John Cale

Caribbean Sunset

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Arguably the weakest album of John Cale's career (some fans would elect the follow-up, 1985's similarly lightweight Artificial Intelligence, for the honor), 1984's Caribbean Sunset is something of a mess. The songs are among the poppiest of Cale's career, and one gets the sense that it's meant to be Cale's attempt at a straight-up pop album, especially given the Jimmy Buffett-like title and cover photo. Yet everything about the album's arrangements and production undercut the promise of slickness and commercialism; Cale's production is uncharacteristically cruddy, with the rhythm section in particular sounding as if they were recorded from two rooms over and his vocals, often unnecessarily harsh, sounding completely disconnected from the music. The arrangements, too, are unnecessarily hurried-sounding; this is apparently an album of first takes, as "Experiment Number 1" features Cale calling out the chord changes to the band (which features three young unknowns and Brian Eno, enigmatically credited solely with "AMS pitch changer") as the song progresses. The songs are a mixed bag, with the pointed "Model Beirut Recital" and "Praetorian Underground" sounding like leftovers from 1982's Music for a New Society; unfortunately, they're also the best of the lot, along with the agreeably slight title track. Not quite as bad as its reputation in some circles suggests, Caribbean Sunset can't really be called good, either.