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By Rich from Rich’s r’n’r rants & raves

I have been a huge fan of Cale since the days of the Velvet Underground and think that his solo records have been consistently strong, though they vary from delicately beautiful to cataclysmically crazed. This live record (from CBGB’s in 1979) of otherwise unreleased songs is a mix of these two sides of the man under a vague theme of mercenary soldiers. I was able to see this tour at the legendary Whiskey-a-Go-Go and can attest to the potency of this man’s performance. (Though his solo show at McCabes with just him on just piano or guitar is one of the most intense live experiences I have ever had.)


This record is filled with dark rock’n’roll with Cale’s twisted leadership showing through in every song. The opening « Mercenaries (Ready for War) » begins with a distorted bass line (John plays some evil bass lines on some of the tunes, but I don’t believe that this is him here) and some psychotic guitar lines and yet still manages to be immensely catchy and invites you to sing-along with “ready for war”. The build-up behind the countdown to his bloodcurdling shriek of “visibility zero” is truly outstanding!


The electric piano that starts « Baby You Know » is very Cale-esque and this has more cool guitar as it creates a dark and paranoid rock’n’roll song. I am pretty certain that Cale has picked up the bass (in addition to band bassist George Scott) for the wild hard rock ride of « Evidence ». This is a heavy rocker with a superb riff that I apparently unconsciously stole a number of years back. Excellent!


« Dr. Mudd » is still upbeat though slightly less intense and with female back up vocals by the oddly named Deerfrance, who is (also oddly) uncredited on the CD sleeve and who has apparently also worked with Tom Verlaine. Lyrically this continues the war theme with references to Hiroshima and the effects of the bombing of that city. I’m fairly certain that Cale is taking the guitar solo on this one and it is wildly sick and very different in tone from Marc Aaron’s nicely demented playing throughout.


John is absolutely playing lead bass on the utterly bizarre (though still phenomenal) take on Rufus Thomas’ « Walkin’ the Dog ». Kinda similar in feel to his dark version of « Heartbreak Hotel » on Slow Dazzle. Continuing in a dramatic and bleak vein is « Captain Hook ». This is almost cinematic in its scope and the percussion and lovely vocals from Deerfrance adds a nicely desolate feel. Slow and moving and memorable. And I love the line “by hook or by crook I am the captain of this life”.


Deerfrance comes to the forefront for the delicate « Only Time Will Tell », not dissimilar to one of Nico’s songs for the Velvets. Truly pretty and Cale plays some fine viola for coloring. A total change of pace follows with the cacophonous interaction of the title cut. I love this – it is so majestically perverse and noise-filled and yet is a superb song. Classic Cale at his best!


The closer for the album was « Chorale » which sounds almost like a militaristic anthem, with its melody lifted from some sort of national anthem, its concentration on keyboard and vocal harmonies, but with some contrasting noise, as well and the drums which come in with a distinctly military beat.


The bonus tracks here are from the Animal Justice EP. « Chickenshit » is a fairly solid rocker with some bits of conversation interspersed with John’s lyrics. Apparently this references a live show where Cale chopped up a live chicken with a meat cleaver and the conversation is supposedly people’s reaction to this.


John adds his personal touches to Chuck Berry’s « Memphis », aided and abetted by Chris Spedding and his wild guitar. The strangely titled « Hedda Gabler » follows and is one of Cale’s bizarre story ballads. This is very stripped down, with bare piano chords, some guitar effects and wind noise until the band crashes in, but it maintains its dirge-like rhythm throughout as it builds through its changes. He is always so compelling that he can make this type of thing work, though and this is quite effective.


« Rosegarden Funeral of Sores » sounds like it was written for Bauhaus, who later covered it. This just shows who was the original goth master!


If you like your r’n’r dark, twisted and psychotic and don’t mind moving from sparse to wildly rockin’, definitely check out Cale’s solo work and this terrific album!


By Rich from Rich’s r’n’r rants & raves



ALL MUSIC GUIDE by Stewart Mason. 4 Stars.

