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Nico: The Life and Lies of an Icon
Nico: The Life and Lies of an Icon
by Richard Witts
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Insight into The Life and Lies of Nico The Icon, 24 Oct. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This book was much more informative than I thought it would be, considering the very little I was able to find about Nico through the internet. It paints a tragic portrait of Nico's life, while trying to separate the legeneds from fiction, which is quite a challenge considering all the things Nico made up about her life. Nevertheless, this book tackles everything of note and even examines Nico's music and songs, which I found particularly informative in understanding a lot of what those obscure lyrics of hers meant.

This book certainly proves that Nico was more than just the "Kate Moss" of her day as she is often wrongly accused. She is a true icon of her time and an inspiration to many artists still in music today. Her legacy shall certainly outlive those who are classed as iconic in todays music industry, not just for her music, but for her attitudes of being true to oneself and doing what you want rather than having your life governed by others while you sit and smile.

This autobiography also gives good insight into Andy Warhol's factory and the characters that inhabited it throughout Nico's time there. Those of note are Andy himself, Paul Morrissey, Edie Sedgwick and Lou Reed of The Velvet Underground. Many famous faces pop up in these pages and it's interesting to see how Nico weaved in an out of these lives throughout her many travels.

All in all a great, informative book and probably the best you can find about the life of Nico the model, singer, actress, child, mother and junkee.


Desertshore
Desertshore
Price: £4.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Part Two of The Sublime Trilogy, 24 Oct. 2012
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This review is from: Desertshore (MP3 Download)
(Again I shall note that it might be useful to check out The Frozen Borderline, which can be bought for around the same price and contains this album, plus The Marble Index and a welcome host of bonus tracks to sink your teeth into).

Desertshore is Nico's most accessible album as well as her most varied, although it is probably still not the stuff for the casual capitol radio listener. All that said if you are interested in Nico, this is probably the best place to begin before taking a step back to The Marble Index, and two steps foward to The End. Desertshore is usually seen as Nico's crowning achievement and in some respects this is true, for this is the only album where she gets the balance of darkness and light correct. Good examples of this are the beautiful Piano and String led ballad, Afraid, as well as The Falconer, which starts of quite dark, but just before it begins to grate, Cale masterfully subdues Nico's harmonium to bring in more of that tender piano. Another tender effort is the almost acapella, My Only Child, which contains some wonderful harmony vocals.

An oddity on this album is the one minute long Le Petit Chevalier, sung by Nico's eight year old son, Ari. Initially it joined the lighter tracks, though there is something disturbing in the way the young boy's breath can be heard over the creepy instrumentation guiding his words.

Janitor of Lunacy is one of Nico's best known songs and it is truly a career highlight, containing one of her best vocal performances, of which there are many on this album, particularly on the ballad, Afraid. Lunacy introduces the album and really begins the eastern feel already sparked by the wonderful album cover. Nico sings two songs here in full German, these being the fiercly string led, Abschied, a dark song before the tender Afraid and then we have Mutterlein, with sinister vocal harmonies, crashing piano chords and Nico's trademark drone combined with harmonium. These two are both haunting tracks and about Nico's own mother, who passed away before the album was made.

The final song contains the title lyric "desertshore" and like Janitor of Lunacy, has quite an egyptian feel to it. I particularly like this track because of Nico's spoken "meet me on the desertshore," line, alone with more of John Cale's wonderful instrumentation around Nico's masterful harmonium tunes. It acts as a fitting conclusion to this album.

As you can see there is a lot that this album has to offer. On Desertshore, Nico has subdued the experimentation towards the pshycadelic atmosphere that The Marble Index conjoured, for a more varied sound. Here Nico explores several different themes and ideas, giving a more varied record and in this case, Desertshore is her best. However, if you want to feel the real darkness or power of Nico's work you need to look either at The End or The Marble Index, which are more consistent in those terms. Nevertheless, Desertshore remains Nico's second masterpiece with one more still to come.


