TERRY RILEY — Church of Anthrax (with John Cale)

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TERRY RILEY - Church of Anthrax (with John Cale) cover
4.21 | 6 ratings | 2 reviews
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Album · 1971


Side 1

1. Church of Anthrax (9:00)
2. The Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles (7:55)

Side 2

1. The Soul of Patrick Lee (2:47)
2. Ides of March (11:03)
3. The Protege (2:47)


- John Cale / bass, harpsichord, piano, guitar, viola, organ
- Bobby Columby / drums
- Bobby Gregg / drums
- Adam Miller / vocal on The Soul Of Patrick Lee
- Terry Riley / piano, organ, soprana saxophone

About this release

LP: CBS 64259 (UK), Columbia C 30131 (US),

CD: Wounded Bird Records WOU 13 (US,2008), Columbia COL 474604-2 (Europe)

Thanks to JS for the addition


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

Of the small handful of albums that have been made by pop 'stars' working in conjunction with renowned composers, 'Church of Anthrax' is easily the most successful, and enjoyable as well. It helps that it was not a far leap from Riley's groovy beatnik flavored Indo-Minimalism to Cale's minimal influenced avant-garde drone-rock. The two fit together to create a proto fusion raga groove that is way ahead of it's time in relation to all the trip-hop, world beat, ambient techno and acid jazz that followed in it's wake a couple decades later. Having said all that, if I had to pick one band that comes to mind when listening to this, it would be The Soft Machine on their first three records, there is a similar mix of 60s beatnik-jazz and electronic flavored experimentation. Side one kicks off with the title cut that sets the mood for Indian influenced hippie jazz/rock with Cale and Riley's droning modal solos interweaving with each other while the drummers work up a sweat. This is followed by 'Hall of Mirrors', a vast sound canvas of minimalistic wash filled with tape echo multi-tracked soprano saxophones. Mike Ratledge and Elton Dean have said that Terry Riley was a big influence on them and you can really here it on this track.

Side two opens with a classic John Cale haunting vocal melody, 'The Soul of Patrick Lee', that shows once again that in his prime Cale was probably the finest art rock composer ever. My favorite cut on the album though is 'Ides of March'. An absolute ironic masterpiece that combines hypnotic minimalist repeating rhythmic figures with tacky hillbilly honky-tonk piano riffs and lot's of rock-n-roll pounding on the keys while the drummers rock out acid hippy style. This is a one-of-a-kind cut that answers the question, what it would sound like if a drunken Steve Reich led NRBQ for a jam at a rowdy biker bar in the country.

The album closes with 'The Protégé', another piano number, this time with a Velvet Underground primitive groove while the classically trained Riley and Cale pound out their favorite RnB flavored piano riffs that are layered in that expected Terry Riley way. This album does have a very late 60s sound to it, but ironically enough, that doesn't stop it from sounding modern and ahead of it's time to this day.

Members reviews

Sean Trane
A stunning second album, this Church Of Anthrax is easily Cale’s top achievement in his career, even if this is just another album for Terry Riley. Let me explain before you hurl a bunch of insults at me. For John Cale, this album is one of a kind and doesn’t resemble close to any other of his album and to my knowledge, he never tried to return to it, nor did he actually ever played much of it in his concerts. But for Terry Riley, this minimalist music is certainly not one of a kind, and you can definitely hear his paws all over the pieces and his sax playing is the typical one heard in A Rainbow In Curved Air (just to mention that one) and just another groundbreaking album in a career that contains many of them. The album comes with a fascinating doll house artwork, with Cale occupying te rooms a, but Riley’s presence is felt through picture frames hanging on the walls.

A two-man show except for the voice of Adam Miller in the only sung track, with Cale handling most of the instruments other than electric keyboards and wind instruments, which are Riley’s domain. Starting on the awesome title track that builds quickly from a drone, the music soon takes on a very repetitive turn, even though it is constantly evolving. It is not quite the usual minimalism that one might be understand it, but it is certainly among the best ever recorded. The track is fast paced upon a solid bass riff with excellent drumming and doubled over by a wandering organ, while the other instruments are counterpointing…. Soon Riley’s sax is coming in, never loud always a bit low in the mix as not to be intrusive. As you’ve probably guessed it, the amount of over-dubbing must be considerable on such an album, laying each instruments one after the other and ending up filling totally the aural space in both your living room and your now-frying brains. The following Hall Of Mirrors is a bit in the same nature only quieter and slower, due to the absence of bass and drums and ends slowly of its evident faded-out death.

The flipside starts on a welcome breath of fresh air (even more evident on the Cd version) with the superb Soul Of Patrick Lee, a short track sung beautifully by the otherwise unknown (to me anyway) Adam Miller. This Cale-penned track has nothing to do with the rest of the album co-written between the two artistes, and if it wasn’t so excellent, it would stick out like a sore thumb on an otherwise uniform album. Next up is Ides Of March is a brutal return to the album musical propos, probably the most violent of these minimalist pieces and it probably overstays its welcome for about one or two of its 11 minutes, because it fails to renew itself like the earlier tracks on side 1. The album-closing Protégé seems like a break from the mould, but its minimalism is right on the album soundscape again. This track might seem a little short, and could’ve used the few minutes too much of its predecessor. It is ending abruptly in a feedback and torn cables plugs, quite an unexpected death, but a valid one to avoid another fade-out.

Church Of Anthrax is definitely an odd minimalist music masterpiece. It is too bad that the Welsh multi-instrumentalist never considered returning to this kind of experiment, but then again, this one is so successful, that most likely a second attempt would only have been worse and tarnished the varnish of this one.

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