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John Cale - Mercenaries CD (album) cover


John Cale


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3.00 | 1 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars On the sleeve it's advertised as "another cheap and nasty product". But this rare 45-rpm single is now something of a collector's item, and a novelty on any web site devoted to the pomp and nuance of Progressive Rock. The A-Side is an abbreviated studio alternative to the concert version of the same song opening the 1979 "Sabotage/Live" album, pitting the ex-Velvet Underground viola player against the insidious threat of Commie infiltration, from "the dirty old Belgian Congo" to ground zero Moscow.

Given a choice of allies between the combined military might of the Free World or John Cale, I'll take the guy in the hard hat playing guitar, every time. The song was the perfect vehicle for such an infamous agitator (see the "Animal Justice" EP), making an unspoken metaphoric connection between modern rock 'n' roll stardom and the life of a soldier of fortune. The singer growls and shrieks his way into the Kremlin with more raw vocal authority than PETER HAMMILL at his most unhinged, and no one can touch Cale in a reading of any lyric asking, "Are you ready for war?"

The B-Side presents a more experimental psychodrama, performed by JC alone on bass guitar and distorted electric piano, over the primitive chatter of an old rhythm box. The song was later memorably covered by the goth-rockers of Bauhaus, but the original is quintessential John Cale, with obscure stream-of-consciousness lyrics rhyming "sores" with "whores"...probably the first words that came into his fevered mind at the time.

It was later added to the "Sabotage/Live" CD, as a bonus track. But the title track is MIA, the master tapes reportedly lost, or possibly confiscated at some remote Third World border crossing. So hold on to that precious 7" disc of vinyl with the oversized hole (as I did); when played loud enough it may be your best defense against the Red Menace.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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