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Rock - Released October 15, 1967 | Polydor

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Rock - Released October 15, 1967 | Polydor

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 30, 2017 | Domino Recording Co

Alternative & Indie - Released October 30, 2017 | Domino Recording Co

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 30, 2017 | Domino Recording Co

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While Nico was the member of the Velvet Underground who had had the least experience in music prior to joining the group (while she had recorded a pop single in England, she'd never been a member of a working band before Andy Warhol introduced her to the Velvets), she was also the one who strayed farthest from traditional rock & roll after her brief tenure with the band, and by the time she recorded Desertshore, her work had little (if anything) to do with traditional Western pop. John Cale, who produced and arranged Desertshore, once described the music as having more to do with 20th century classical music than anything else, and while that may be going a bit far to make a point, even compared to the avant-rock frenzy of the Velvet Underground's early material, Desertshore is challenging stuff. Nico's dour Teutonic monotone is a compelling but hardly welcoming vocal presence, and the songs, centered around the steady drone of her harmonium, are often grim meditations on fate that are crafted and performed with inarguable skill and intelligence, but are also a bit samey, and the album's downbeat tone gets to be rough sledding by the end of side two. Cale's arrangements are superb throughout, and "My Only Child," "Afraid," and "The Falconer" are quite beautiful in their own ascetic way, but like the bulk of Nico's repertoire, Desertshore is an album practically designed to polarize its listeners; you'll either embrace it's darkness or give up on it before the end of side one. Then again, given the thoroughly uncompromising nature of her career as a musician, that's probably just what Nico had in mind. ~ Mark Deming
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Alternative & Indie - Released November 14, 1988 | Beggars Banquet

The most noticeable thing about Camera Obscura, only Nico's sixth solo album in almost 20 years, is how relaxed she seems. Maybe it was a result of the security that now enveloped her, following her rediscovery and total reinvention in the arms of the British post-punk/goth scene -- people say that artists do their best work while they're living on the edge, and Nico's canon was living proof of that. But it was all behind her now and, if Camera Obscura does not sound positively comfortable, it's at least less despairing than its predecessors. Not that she had changed her stance too much -- listening to Nico remains a cathartic, solitary experience. But the claustrophobia that was so essential to each of her albums as far as Drama of Exile has given way to vistas that, aided by John Cale's wide-open production, render Camera Obscura an easy listen by comparison. Indeed, the reliance on the studio is so pronounced that there are moments when the album's closest antecedent lies in Cale's own past albums, with Nico's voice buried so deeply inside the mix that it's almost unnoticeable. Both the (studio improvised?) title cut and the lengthy "Fearfully in Danger" are absolutely Cale territory and, if Nico is allowed to shine at all, it's on "My Funny Valentine," executed precisely as one would hope she'd do it -- all sad and dark, with just a faint smile playing around her lips -- and "Das Lied Von Einsanen Madchens," a strident Teutonic ballad that, were its source better known, would doubtless be as universally effective as her rendition of "Deutschland Uber Alles" proved a decade before. The title, incidentally, translates as "the song of the lonely girls," a subject about which Nico certainly knew a thing or two. Camera Obscura is not classic Nico, but it's by no means disposable. Indeed, accepting that Cale's overwhelming presence should at least earn him a co-billing in the credits, there really is no one else who could have made a record like this. ~ Dave Thompson
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Rock - Released January 1, 1974 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

