Nico "At The Live Inn, Tokyo '86" (2024 Record Store Day LP)

For Record Store Day 2024, the Culture Factory label is issuing yet another live album by Nico, the late German chanteuse best known for her association with the Velvet Underground. Nico At The Live Inn, Tokyo '86 was recorded at Shibuya Live Inn in Tokyo, Japan on April 11, 1986. This RSD LP is pressed in transparent green vinyl, and is limited to 2,000 copies.

The Record Store Day website states that the album "has never been released on vinyl", but that is not exactly true. Although this album has never before been commercially issued in the U.S., it was released on vinyl in the U.K. and Japan in 1987 as Nico In Tokyo, and was issued on CD during the '90's in those same territories under the same title. Also, the album was released on vinyl in Italy for Record Store Day 2017, under the title Live In Tokyo 1986. The sound quality of the album is usually excellent, and the album itself is quite good as well.

Nico, who was born in Germany in 1938 as Christa Päffgen, was a singer who performed with the Velvet Underground during their time with Andy Warhol in 1966, and sang the eerie lead vocals on three of the songs on their 1967 debut album The Velvet Underground and Nico. The song selections on this 1986-recorded live album include two of Nico's VU songs ("Femme Fatale" and "All Tomorrow's Parties"), and nine songs from her obscure solo albums from the '70's and '80's. Nico played harmonium during this concert as she did on many of her solo works, but also was accompanied by two keyboardists (James Young and Eric Ramsden, the latter of whom also played tabla) and drummer Graham Dowdell. Acoustic piano and electronic keyboards were both used during this show, and those sounds helped make Nico's music more accessible than usual -- and more hypnotic. Although her compositions generally maintained their usual eerie atmosphere in this setting, Nico's vocals did not always have their usual deadpan quality during this concert. Her singing is more melodic than usual here, and is often emotionally penetrating during "Tananore" and "Janitor Of Lunacy". Her more old-fashioned chanteuse roots are most evident on the German-language "Das Lied Von Einsanen Madchens" and her cover of Rodgers & Hart's 1937 showtune "My Funny Valentine". The uncommonly refined presentation of Nico's avart garde music succeeds most of the time, except during an oddly genteel rendition of "Femme Fatale". (The other VU selection, "All Tomorrow's Parties", was performed a cappella). The disc closes with a fresh-sounding interpretation of Jim Morrison's "The End", on which Nico and her supporting players imparted an updated Goth rock aura to the psychedelic epic.

It's good to see this album finally given a proper physical release on American soil, even as a limited edition item. It shows the enigmatic artist to impressive effect during a late phase in her career, two short years before her sudden death in a bicycle accident in July 1988.

Note: This concert was issued on home video in Japan in 1992 in the Laserdisc format, under the title Velvet Memories - Nico in Tokyo '86 (Polygram Video POLV-1708), with a different track sequence, and with the song "You Forget To Answer" omitted.

Nico - Nico in Tokyo

Nico "Nico In Tokyo" (Castle Communications DO JO LP 50) 1987

Nico "Live In Tokyo 1986" (Radiation Reissues – RRSCV002) 2017

Nico - Nico at the Live Inn, Tokyo '86

Nico "At The Live Inn, Tokyo '86" (Culture Factory USA) 2024

Track Listing:

1. My Heart Is Empty
2. Purple Lips
3. Tananore
4. Janitor Of Lunacy
5. You Forget To Answer
6. 60/40
7. My Funny Valentine
8. All Tomorrow's Parties
9. Das Lied Von Einsanen Madchens
10. Femme Fatale
11. The End