Wednesday, 22 February 2017

"Vintage Violence" by JOHN CALE (2001 Columbia/Legacy 'Expanded Edition' CD Reissue - Darcy M. Proper Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Don't Want To Be Like All The Rest..."

Given that Welshman JOHN CALE had been with The Velvets for their monster March 1967 debut "The Velvet Underground And Nico" - following in November of that year with the even more challenging "White Light, White Noise" album and then having produced the definitive early Punk/Garage album - The Stooges self-titled debut "The Stooges" (a destroyer of all that comes in its path) - big things were expected of the Bass Player's debut. It would of course be the most mule-rockin', nadge-kickin' debut album ever released.

Instead we got the weedy pop-country mishmash of "Vintage Violence" - and I can remember as a kid when I first heard it thinking 'this is crap'. And he absolutely didn't have the cool in his voice that Lou Reed could so effortlessly conjure up. But time and hindsight have mellowed me - and every few years I try "Vintage" once again. And each time I think - ok - the pretty "Amsterdam" and the Beach Boys pop of "Adelaide" alongside that Country Byrds/melodious Tommy Flanders combo-sound Cale gets on the undeniably good "Ghost Story" - it's not nearly as bad as I had thought - in fact its possibly a misunderstood beast. Here are the post mortem details...

UK released 13 February 2001 (reissued 27 June 2003 and beyond) - "Vintage Violence" by JOHN CALE on Columbia/Legacy 499945 2 (Barcode 5099749994522) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster with Two Previously Unreleased Bonus Tracks that plays out as follows (44:54 minutes):

1. Hello, There
2. Gideon's Bible
3. Adelaide
4. Big White Cloud
5. Cleo
6. Please
7. Charlemange [Side 2]
8. Bring It On Up
9. Amsterdam
10. Ghost Story
11. Fairweather Friend
Tracks 1 to 11 are his debut solo LP "Vintage Violence" - released July 1970 in the USA on Columbia CS 1037 - delayed until February 1971 in the UK on CBS Records S 64256. Produced by JOHN CALE and LEWIS MERENSTEIN (recorded in 1969 the same week as "Church Of Anthrax" with Terry Riley - which wasn't issued until February 1971) - it failed to chart in either country. All songs written by John Cale - except "Fairweather Friend" which is by Garland Jeffreys.

12. Fairweather Friend (Previously Unreleased Alternate Version)
13. Wall (Previously Unreleased)

The 8-page booklet has new liner notes from MARGARET MOSER - several black and white photos of the young Welshman and the usual re-issue credits (Bruce Dickenson Produced the Reissue with Project Director Paul Matheny) and there's new input from Cale himself. But in some ways it's a slight and frustrating read in what it 'doesn't' say. What was the album’s actual release date (they get the catalogue number wrong as CS 1007 when it was CS 1037) - who plays Harmonica on "Adelaide" - why CBS in England waiting until two months before the "Church Of Anthrax" release with Terry Riley in April 1971 before they released John Cale's "Vintage Violence"? Why the Phil Spector production melodrama on the overly echoed "Big White Cloud" - why even chose it as a single? And why not take this opportunity to reproduce the lyrics?

Still - what we do get for "Vintage Violence" is a gorgeous Remaster courtesy of DARCY M. PROPER - a Sony Audio Engineer who handled the Kansas CD Reissues for "Point Of Know Return" and Leftoverture". The incredible quiet and ethereal "Amsterdam" sounds beautiful and there’s oomph in the jaunty ‘come back again this year’ opener "Hello, There" – a song that feels like it would fit nicely on the Velvets "Loaded" album.

Wikipedia lists it release date as March 1970 – it was first pictured June 1970 in Billboard but didn’t appear on an actual release schedule until July – wasn’t reviewed until September 1970 and is listed as released December 1970 in Martin Strong’s “The Great Rock Discography”. I’ve put it at July 1970 - which is when Billboard gave it an official release date (the material was famously recorded in 1969 in the same week Cale reveals as he recorded "Church Of Anthrax" with Avant Garde artist Terry Riley who was signed to Columbia Masterworks).

Re-listening to the dreadfully coy "Cleo" and the pedal steel guitar "Please" - I hate the first and quite dig the second. He'd strung his band PENGUIN together for the sessions and their playing on "Please" and the Side 2 opener "Charlemagne" add a huge amount to the 'feel' (Producer Lewis Merenstein had worked his magic with Van Morrison on "Astral Weeks"). Having said that there’s part of me that feels much of "Vintage Violence" is firmly in the 'what was he thinking' bracket – but when you hear the undeniably brill melody of "Ghost Story" and the Jeffreys contribution "Fairweather Friend" – it’s impressive.

Genius or overrated dross - you take your pick. But worth another punt – I think so...

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