Sunday, 23rd September 2018. 4:06:43am ET
Reviews CD Reviews Alternative, Indie Rock Ministry- With Sympathy (remastered)

Artist: Ministry

CD Title: With Sympathy (Remastered)

Label:  Eastworld Records

Genre: New Wave, synthpop

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For anyone who has been living under a rock, we have just witnessed a true miracle, perhaps of biblical proportions!

They said it would never happen. Fans of Ministry sadly accepted the fate knowing that Alan "Alien" Jourgensen's most horrific nightmare would NEVER come least while he was alive and kicking. Al Jourgensen himself refers to this album as " a complete abortion and total piece of corporate shit" and "The difference between Ministry and other bands is that we sold out before we even started" (taken from Industrial Revolution).

But..Miracles do happen! Thanks to the brilliant Eastworld Records! One of the incredible mysteries of the world, and perhaps even the 8th wonder of the world, is the much awaited and anticipated remastered release of Ministry With Sympathy in all it's decadent brilliance.

With Sympathy is most definitely one of the quintessential albums of the new wave synthpop movement. Yes folks, it is historic, monumental, and essential to any true new wave or synthpop collection. It is also important to note that Vince Ely and Ian Taylor of Psychedelic Furs fame also worked on With Sympathy.

For years With Sympathy has been like the dirty little secret of the Ministry catalog. Al treats this album like the evil bastard child that dare not speak it's name. Though the story behind Al's incredible dislike for With Sympathy seems to be rooted deep within new wave folklore, several reputable sources have confirmed that Al himself has said in several interviews that if he sees With Sympathy in someone's collection, he will personally destroy it. I don't think I have ever heard of another artist that feels so strongly about a record in their repertoire.  So why does Al hate his own record so much?

The way the story goes, is before With Sympathy, Ministry was a duo consisting of just Al "Alain" Jourgensen and Stephen George. Al had a 4 track demo that he took to the infamous but sadly now defunct, Wax Trax! records.  Wax Trax!  was a record store as well as an alternative music label. Al had released his first single as Ministry called I'm Falling in 1981 on Wax Trax!. Not wanting to be a solo project, but needing a name that was edgy and was a stab at the corporate world he so despised, he decided to call his band Ministry. Despite much speculation from fans and critics alike, Al made it very clear that it had absolutely no religious connotation whatsoever.  A year later in 1982, he released his 2nd single, which has since become a cult classic for Ministry, called Cold Life. Cold Life was released on a subdivision of legendary label Beggars Banquet called Situation Two.

Situation Two was one of three sub labels started as an alternative to the major distribution of Beggars Banquet in the U.K., the other two being 4.A.D. and Don't Fall off the Mountain. The artist roster reflects what was happening at the time in the growing 'Indie' scene.

I'm Falling and Cold Life was a dark, gritty, and harder edged foreshadowing of things yet to come. As the US new wave movement had become increasingly popular and commercial by 1983, major pop label Arista saw the potential in this angry young man and took a chance on him by releasing the single Revenge (You Did It Again). Revenge was almost instantaneously a smash hit. Arista set out to make a full length album. The track "Same Old Madness" existed as a video prior to release, but did not appear on the final album. The label demanded new tracks to be written to compliment the already over produced 5 tracks. "Say You're Sorry" and "Should Have Known Better" came into play. These tracks are good tracks, but would have never existed prior. The other two "Here We Go" and "What He Say" are very reminiscent of the later Wax Trax! singles, and are direct puns to the label and business. The label changed the name of the LP and renamed "Here We Go" to "Do the Etawa" for the Euro releases, maybe as a pun back at Al. Those two tracks are the only tracks Al approves.

Al is not ashamed of this album because it is pop or new wave, but rather is frustrated with the end result. Tracks from this time period are similar in style and themes, but the final album is quite different than what Al had originally intended.

The first four songs: "Effigy", "Revenge", "Work for Love" and I Wanted to Tell Her (formerly the instrumental "Primental" from Cold Life) are all tracks that existed before his signing to Arista Records. I could swear that UK pop group Bananarama was doing back up vocals on Work For Love. hey, it could happen. Remember, they got their start by working with the famous new wave band Fun Boy Three.

