Nico: The End – album review
Nico – The End (Universal/Island)
A welcome double CD reissue of the 1974 solo album by the late chanteuse. Jim Lawn has been listening to it for Louder Than War, see what he thinks below.
The story of Christa Paffgen aka Nico is highlighted by incredible musical and creative highs alongside long periods of adversity, drug addiction and poverty. That she was also deaf in one ear was another mountain for her to climb.
Whilst she is perhaps best known for her work with the Velvet Underground on classic albums such as ‘The Velvet Underground and Nico‘ which rates at Number 13 in the Rolling Stone Greatest Albums of all time, her solo work was no less valid and enigmatic.
The highlight of this solo work is ‘The End’ which was released on Island Records in 1974.
This album has been remastered and reissued to include 9 bonus tracks and demonstrates her ability to write her own material and command the services of John Cale as producer alongside the session contributions from Brian Eno and Phil Manzanera.
‘The End’ was Nico’s fourth solo release and her fifth collaboration with fellow Velvet Underground member John Cale.
The album was recorded relatively quickly for the time using the legendary Island Studio Sound Techniques and the engineering prowess of John Wood.
Producer John Cale chose Eno and Manzanera of Roxy Music to work on the album with him, between them providing all the instrumental framework to Nico and her harmonium.
The most intriguing Eno contributions come on ‘Innocent and Vain’ where his free form electronic noise acts as a counterpoint to Nico’s harmonium and on ‘The Valley of the Kings’ where the vocal arcs are countered by repetitive looping drones.
A surprise on the album is Nico’s ability to structure her own arrangements so that the trio of Manzanera, Eno and Cale added elements to the songs and didn’t take over the music.
The real rarities and gems come on Disc 2 of the reissue. The first track ‘Secret Side’ comes from her 1971 John Peel session and is previously unreleased. Peel was a great champion of her music and asked her back on 3rd December 1974 where she performed, ‘We’ve Got The Gold’, ‘Janitor Of Lunacy’, ‘You Forget To Answer’ and ‘The End’.
Her fragility and quiet intensity shine through and perhaps hint at her personal demons which she confronted through drink, drugs and songwriting.
Finally comes ‘The End’, Nico’s sole contribution to the John Cale, Brian Eno, Kevin Ayers live album ‘1st June 1974’ and an unreleased live version of ‘Das Lied Der Deutschen’ which has become the definitive Nico anthem.
Although the album was critically well-received, it sold so poorly that she was dropped by Island and it took nearly 10 years later before she was offered another record contract. By the time of her death in 1988 only two more albums had been added to her body of work.
‘The End’ sits within a trilogy which includes the previously produced John Cale albums ‘The Marble Index’ and ‘Desertshore’ and perhaps represents not only her best solo work but a tantalising glimpse of what might have developed musically had she not battled so much adversity.
All words by Jim Lawn.More work by Jim on Louder Than War can be found here.