It is one of the most entrenched visions in the rock critic's vocabulary; Nico as doomed valkyrie, droning death-like through a harsh gothic monotone, a drained beauty pumping dirges from her harmonium while a voice as old as dirt hangs cobwebs round the chords. In fact she only made one album which remotely fit that bill -- this one -- and it's a symbol of its significance that even the cliché emerges as a thing of stunning beauty. Her first album following three years of rumor and speculation, The End was consciously designed to highlight the Nico of already pertinent myth. Stark, dark, bare, and frightening, the harmonium dominant even amid the splendor of Eno's synthesized menace, John Cale's childlike piano, and Phil Manzanera's scratchy, effects-whipped guitar, it is the howling wind upon wuthering heights, deathless secrets in airless dungeons, ancient mysteries in the guise of modern icons. Live, Nico took to dedicating the final cut, a sparse but heartstoppingly beautiful interpretation of the former German national anthem, to terrorist Andreas Baader, even as the song itself conjured demons of its own from an impressionable Anglo-American audience. Nico later admitted she intended the performance in the same spirit as Jimi Hendrix rendered "Star Spangled Banner." But "Das Lied der Deutschen" -- "Deutschland Uber Alles" -- has connotations which neither tribute nor parody could ever undermine. It is only in the '90s that even Germany has reclaimed the anthem for its own. In 1974, it was positively leperous. Listen without prejudice, though, and you catch Nico's meaning regardless, even as her voice tiptoes on the edge of childlike, all but duetting with the little girl she once was, on a song which she'd been singing since the cradle. The ghosts pack in. Former lover Jim Morrison haunts the stately "You Forgot to Answer," a song written about the last time Nico saw him, in a hired limousine on the day of his death; of course he reappears in the title track, an epic recounting of the Doors' own "The End," but blacker than even they envisioned it, an echoing maze of torchlit corridors and spectral children, and so intense that, by the time Nico reaches the "mother...father" passage, she is too weary even to scream. The cracked groan which emerges instead is all the more chilling for its understatement, and the musicians were as affected as the listener. The mutant funk coda with which the performance concludes is more than an incongruous bridge. It is the sound of the universe cracking under the pressure. But to dwell on the fear is to overlook the beauty -- The End, first and foremost, is an album of intimate simplicity and deceptive depths. Nico's voice stuns, soaring and swooping into unimagined corners. No less than "Das Lied der Deutschen," both "Valley of the Kings" and "It Has Not Taken Long" make a mockery of the lazy critical complaints that she simply grumbled along in a one-note wail, while the arrangements (most of which were Nico's own; producer Cale admits he spent most of his time in the studio simply marveling) utterly rewrote even the most generous interpretation of what "rock music" should sound like. The End doesn't simply subvert categorization. It defies time itself. ~ Dave Thompson
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Rock - Released October 9, 1967 | Universal Records

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Pop/Rock - Released March 30, 2000 | ROIR

When the tapes which comprise this album first appeared, on the bootleg Nico Sings the Void cassette sold at her 1982/1983 live shows, they were the only evidence of her live performance you could find. Today, there's close to a dozen such collections out there, including several radar-sharp recreations of entire performances. But Do or Die, salvaged from both that original tape and a handful of other period concert and radio performances, ranks among the finest of them all. And here's why. Culled from five European gigs during 1981, and featuring the finest of Nico's latter-day live bands, the Blue Orchids, the 12 songs (but 14 performances -- two songs appear twice) are drawn from almost every phase of her career, essentially lining up as the definitive "greatest hits" album Nico is still awaiting. And no, The Classic Years, well-meaning hodgepodge though it was, doesn't fit the bill. From the Velvets to Drama of Exile, the emphasis is on the crowd-pleasers -- even if one acknowledges that the things which pleased a Nico audience weren't necessarily those which would thrill anybody else. Kicking off with a chilling, echo-laden "Janitor of Lunacy," closing with a positively medieval rendering of "The End," Do or Die sweeps from the knowing bombast of "Heroes" to the skillful beauty of "Abscheid"; from a positively lovely "Femme Fatale" to an a cappella "All Tomorrow's Parties"; and peaks with a funereal "Saeta," recorded for Manchester's Picadilly Radio in 1981, and the seldom heard "No-One Is There," originally written for Richard Nixon, but dedicated now to Ronald Reagan. None of the performances are themselves definitive -- for all her live experience, Nico worked best in the studio, surrounded by silence, darkness, and friends. The concert environment paid the rent (and financed a few other little necessities) and, particularly through the mid-'80s, Nico gigged for little other reason -- you could hear it in her voice, see it in her movements, and, years later, still recount it on so many live posthumous albums. But not every flight was on auto-pilot, not every night caught her staring blankly ahead. Do or Die is important because those are the nights it captured. ~ Dave Thompson
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Dance - Released November 15, 2000 | Fuego

Pop - Released February 2, 2016 | Cat Music

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Dance - Released March 19, 2018 | Free Fall

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Pop - Released August 31, 2018 | Diamond District

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Pop - Released July 3, 2018 | MediaPro Music, a division of Universal Music Romania

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Pop - Released June 29, 2018 | Pietro Santonocito

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Pop - Released October 10, 2018 | MediaPro Music, a division of Universal Music Romania

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Chill-out - Released August 25, 2014 | No U Turn Records

Pop - Released February 21, 2018 | MediaPro Music, a division of Universal Music Romania

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Pop - Released June 30, 2016 | Cat Music

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Pop - Released June 29, 2015 | Cat Music

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