(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.
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