John Cale’s “Shifty Adventures In Nookie Wood” Is Solid

John Cale and Bob Dylan are about the same age.  Cale still possesses one of rock’s greatest voices.  Dylan not so much.  We know that it can’t be because Cale’s lived a life free of vices; the former Velvet Underground mainstay has been quite upfront about the stretches when he dodged clean living.  No, more likely the Welshman’s baritone, still gorgeous, is a simple genetic marvel, like Keith Richards’ heart.  And when we listen to Shifty Adventures In Nookie Wood, released this week, we’re grateful.

It has been seven years since Cale released blackAcetate, which was as strong as anything he’s done since those classic albums from the ’70s, Fear, Helen of Troy, and  Slow Dazzle among them.  Last year, he released a compelling e.p., Extra Playful, but we weren’t prepared for how strong Shifty Adventures is.  Starting with “I Wanna Talk 2U,” in which, natch, Danger Mouse helps it achieve liftoff, Cale makes clear he’s not some septuagenarian ready for the shuffleboard deck, but as vibrant and determined a rocker as ever he was.  This is an album that is at once utterly contemporary and timeless, gorgeous and sharp-edged, melodic and urgent.  In short, a classic John Cale album.

Maybe the comparison to Dylan is inapt, as Cale has had different personas over time — balladeer, hard rocker, experimental artist, viola player and punk rocker.  He’s released great albums in each of the last six decades — yeah, six decades, going back to the Warhol-banana festooned Velvets intro in ’67 — and Shifty Adventures In Nookie Wood continues the streak.

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