Thursday, 26 January 2017

Nico tribute US review

Young, James: Songs They Never Play On The Radio

For those of you who grew up listening to The Velvet Underground and are familiar with the work of Andy Warhol you likely know the name Nico. The German singer sang on the first Underground album The Velvet Underground & Nico released in 1967. After that album she had a pretty successful solo career in the '70s and has influenced a great many artists. In the early '80s British musician James Young while attending Oxford University met Nico who eventually provided the lead vocals for his band Faction. They subsequently toured the world together until Nico's unfortunate death in 1988. In 1993 Young published his memoir Songs They Never Play on the Radio about his adventures travelling with the enigmatic vocalist. The album Songs They Never Play On The Radio came a year later. Fast forward to 2016 and the reissue of said album. It must be stated this is not the same album although a few songs from it are included as well as other tunes culled from the time the artists worked together.

Really, this album is quite a moving tribute to Nico. The music is also similar in style to Nico as Young captures a minimalistic and experimental kind of folk music you could imagine Nico doing if she were alive today.

The title track is an absolutely memorable tune as a subtly reverberating drum beat drives the tunes folky acoustic guitar and a moody keyboard soundscape. It's a mellow vibe yet intense at the same time, particularly the feeling of forlornness conveyed in the lyrics. On the instrumental "Breathe For Me" the style is much more experimental. A breathing machine forms the backbone of the song which is what Nico wanted to commit to tape years ago as her son lay in a hospital bed tied to the machinery keeping him alive. Another haunting atmosphere can be heard on "Down By The Wannsee" with its ethereal harmonium and piano melody. The reference of Wansee refers to a lake near Berlin which is a popular tourist destination with a dark past having been the place where the Nazi's met to discuss the extermination of Jewish people during World War II. In this light the bleakness of the music makes perfect sense. "The Door" is another minimalist folk tune describing Young's first meeting with Nico. On "Burn Away" it is all about Young's deep vocals as he half sings/speaks over gentle acoustic strums and an ethereal moodiness that is almost palpable.

Songs They Never Play On The Radio is a deeply rewarding listen, emitting both light and darkness, an album that needs to be heard by all fans of Nico and her unique musical style.

Track Listing:
1. Songs They Never Play On The Radio
2. Breathe For Me
3. Down By The Wannsee
4. The Door
5. Burn Away
6. She's In My Eyes
7. Planète Poussière
8. The Cigarette Ends
9. Listen To The Rain
10. Plastik Exploding Inevitable
11. Curious
12. Dog (live Berlin)
13. My Funny Valentine (live Berlin)

Songs They Never Play On The Radio
CD - £9.99

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