Columbia 1971 / Esoteric 2014
It’s close to celestial when minimalism gets amplified and becomes contagious.
That might have been their label’s head’s idea, but there was something spiritual in the meeting of Terry Riley and John Cale, something that went beyond the two’s classical background and avant-garde leanings with inroads into rock. Much more fleshed out than the former’s "In C" and "A Rainbow In Curved Air" and not as gloomy as the latter’s work with VELVET UNDERGROUND, “Church Of Anthrax” failed to garner the accolades it deserved – recorded largely in 1969, it was released in 1971, after Cale’s solo debut, “Vintage Violence” – and led to its creators’ falling-out only to stand as the testament to their unique talents. A blend of these also stands the minimalistic idiom on its head because there’s so much going on here, many twists and turns being hinted at in rather sly way.
One such passage lies in the only vocal track on display, “The Soul Of Patrick Lee” – the line “and the Miller never showed her a face that didn’t know” sounds very much like reference to "A Whiter Shade Of Pale" to chain the result to pop culture – while the other leads to “The Hall Of Mirrors In The Palace At Versailles” where, opulence reserved for heavy-lidded piano and Riley’s multi-tracked sax, all reflections turn out adventurously distorted. The same goes for the title track which marries cathedral solemnity, hung on organ swirl as performed by both protagonists, to an infectious groove anchored with Cale’s bass that spills over into the Brechtian debauchery of “The Protégé” and, earlier, the 11 minutes of the “Ides Of March” boogie jam. So there’s a lot of fun in this sickly sacred place, quite an unexpected quality for the master minds behind it, it’s human to the core and, as such, belatedly welcomes reappraisal.