The live versions from 82-83 are longer and darker. Musically, they were not changed for the album, but were shortened and lightened into "poppy" versions. Session musicians appeared on several tracks on the album, which stepped on Al's musicianship. Another track, "She's Got A Cause" was altered at the demand of the label, insisting that lyrics be changed as they were quite explicit. Over a dozen tracks existed at this time, but most were turned down by the label.  The live shows featured the original versions of all tracks (pre label interference) plus several dropped tracks and new songs. The material played live is done in the style of the Wax Trax! singles and not so much With Sympathy.  After researching all of this, it is clear why Al hates the album so much. I just wish he could get the rights to the material and re-record the material as it was originally intended.

The 12"s from With Sympathy feature re-recordings and remixes to shed light on what Al wanted the LP to sound like. "I Wanted to Tell Her", was redone entirely for the 12" single.  The songs that were released on Wax Trax! where Al apparently had complete control over what was released, like the unreleased live tracks "So-So Life" and "Love Change" are similar to the material here on With Sympathy. All of which in my opinion, deflates Al's claim that "With Sympathy"'s commercial new wave sound was not his idea and rather a corporate record company forcing his hand. I think he's just embarrassed by his new wave beginnings on With Sympathy, given what Ministry would later become on albums like The Land Of Rape And Honey and The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste.

Surprisingly in 1986 Ministry would resurface on the same label Sire Records, that took a chance on a young girl from Bay City, Michigan who would later become one of the most iconic pop legends in history, Madonna. Many fans of later, harder edged Ministry material often refer to this album as a joke Al played on the industry. It was his way of rebelling against the label for not being able to have full creative control over his own record. Al also received a lot of grief over the fact that he sings in a fake British accent, being very much American born and raised himself. Al deflects these comments by saying "look at bands like The Polecats, no one makes a big deal over the fact that they try to sound like Elvis Presley". He goes on to defend himself by saying "it was never intentional. I was just singing like a lot of the music coming out of the UK". I sung it the way I heard it" There are many European artists trying fake American accents, and no one says anything, so what's the big deal?".

Though Al had not yet reached his raw, unbridled, edgier sound, and was still swimming in the cold new wave waters, Al felt much more at home with his 2nd album Twitch. Al had been experimenting with new sounds and ideas all throughout his career, so it is no wonder that an album like With Sympathy, that he had little control over would come to be such a thorn in his side.

With Sympathy, is an incredible new wave synthpop masterpiece. It's cleverly written and expertly produced pop songs are dipped in a darker, more sinister venom that no one at the time, nor even today, would ever dare call mainstream pop. Every song on With Sympathy is woven together so seamlessly that you can almost taste the pure nectar of it's brilliance.

Whether Al wants to admit it or not, With Sympathy is a page in Ministry's vast and impressive history. It is a testament to the magnificent musical journey of personal exploration and artistic discovery. Many contemporary artists were influenced by this iconic album. The way I see it, Al is a bit of an ungrateful and hypocritical spoiled brat. He was given some incredible opportunities to get his music seen and heard by the masses that most people would kill for, yet he turns up his nose and tries to deny his actual involvement in his own legacy. A legacy that would not have ever happened had he not made With Sympathy. So there is absolutely "No Sympathy" here for a little crybaby like Al  Jourgensen who has been bitching and whining about With Sympathy for years. I'm a musician too, and just like all musicians in the corporate (real world), sometimes you have to suck it up and eat some crow to get to where you want to be in life. It's funny and ironic that Al chose the name Ministry as a political commentary of his dislike of the corporate world, but fate is a fickle bitch and she bites back hard.

I am happy that Al did not stand in the way of this re-release. It is sad when artists or labels make the decisions for the fans despite how the fans might feel because of some personal beef they may have with that particular record.

If you already have the original CD for With Sympathy why should you buy the re-release?  The answer is quite simple, not only is it fully remastered and sounds amazing, it also features 3 bonus tracks, A Walk In The Park, I Wanted To Tell Her (Extended) and Revenge (Remix).

If you do not yet own With Sympathy and you love new wave and synthpop, you are missing out on a really amazing experience. Here's the kicker, make sure if you are outside of the US, that you buy it from the UK. Here's an even bigger kicker, if you are within the US, make sure you buy it from the UK or you will pay up the arse for the import in the US!


Check out the RARE non album video Ministry- Same Old Madness

Ministry- Same Old Madness

Check out the video for Ministry- Revenge

Ministry- Revenge

Check out this RARE two part interview about the album With Sympathy

Ministry Al Jourgensen Early 80's Interview Part 1

Ministry Al Jourgensen Early 80's Interview Part 2

Buy Ministry- With Sympathy on Amazon UK


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