The Marble Index
The Marble Index
Price: £5.19

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Part One of The Sublime Trilogy, 24 Oct. 2012
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This review is from: The Marble Index (MP3 Download)
(Before I start the review, others have mentioned, but it would be good to check out The Frozen Boarderline, which has all tracks included on this album, plus extras, as well as Nico's second masterpiece, Desertshore and extras from that also. For completists, this album is still necessary as the versions of Roses In The Snow and Nibelungan are different here than on Boarderline)

This is Nico's true debut album and while Chelsea Girl has a place in my collection, it is terribly ditzy in comparison to the deep, evocative trilogy of albums that would follow it. Each of these is thematically linked through Nico's trademark, thick, androgynous, germanic vocals and her beautiful harmonioum which when combined (even without Cale's instrumentation) calls on an ancient time and civilisation long lost in ruins. That is the feeling I get when I listen to The Marble Index, which is Nico's most acarne feeling album. In fact it is so arcane that it is almost out of time itself and still sounds as fresh and unique since it was first recorded.

Most of the songs use Nico's harmonium with extra flourishes of instrumentation by John Cale, to conjour all kinds of images into the reader. I always think of a deserted fairground when I hear Lawns of Dawns, a pleasent enough opener, though probably the weakest song on the album (Prelude notwithstanding) and when it comes to the final track, Evening Of Light, where the guitars, Cale's screeching viola and Nico's etheral vocals bring up visions of a desolate city lost in some fantastical battles. Much of Nico's songs have a dream-like quality and this is without a doubt Nico's most psychedelic album and probably one of the most effective in that category ever made.

Frozen Warnings and Julius Ceasar are two wonderful ballads, along with the added track, Roses in The Snow which should never have been left of the origional. I quite like the acapella version of Nibelungan, though the version of The Frozen Borderline is far superior. The soaring strings in No One Is There are beautiful and the song has a great vocal delivery from Nico that proves the lazy critics wrong in that she doesn't simply drone along with harmonium led dirges. Ari's Song, written for Nico's son is a pretty song and probably the only soft spot you get on the album, which is otherwise incredibly dark and eiree.

Of Nico's masterful trilogy, The Marble Index is Nico's most dream-like and avante-garde, though it is perhaps not accessible to a casual music listener, though for them I might suggest Desertshore, which is Nico's most acessible album with regards to the albums she had full control over. I cannot decide between these three albums which I prefer, but in terms of artistic quality and phsychedelic beauty, I would rate this as Nico's best in these areas.


Chelsea Girl
Chelsea Girl
Price: £5.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Not Quite Nico, But Not Bad, 16 Oct. 2012
This review is from: Chelsea Girl (Audio CD)
This was the second Nico album I got after The End, so I went from probably her gloomiest work to her softest, though I would hardly call this a Nico work. All the songs were written and arranged by other people, not to mention the addition of the strings and flute, which was done without Nico's consent. That kind of suggests already that this isn't a true Nico album, but still it is quite good and the strings are actually quite nice, even the flute is tolerable.

The Fairest of The Seasons and These Days open the album and both are wonderful songs, probably some of the best. The strings especailly work in these tracks, unlike the follow up, Little Sister, which I find quite forgettable. There are some songs that have a similar theme to Nico's later works, especially It Was A Pleasure Then, although I aren't keen on this track that much, but it has grown on me. The other track is Winter Song, which has a kind of medievil feel courtesy of the prominent flute, and it is this arcane feel that Nico's other works feel like. However, these medievil feelings here are warm and soft, rather than desolate.

The other standouts are the title track, which I adore and it's even better if you know a little about the real Chelsea girls. I'll Keep It With Mine is a great song and Nico's voice is beautiful, but her voice works to its maximum on the final, Eulogy To Lenny Bruce, which brings Nico's voice to the forefront and is a beautiful song.

