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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.

BONUS TRACKS:
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 in Rolling Stone and is listed as released December 1970 in Martin Strong's "The Great Rock Discography". And don't get started on the delayed UK release date - February 1971 - just two months before the collaboration LP "Church Of Anthrax" with Terry Riley. I've put "Vintage Violence" as being released July 1970 in the USA - which is when Billboard gave it an official release date slot (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'. 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.

John Cale's "Vintage Violence" has always been a 5 out of 10 LP - a work of melodic genius - or dismissible dross - you take your pick. But worth another punt – I think so...
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on 14 November 2011
It's easy to be misled by the slightly aggressive title and cover art into thinking this album is going to be a difficult or uncomfortable musical experience. The opposite could not be more true. Instead these are simply masks for thoughtful lyrics, exquisite melodies and great, great songwriting. In songs such as Charlemagne, Hello There, Gideon's Bible and Ghost Story, John Cale gives you tunes which lift the heart and swell the soul. Big White Cloud is a personal favourite, beautifully capturing the experience of lying on your back in a field and staring out into the infinite enormity of space. While Amsterdam is a hauntingly wistful song of love and loss.

The two bonus tracks highlight Cale's eclectic range. The first is a looser, jauntier version of the final album track - Fairweather Friend. While the second bonus track - Wall - provides you with just that, a wall of sound from the electric viola and a reminder (in case you've forgotten) of John Cale's avant garde heritage with the Velvet Underground.
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on 11 September 2010
There were a number of options that John Cale could have taken when he quit the Velvet Underground, but he has a knack for the unexpected, hence this album, which perhaps its year of issue (1970) just wasn't ready for.

Thus the relatively lightweight pop of `Fairweather Friend' is as far away from his old band as it's possible to be without going into orbit; Cale being Cale there's nothing contrived about its jollification though.

`Big White cloud' is dream pop some time before anyone managed to coin the description, but then Cale's nothing if not ahead of his time. He throws the catchiest hook into this one too, like a man to whom such things come as easily as eating biscuits.

He's assured enough as a songwriter to come up with something like `Amsterdam' too, and make something of it something other than moody introspection. In short, it works because it's him being heartfelt, and not being morose about it.

So John Cale's one of those people for whom the term multi-faceted could have been invented, which of course makes him stand out like the proverbial at the end of this first decade of the twenty-first century, when at times it feels as though formula and indeed the formulaic is everything. For all of its age this album underlines the point.
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on 1 February 2002
John Cale, the man who brought the electric viola to the forefront of rock with the Velvet Underground, made his debut with "Vintage Violence." With a title like that, and given Cale's musical history, you'd expect full on loud guitar, bass, organ and viola screaming into your ears. However, this is John Cale we're talking about. Never one to follow convention, his first solo album is tinged by a somewhat commerical sound, albeit a sound with mysterious undertones.
This album contains country-esque sounds on "Adelaide," haunting organ playing on the incredible "Ghost Story", melancholic guitar work on the delicate "Amsterdam," and a slow burning, epic, orchestral sound on the dreamy "Big White Cloud." From this selection it is clear there's a wide variety of influence.
I'll admit some tracks are bewildering, "Cleo", for example, is a simple, child-like song, although bizarrely charming.
To sum up, don't expect a blast of electric viola, that only appears on the bonus track "Wall," which is coupled with an "alternate" take of the jaunty "Fairweather Friend" (although I percieve little difference between the album version and the outtake), but prepared to be surprised. Whether this surprise is pleasnt or disappointing, is up to you to decide.
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on 14 December 2016
For an ex- VU member who was present and played a major part in the recording of the best two albums ever made (in my opinion) and then going on to produce seminal albums by Nico and the Stooges, I've always thought that John Cale's solo debut a little .....boring. Firstly his voice is pretty boring, I guess he can't help that, but I loved his vocals on "Lady Godiva's Operation" and when narrating "The Gift", and it's also much stronger on much of his later work. The songs are very conventional too, though one or two are great - I particularly like "Big White Cloud" and also "Please" and "Gideon's Bible" Others are OK, others, like "Cleo" fairly forgettable and whimsical in my opinion. I first heard the album in the 1970s and have tried to get into it many times since but the disappointment has continued. Having said that it is worth hearing for the good songs. I also love the bonus track "Wall" - much more what I'd have expected from Cale's debut!
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on 2 September 2016
The influences of the 1960's and the work Cale did with Velvet Underground are well represented on this CD. It is in essence a record of its time whimsical, quirky with a touch of melancholy. The songs will keep you engaged from start to finish.

Well worth a listen
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on 27 June 2007
I am a young purveyor of old music. Oh don't scoff! This album IS old! The time between when this album came out and now exceeds my age by about seventeen years!

With all of the CD releases/re-releases/remasters comes inevitably a slew of bonus tracks. I never listen to those. I always want to experience the album as it could be experienced upon original release. It is only if and when I become familiar and attached to the album that I give the bonus tracks a listen. They're only there for the people who loved it in the first place. They're there to preach to the converted, not the newcomers.

Anyway, I don't know what happened here. Perhaps I was too lazy to get up and turn the CD off after track eleven. Therefore, upon my first listen, I was exposed to the Vintage Violence bonus tracks. There are only two of them. An alternate version of Fairweather Friend and Wall. Now, Wall is where it's at. Wall is an absolute masterpiece. Or at least, I think it is. Droning ambient viola pieces happen to be "my thing". For me this avant-garde-outtake perfectly justified the purchase of the album. A song not originally intended for release is my favourite thing about this CD. THAT'S what annoys me about bonus tracks! Here I am enjoying Vintage Violence on a level it was not originally intended to be enjoyed on! Be that as it may, such is the quality of Wall that in this case it doesn't feel so bad.

I think one reason for this is the fact that the piece sounds unlike any other song on the album. Whereas Wall is experimental (but in no way difficult), the rest of the album is full of sweet, accessible (but in no way uninspired) countrified pop gems. "Countrified" because of the languid feel and prevalence of harmonica and slide-guitar. The production and arrangements are exquisite, best sampled on the majestic Big White Cloud, the sparse and melancholic Amsterdam and the haunting Ghost Story, which actually sounds not unlike something from I Am Kloot's 2005 release Gods and Monsters.

A very sweet, endearing and relaxing listen here, and the lyrics are typically witty, cryptic and inspired for ol' John. I love John Cale, and it's such a shame that I came to hear this album so long after having "discovered" him. He really did play a lot of it live whilst on tour back in January. He's one of the most talented artists to ever have graced music and he is as relevant today as ever. Listening to his debut is therefore quite a staggering experience when one considers the fact that this nugget of tender beauty was not his peak, and that the best was yet to come.
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on 6 June 2016
I bought the vinyl version when it first came out. It remains one of my all-time favourite albums.
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on 31 March 2016
The only way to describe this album would be "magic noise"
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on 21 April 2007
this is a superb record. please ignore the review above. anyone with any interest in pop music should hear this.

if you buy it and genuinely dont like it i'll give you the money for it.
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