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Wednesday, 19 October 2016

James Young - Songs They Never Play On The Radio (CD)

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James Young
Songs They Never Play On The Radio (CD)
(Gonzo Multimedia)
These last few years, it’s been open season on the memory of Nico.  First, Chris, Cosey and Peter Christopherson curated X-TG’s reworking of her Desertshore album, initially alongside a host of guest vocalists; then as an absolutely stunning evil twin; and then as a glorious live remix.
Earlier this year brought the Soundwalk Collective’s collaboration with Patti and Jesse Paris Smith for Killer Road, a spellbinding collection of atmospheric themes and effects, over which Patti softly intones Nico’s lyrics.  And now comes this, keyboard player James Young’s musical tribute to the years he spent touring Europe with Nico through the early 1980s.
It’s a beautiful album, maybe reminiscent of Nick Cave in places, and a mellow John Cale as well, but it’s Nico who hangs almost unmentioned over all.  Although almost every track is a Young original, the arrangements deliberately echo those that Young and his bandmates grafted onto Nico’s own songs during their time alongside her… think of it, perhaps, as a second cousin to her final studio album, Camera Obscura, and feel that link even further as the album closes with “My Funny Valentine,” which she did indeed cover on that LP.
The album’s title, and title track, of course are taken from Young’s written memoir of this same timespan, a book that tells its story in unflinching and occasionally unthinkable detail.  The music, however, is neither a soundtrack to the book nor a booktrack to the sound – that, after all, was done back in 1994, on an album that confusingly shared its title with this, but which bequeaths just four tracks to the latest project.
And, terrific though that earlier album was, this one is better, effortlessly smoothing the cracks and weak spots that lightly tarnished the Creation album with stronger songs (“Down By The Wannsee” is breathtaking), effective instrumentals (“She’s In My Ears”) and, yes, “My Funny Valentine,” which hangs even more haunted and isolated that Nico’s own rendering.
It’s true.  It has been open season on Nico’s memory.  But you wouldn’t want to forget a thing.

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