All in all, its an interesting listen for fans of Nico's work, but don't buy this expecting The Marble Index, Desertshore or The End. And also don't listen to it and expect that those albums will be anything like this. They aren't.


@#%&*! Smilers
@#%&*! Smilers
Price: £9.45

5.0 out of 5 stars A String of Standout Hits!, 10 Oct. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: @#%&*! Smilers (Audio CD)
Smilers is my favourite Aimee Mann album because it is the one album where I cannot fault a single track in the slightest. Each song is perfectly crafted and has its own subtly unique aspects that stand out from each other. For most of the tracks, Aimee has put the electric guitar aside for piano and acoustic arrangements.

The tracks are also well placed. The opening Freeway contrast strongly with the piano-led Stranger Into Starman, in fact the only time the album becomes consistent is from Medicine Wheel to Little Tornado, but those tracks themselves are by no means weak.

True Believer is a stellar track, probably the best on the album along with the poppy 31 Today and the string-infused beauty of It's Over, although it is Aimee's voice and not her the strings that catapult this track up with Aimee's best works.

In addition to spectacular album we also get some great cartoony illustrations in the songbook that make buying the physical copy a real treat. The illustrations also capture the style of the album perfectly.


The Forgotten Arm
The Forgotten Arm
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £15.18

4.0 out of 5 stars Not Quite Perfection, 10 Oct. 2012
This review is from: The Forgotten Arm (Audio CD)
There's always a certain consistency with each Aimee Mann record and I think this is the strongest in that sense. There are no actual standout tracks on this album, but that is because pretty much every single track is masterfully crafted and therefore it makes it a better listening experience to listen to it as a whole.

The album kicks of mostly with some rock tunes that really capture the seventies fairground feel that Aimee was trying to capture.

The middle songs become a little lighter, especially Going Through The Motions and I Can't Get My Head Around It, which are probably the catchiest pop tunes here.

Starting with video the album takes a four track road into despair and desparation as the characters in the plot realise that things aren't working out. The strongest of this string is That's How I Knew This Story Would Break My Heart, which is a beautiful piano led ballad and one of Aimee best. I Can't Help You Anymore is my favourtite rock track, but despite its uptempo sound, the lyrics are far from happy.

The album finishes on a high note however, as the characters decide to fix their fragmented lives and it leaves us feeling hopeful, unlike Lost In Space, which ended on a rather depressing note.

The Artwork on this album is also wonderful and it's nice when an Artist still appreciates the physical medium when most have deserted it.


Lost in Space
Lost in Space
Offered by trec002
Price: £6.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Floating Adrift Somewhat, 10 Oct. 2012
This review is from: Lost in Space (Audio CD)
Lost In Space has a similar aloof and detached sound, much like on I'm With Stupid, although here the theme is more consistant. The album begins with Humpty Dumpty, one of the best tracks of Aimee Mann's career, but Mann's voice is very introspective and the music is subtley subdued, setting the mood for the rest of the album.

It is a shame that the opener is followed by High On Sunday 51, which isn't a particularly good song, but again sets to dreary mood of the album. The only breather we get from this mood is Pavlov's Bell, the most brash of the tracks here, though again, it's follow up isn't as strong and it suffers the album.

The title track has some nice bass running through it, as does Guys like me and Invisible Ink has its high points also. The closing, It's Not is a wonderful end to the album, but it is also a sad one. Overall the album is consistent, and if it was any longer it might be too hard to listen to in one go.

I would also like to note that the artwork inside the book is wonderful. I love the cartoon-comic book style. Mann shows us all why buying the physical copy beats a download every time.


Bachelor No. 2 Or The Last Remains Of The Dodo
Bachelor No. 2 Or The Last Remains Of The Dodo
Price: £8.64

5.0 out of 5 stars A Return To Stunning Form, 10 Oct. 2012
After the gloom-laden, defeatest album, I'm With Stupid, Aimee kicks back with one of her best albums to date.

