Church of Anthrax

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Church of Anthrax
Studio album by
ReleasedFebruary 10, 1971
John Cale chronology
Vintage Violence
Church of Anthrax
The Academy in Peril
Terry Riley chronology
A Rainbow in Curved Air
Church of Anthrax
Persian Surgery Dervishes
Professional ratings
Review scores
Christgau's Record GuideC[4]
Irish Times[2]
Record Collector[5]

Church of Anthrax is a collaborative studio album by musicians John Cale and Terry Riley. It was released in February 1971 by record label CBS, nearly a year after the material was recorded. It followed Riley's success with 1969's A Rainbow in Curved Air and Cale's influential work with the Velvet Underground.[5]

The album was reissued and remastered in 2014.


The album blends "Riley's drones and patterns with a more muscular and melodic bent versed in both free jazz and experimental rock."[3] Rolling Stone labeled it "largely stretched-out organ-heavy improvisations, a freak-out in slow motion."[6] The album was mostly improvised on the spot, using two drummers, Bobby Gregg and Bobby Colomby.[7] "The Soul of Patrick Lee" is the only vocal track on the album; all others are instrumentals. No singles were taken from the album.

Terry Riley noted that "John Cale and I had a lot of disagreements about the album, including the way it should sound and the way the material should go. During the last mixing session, John started feeding in a lot of extra guitar tracks over what we had done. That started to obscure some of my keyboard work that I thought should be heard. We had a disagreement about that, so I stopped going to the mixing sessions and they mixed it without me."[7] However, in retrospect he stated that "over time, I’ve grown to like what they did."[7]

In the early 1990s, the duo reunited in New York to record a Church of Anthrax II, but nothing materialized after it became clear that Cale only wanted to produce rather than perform on the album.[7]


Upon release, the album received mixed reception.[2] Rolling Stone called it "one of the finest records to be released this year" but noted that it was largely ignored.[6] Melody Maker described the album as "an uneven record, remarkable for one excellent Cale song ("The Soul of Patrick Lee") and the title track, a brilliantly dense piece of production. Cale's viola and bass and Riley's organ and saxophone create an impenetrable, organic vortex of sound. One of the all-time great headphones tracks, featuring the avant-garde at its funkiest."[8] Robert Christgau of The Village Voice described it as "an album of keyboard doodles posing as improvisations."[4]

Following its reissue in 2014, the Irish Times noted that the album was initially regarded as an "unsatisfying concoction between two motivating forces in the avant-garde," but suggested that "for those who like their minimalism spiked with broken glass (notably "Ides of March"), perhaps it’s time to open the door and walk down the aisle."[2] Record Collector stated that the album "walked the thin line between boundary-pushing experimentation and indulgent jamming, only reaching a cathartic breakthrough on "The Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles"' shimmering collision between Cale’s piano and Riley’s tape-delayed soprano sax."[5] The New York Times called it "an art-rock touchstone."[1]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by John Cale and Terry Riley, except "The Soul of Patrick Lee" by John Cale

Side A
1."Church of Anthrax"9:05
2."The Hall of Mirrors in the Palace at Versailles"7:59
Side B
1."The Soul of Patrick Lee"2:49
2."Ides of March"11:03
3."The Protégé"2:52


  • John Cale – bass guitar, harpsichord, piano, guitar, viola, organ
  • Terry Riley – piano, organ, soprano saxophone
Additional personnel
Technical personnel
  • Don Meehan – engineering
  • John Berg, Richard Mantel – cover design
  • Kim Whitesides – cover art
  • Don Huntstein – cover photography


  1. ^ a b Rubin, Mike. "Terry Riley's Avant-Garde Sounds Are Still Casting Spells". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 August 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d Clayton-Lea, Tony. "Album Reviews: John Cale & Terry Reilly: Church of Anthrax". Irish Times. Retrieved 6 August 2020.
  3. ^ a b Mason, Stewart. "Church of Anthrax – John Cale, John Cale & Terry Riley, Terry Riley | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 4 April 2015.
  4. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: C". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved 23 February 2019 – via
  5. ^ a b c Needs, Kris. "Church of Anthrax". Record Collector. Retrieved 6 August 2020.
  6. ^ a b Edwards, Gavin. "10 Weird Albums Rolling Stone Loved in the 1970s You've Never Heard". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 6 August 2020.
  7. ^ a b c d Prasad, Anil. "Terry Riley - Lighting up nodes". Innerviews. Retrieved 6 August 2020.
  8. ^ Mick Gold. "John Cale: Caged Heat". Rock's Backpages.

External links[edit]