Though Lou Reed is often thought of as the abrasive member of the Velvet Underground, during the punk era Reed was writing confessional singer/songwriter albums while his former bandmate, John Cale, was traveling the world in the company of a band of snot-nosed youngsters raised on hard rock, shrieking himself into a frenzy, wearing a hard hat on-stage, and writing songs like « Chickenshit, » a real-life tale of the time he beheaded a chicken (already dead) on stage and threw the carcass into the crowd and his whole band quit in protest, set to the most merciless music he'd been a part of since White Light/White Heat. The similarly slashed Sabotage/Live is the noisiest album of Cale's career, but there's more here than volume and feedback. Recorded live at punk mecca CBGB's, the nine songs range from the howling « Mercenaries (Ready for War) » to the more reflective, dirge-like « Captain Hook, » a sardonic epic meditation on British colonialism that's every bit as powerful as the louder, faster tracks. [For completists, the CD version includes the three tracks (including « Chickenshit ») from 1977's Animal Justice EP and the rare B-side « Rosegarden Funeral of Sores, » later covered by Bauhaus.]



This 2011 edition includes a rare bonus track, the studio version of « Mercenaries (Ready for War) » released as single in 1980, but never in CD.


« Hedda Gabler » originaly released in 1977 on the Animal Justice EP, (with « Memphis » and «  Chickenshit ») was inspired by the Henrik Ibsen play. It was spells Gabler with two B's - Hedda Gabbler on the original EP cover.

 The upbeat, driving rocker « Chicken Shit » which opens the original EP has a great backstory: "Cale's often loud, abrasive and confrontational live performances fitted well with the nascent punk rock developing on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. During one gig he chopped the head off a dead chicken with a meat cleaver, and his band walked offstage in protest. Cale's drummer - a vegetarian - was so bothered he quit the group. Cale mocks his decision on the song « Chickenshit » from the Animal Justice EP. Cale has admitted that some of his paranoia and erratic behavior at this time was associated with heavy cocaine use."

« Sabotage Live »
Vocals, Piano, Guitar, Bass, Viola – John Cale
Bass, Vocals – George Scott (2)
Drums, Vocals – Dougie Bowne
Guitar – Marc Aaron
Keyboards, Vocals – Joe Bidewell
Percussion, Vocals – Deerfrance
Vocals, Piano, Guitar, Bass, Viola – John Cale

All Songs written by John Cale Published by Undercover Music (BMI)
Except «  Walking The Dog » Written by Rufus Thomas Jr.
Published by East Memphis Music Corp. (BMI)
Recorded at CBGB's NYC in June 1979
Recording  Engineer  – Charlie Martin
Remix Engineer  – Jim Jordan, Roddy Hui
Remixed at Big Apple Recording Studios, NY
Mixed by John Cale & Warren Frank
Producer by John Cale

« Animal Justice » tracks 10 to 12
Vocals, Guitar, Piano, Viola – John Cale
Bass – Jimmy Bain
Drums – Kevin Currie
Guitar [Lead] – Ritchie Fliegler
Synthesizer [Moog] – Bruce Brody
Producer by John Cale
All songs written by John Cale
Published by Tin Pan Punk
Except Memphis written by Chuck Berry
Executive Producer – Wartoke Concert

« Mercenaries » - Studio Version 
John Cale – Vocals, Organ, Guitar
Joe Bidwell – Hammond, Keyboard, Vocals
Peter Muny – bass, Vocals
Deerfrance – Vocals
Robert Medici – Drums, Vocals
Engineer Don Hunerberg

« Rosegarden Funeral Of Sores »
John Cale – Vocals, Bass, Wurlitzer Piano
Micahel Mason – Rhythm Machine
4 Track Recording by Michael mason
Mixed bt Roddy Hui at Big Appple Studio N.Y.C
Published by Undercover Music
Produced by John Cale
Executive Producer Jane Friedman

Tracks 1 to 9 recorded at CBGB's NYC in June 1979
Originally released on SPY Records
10 to12 originally released as the « Animal Justice » 12" EP.
13 & 14  originally released as Single 7".
Digitaly Remastered 2011 by Charlus de la Salle at South Factory Studio
(p) & © 2011 ZE Records Mundo Ltda

Art Direction – John Vogel
Photography – Hugh Brown

Track List
  • 1
    Mercenaries (Ready For War) - Live
  • 2
    Baby You Know - Live
  • 3
    Evidence - Live
  • 4
    Dr Mudd
  • 5
    Walkin' The Dog - Live
  • 6
    Captain Hook - Live
  • 7
    Only Time Will Tell - Live
  • 8
    Sabotage - Live
  • 9
    Chorale - Live
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
    Hedda Gabler
  • 13
    Rosegarden Funeral Of Sores
  • 14
    Mercenaries - Studio Version