On this album, Mann clearly has a lot of scores to settle, mostly with her label, but she constructs the songs with such ambiguity that they apply to more than just the music industry. Nothing Is Good Enough and It Takes All Kinds are the best examples of this.

Most of the songs are constructed mostly around acoustic and electric guitar and piano, constructing simple, but wonderful hooks across the board.

Red Vines is a wonderful song and demonstrates Mann singing with more emotion than Stupid, where she sounded quite aloof. Just Like Anyone is a bittersweet ballad that goes by an a single breath, while Mann proves she can still create killer pop tunes on songs such as Ghost World and Backfire.

A good place to start for a newcomer to Aimee Mann's work, or anyone familiar with her work on Magnolia.


White Light / White Heat
White Light / White Heat
Price: £8.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fantastic Mess!, 4 Oct. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Distortion, perverse lyrics, off-key singing, speaking over an improvised jam and a near twenty minute song mostly about sucking on a 'ding dong,' is hardly the sort of stuff that would appeal to a commercial music listener, or even someone interested in The Velvet Underground. It might be better to start with the Banana album, which is more accessible than this.

Having said that, I have grown to love this album mostly because of the shear audacity that it is infused with. This album captures the essence of Punk music, long before it began. It sounds like a mess and I think the band knew this, but the fact was that they really didn't care, because this record is about creating an atmosphere and if you can tap into that, I can assure you that you will love this record.

When I first heard the opening track, I was shocked and thought I was going to hate it, but now I think that even with it's low-fi distortion, it is wonderful. It is also one of the easiest listens of the album. From what I've read about The Gift, it seems more popular with people who aren't into the velvets than those who are. Regardless, I love it, especially as it is Cale who does the reading and what a job he does! I am always enthralled by this track from start to finish and the end of it always brings a twisted smile to my face. Lady Godiva's Operation also contains Cale's vocals, especially because they are quite soft and work well with Reed's harder vocals, which also feature on this track, shouting over Cale and creating an unsettling air to an unsettling track.

Here She Comes Now is light White Light/White Heat, as it is an easy listen, probably the easiest on the album and works as a nice bridge between Operation and I Heard Her Call My Name, where the distortion returns, along with Reed's vocals. This is a gritty rock and roll track and it only gets bettwe with the epic, Sister Ray. It goes on for a long time and I'll admit that I don't listen to it often, but when I do it's an invigorating listen, for there isn't a moment where this track turns into a dirge and I never check to see how long it has before it's over.

Overall, I wouldn't dismiss this album if you've only given it a single listen. It shows the Velvets at their peak before Cale left and they eventually wound up with god awful Doug Yule and like I said, has a great Punk attitude that once more proves that this band was well before its time.


World Of Morrissey
World Of Morrissey
Offered by mrtopseller
Price: £3.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars There Are Far Better Compilations, 3 Oct. 2012
This review is from: World Of Morrissey (Audio CD)
I give this two stars based on the fact that I got it before I had many Morrissey records, so it introduced me to great songs, (Playboys, Jack The Ripper, Boxers, Moonriver) to name a few. However, this collection is hardly a greatest hits compilation, so it doesn't really work if you are a curious listener, though it does contain some hits and some overlooked ones.

However, it doesn't work for fans either. Most casual fans will probably have his albums Your Arsenal, Vaxhall and I and possibly Bona Drag too, which comprise most of the compilations track list. Also, casual fans aren't probably going to be able a appreciate a ten minute version of Moonriver, so it doesn't work for them, and for hardcore fans, they'll probably have all Morrissey's B-Sides either in the Parlophone compilation or from the singles, so it doesn't serve them a purpose either.

To conclude, this compilation album is just downright bizzare and makes no sense. There is no real logic behind the set-list, which doesn't flow and it doesn't seem to fit any particular audience.


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