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John Cale, ever restless, returns with the deeply collaborative 'Mercy'

John Cale.
Marlene Marino
/
Courtesy of the artist
John Cale.

"If you go and end up in a corner that you feel uncomfortable in, something will happen and you'll come up with a solution," explains the influential, always restless John Cale. "That's kind of my mantra."

Since co-founding The Velvet Underground with Lou Reed late in 1964, he's done exactly that, time and time again, whether on his own, deeply alive records, as a producer for other envelope-pushers (Sham 69, The Modern Lovers, Nico) or as a composer for film.

Now an octogenarian, Cale returned to that uncomfortable corner for two-and-a-half years to create Mercy, his first new album of original material in over 10 years. The record features deep collaborations with more vernal, still wildly imaginative musicians – including avant-dance producer Actress, the expansionist vision of folk singer-songwriter Weyes Blood and the silty slink of Fat White Family, among others.

To hear the full conversation, use the audio player at the top of this page.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.
Sarah Handel