Children's chanting, spooky swirling organ and Nico's strong monotone on "It Has Not Taken Long" opens her fourth album, The End. Remastered and reissued as a double CD, this 1974 release (and third collaboration with Velvet Underground band mate John Cale) sees the German singer, ex-Warhol superstar and fashion model presenting her compositions with her harmonium, along with accompaniment from Brian Eno and Phil Manzanera of Roxy Music, some Arabic flourishes and a fair amount of noise with Cale producing.
"You Forget To Answer" is probably the first truly realized song of the eight here, with Nico's vocal, if you can call it that, walking over an effective electric guitar and piano. "Innocent and Vain" is just downright weird for weird's sake, with its monkey-sound explosions and percussion birthing Nico's harmonium again. Of course, as you'd expect, Nico's version of the Doors' "The End" is a pretty weird title track, with plotting bass, piano, trilling organ and her talking. The lady can't really pull-off the middle Oedipus section - Jim Morrison's mini masterpiece - but I do like how the percussion picks up with Manzanera's guitar lead at the very end.
The second CD features live recordings many of the album's tunes, mainly from when Nico appeared on John Peel's show and the Old Grey Whistle Test, plus some from a 1974 live performance at the Rainbow Theatre in London. Nico wouldn't manage another recording contract for almost 10 years and only went on to record two further studio albums before passing away in 1988.
This collection showcases what Nico was about during the peak of her career with some creative, equally as odd musicians behind her. And while it isn't for everyone and lots of the songs meander or sound so much alike that you're not really sure which song is which (or even if you are listening to a different song) - Cale, Eno and Manzanera stand behind Nico fixing up a mighty odd cacophony that turns out to be a rather unique brew.
~ Ralph Greco, Jr.