Chris Connelly – Eulogy to Christa: A Tribute to the Music & Mystique of Nico(Shipwrecked Industries / Easy Action) – What began life as an album of Nico cover songs, after Connelly recorded a version of You Forget to Answer for his 2020 release Graveyard Sex, became something more after the book You Are Beautiful and You Are Alone: The Biography of Nico by Jennifer Otter Bickerdike came out, the album eventually evolved into something far more than just a collection of covers (something that would have been interesting enough anyway). The book inspired Connelly to integrate Nico’s songs with his own compositions detailing episodes in her life. The result is “an impressionist telling of Nico’s life in song”.
Now based in Chicago, this album from the Scottish alternative singer Chris Connelly, a singer who first came to prominence during the industrial days of the 90’s and his much respected adventures with Revolting Cocks and Ministry amongst others, these days he’s as well Known for his almost surprising born again lush, melodic solo work as a singer songwriter. Chris Connelly has a striking voice, a rich warm timbre, an edge, we’re talking something near the same ballpark as Scott Walker, David Bowie, a hint of Robert Calvert now and again, a touch of Peter Hammill and yes of course this time around it feels a little Velvet Underground, how would a collection that pays tribute to Nico – iconic muse of The Velvet Underground and one of the most unique, and tragically misunderstood artists in the history of music, not feel a little Velvet, a little Lou Reed? Actually is sounds very Velvet Underground, no bad thing. Of course some of Eulogy is dark, actually a lot of it is, most of it is rather moody, clearly Eulogy to Christa is a labour of love, an album drenched in empathy, sadness, acting and channelling, along with Chris’s adoration of the dark corner of rock inhabited by the Velvets and their peers, a work that finds Connelly purposefully adopt the personas of Nico, Lou Reed and John Cale – even Andy Warhol makes a cameo!
A twenty-four song double album, it was initially planned as an album of ten Nico covers, Connelly ended up writing additional compositions spanning her life, from her first Jimmy Page-composed single, The Velvet Underground years and her intense and unique solo recordings until her death. The album follows her from Berlin to New York via Paris, Ibiza, and Rome, then back through Paris, London, Edinburgh, Manchester and up to her tragic and needless death in Ibiza. A twenty-four track double album probably is hard going, it can start to lack a touch dimension by the time you’re getting to second half of the second of two CDs, it probably is something you’re going to dip into now and again rather than play right through, but then how often do you listened the the whole of your much loved copies of the Lamb Lies Down or The Wall? Then again, the album was, in part, inspired by Jennifer Otter Bickerdicke’s book, Jennifer in turn who contributed to the album liner notes, saying “This is a record to be played at full blast, all the way through, as a commemoration not just to Nico the person, the musician, but to art for art’s sake, for making something because it is important and needs to be done – an idea that is as rare and precious as Nico herself.”. I guess you need to be a real Nico fan to really stick with the whole thing every time, if you’re not then there is still lots to be got from this rather (too) long a journey of an album, you’ll maybe not want to stick with it for the entire journey every single time but there is a lot to dip in to and explore, there is reward waiting.
Must admit, until recently I hadn’t really taken much notice of Chris Connelly’s adventures beyond his industrial glories of the 90’s, yes we did run interviews and such back in the day, we’d kind of left all those global noise attacks and things back there with the paper and the photocopiers. It has t obe said, this latest album, as well as some of Connelly’s other more recent pieces of work are well worth a visit or two. If, like me, you hadn’t been paying attention, then even if Nico and her story may not appeal, the singer songwriter Chris Connelly of now is well well worth checking out. Eulogy to Christa is clearly a labour of love, Nico is a clearly a muse, this is an ambitious album, a commitment, and yes, it is good, some of it is excellent, it might be a step too far, but if you haven’t discovered the singer songwriter that Chris Connelly is now, do make the effort to explore what he’s been doing, his Walker/Bowie/Hammill-like adventures are rich, and yes, he does have a voice all of his own, don’t let these things pass by… (sw)