Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Empty Bottles

It's a shame that the only official recording of this unknown classic is from the essential, horribly recorded, and shadily published Reed/Cale/Nico album Le Bataclan 1972. "Empty Bottles" does better as a mainstream ballad of loser love than anything else Cale would write, and could have perhaps gone somewhere as a single. So of course he gives it to Leonard Cohen accompanist and "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" singer Jennifer Warnes, whose 1972 album Jennifer he was producing at the time, and never bothers recording it himself. (Jennifer, naturally, would never see reissue or CD release - though a 2007 twofer rerelease confusingly reused the name.)

It's interesting to hear Lou Reed providing lead acoustic guitar work over Cale's rhythm, even if the two sometimes seem at cross-purposes. The instrumental track is pretty unremarkable G/C strummy stuff. What makes the song is the knowledge of the narrator that this relationship is mutually self-destructive, and his commitment to it anyway. The lovely vocal melody helps, especially on the bridge:

And I do love you, against all odds
Though you don't know what I want
We're much poorer than that bottle
More foolish than that wine

John Cale and Miss Cindy of the GTOs would marry that year.

I'd post contemporary indie band The Ladybug Transistor's cover of the song, but it's up for sale on Amazon now. So, have a listen to a speed-corrected version of the Bataclan performance instead and raise a toast to Mr. Cale.

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