and Eno interact while in the studio. Unfortnately there are far less of these moments then there are of pretentious camera-jiggling around Moscow at night, but if you are a fan and it is worth it to you to see this rather rare footage of these guys at work, I'm afraid it's a necessary purchase.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By R. J MOSS on December 6, 2004
Format: Audio CD
This is devotional music, pure but not so simple. Cale's,'Words For The Dying' has a sustained mood of sombre atonement. The lyrics are Dylan Thomas's and Cale flights them with the sublime sadness of a lover's rent heart. The international news of the day relayed the larger wound of the Falkland's War. It hovers over the project, and Cale responded to it, writing a suite of music performed here by the Orchestra of Symphonic & Popular Music of Gosteleradio from the former U.S.S.R. The voices of Llandaff Cathedral Choir School in Wales were enlisted as a counter to Cale's cool, haunting tones, and I suspect, congealed that crucial Welsh touchstone. Their edifice of plaintive, innocent voices is just one of the brilliant moves on this Brian Eno produced triumph. I suspect that those raised on the Spoonriver Anthology find Richard Buckner's repossession of its text leaves an indelible imprint. Cale has done this for these poems. Both Bob Dylan and Dylan Thomas crossed my path during my 16th summer, the former at its inception, the latter at its close as part of my high school's curriculum. Both bards literally made the written word sing with emotion in fresh, intoxicating ways. My mother tongue had been reborn. Cale's take on his countryman's verse has re-seeded these emotions.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Michael Stack VINE VOICE on February 9, 2006
Format: Audio CD
Perhaps the most unusual recording in John Cale's catalog, "Words for the Dying" is an album in three parts-- "The Falklands Suite", orchestral treatments on the poetry of Dylan Thomas, "Song Without words", a piano chamber performance by Cale, and "The Soul of Carmen Miranda", a collaborative effort with Brian Eno that would lead to the sublime "Wrong Way Up".

Cale has a background is classical music and orchestra performance, so to find him composing for an orchestra is not all that surprising. The Falklands Suite works out to be a bit of an oddity-- performed with Cale as solo vocalist on top of a Welsh boys' choir and a Russian orchestra, Cale expresses himself musically in broad strokes, with a tendency towards lushness and drama and an unfortunate inclination towards somewhat irritating staccato punctuations. The arrangements themselves are fine (several of the pieces get a solo piano performance on "Fragments of a Rainy Season"), it's just that this doesn't seem to come together right. Either the orchestra feels lethargic ("Interlude II"), Cale sounds somewhat disinterested (the stunning arrangement of "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night") or the choir seems to totally miss the intent behind either the arrangement ("Lie Still, Sleep Becalmed"). When you're very lucky, it seems all three of those come together ("On a Wedding Anniversary"). Having stated all of this, it makes for a reasonably pleasant listen, it's just that it doesn't really hold together.

"Song Without Words" is pleasant enough-- Cale's solo piano performance has a nice edge to it and his playing is lovely, although admittedly the composition is not particularly intriguing and the piece really doesn't seem to go anywhere.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By seedwick on August 7, 2006
Format: VHS Tape
this is arguably the greatest music documentary ever filmed. it certainly blows spinal tab right out of the tub. the filmmakers and musicians seem to have acted as one mind to bring us this condensed golden nugget of pure hillarity, this sublime comic fugue, this subtle, silvery spiderweb of laughs that will surely ensnare even the most stony-faced fly. so many great moments: the stiff interviews with perfectly timed awkward pauses, the endless takes of bellowing, bathetic singing, the crazy violinist...

it's too bad that dylan thomas had to say good night before this came out, but i'm sure he's whirring happily in his grave. i hope one day this same team tackles some of the other luminaries of poetry.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By R. D. Snyder on January 24, 2007
Format: Audio CD
This is one of my favorite Cale releases (Paris 1919 is up there as well). Sure, it's a bit of a hodge-podge, with lesser cuts filling out the cd. But it's worth the price for the Falklands Suite, alone.

For what it's worth, I'm a long-time Cale and VU fan, and one of the art students who was responsible for recording the "Valleydale Tapes".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 12, 2000
Format: Audio CD
I've bought a couple other John Cale albums, and I like this one the best. It might help if you like Gavin Bryars or Philip Glass or other contemporary composers: this isn't the simple songs of 'Paris 1919' - it's Dylan Thomas poetry set to orchestral music and a choir. I love the way Cale's voice contrasts with the orchestra and choir - very moving. The two "Songs Without Words" are excellent pieces in their own right, as is "The Soul of Carmen Miranda".
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