After last year’s album The Birthday Poems, inspired by Stella Cartwright, the muse of the Scottish poets, Chris Connelly returns with a new story-telling album. Eulogy to Christa is a musical story about another personal inspiration to Chris; it’s about one of the most beautiful, mysterious and tragic contemporary female artists, Nico.
Connelly fell in love with her music and persona very early; he was only 15 years old when he saw Nico performing in Edinburgh. It was an encounter that made a long-lasting impression on him, which he now remembers with great fondness. Decades later, he decided to put his feelings into a marvellous piece of art in the form of a double album as a tribute to Christa Päffgen, which many of us know by her stage name Nico.
Initially, he had planned to record an album of her songs after covering her “You Forget to Answer”, which was released on Graveyard Sex, the album dedicated to his long-time friend and collaborator Bill Rieflin, as they both shared the same love and admiration for her work.
After completing an album worth of her songs and reading the brilliant book, You are Beautiful, and You Are Alone by author Jennifer Otter Bickerdicke, he decided to integrate his songwriting and tell the story of the enigmatic star by leaving subtle clues hidden in the musical expression and the lyrics. Even if you don’t know much about Nico, this album will unravel some of the mystery that surrounds her, however not entirely; Chris keeps the story obscure, just as her life was.
One can take this masterfully crafted piece of art in many different ways. You can think of it as a mere collection of Nico covers and Connelly’s impressions, or you can embrace it as a whole; the story about her life, career and untimely death and the story about the person, the artist, the muse and the creative force that she was. Chris captures her so beautifully and deeply that she magically comes to life again.
He opens with “Ripcord, Ripcord”, a powerful introduction to Nico’s life story, which started in WWII Germany. “Via Margutta” is reminiscent of the sound of The Velvet Underground era but with a distinguishable Connelly signature; it’s a down-tempo, sombre track that starts to follow Nico on her life journey away from her home in Berlin. In his songs, Chris places Nico in different cities around Europe and New York as he describes details from her music career. He also brings to light some more personal events, including the fatal bike accident in Ibiza.
Connelly takes up the roles of Nico, Lou Reed, John Cale and even Andy Warhol in songs like “Andy, Incidentally” or “A Slow Jones in New York”, which reveal her complicated relationship with The Velvet Underground and especially Reed. “Fa Massa Calor” places Nico in Ibiza; this dissonant number talks about the accident that resulted in her untimely death.
The album features covers of her songs, including “Hanging Gardens of Semiramis”, which was one of Rieflin’s favourite Nico songs; I believe this majestic and dramatic cover version is dedicated to both Nico and Bill.
Connelly dived into the project wholeheartedly; he reached for Nico within his heart and offered us a glimpse into her life and work. He portrayed her as a dark and obscure persona and a magnificent creative force, though the veil of mystery remains. Even though Chris writes about the subject and takes up many roles throughout the album, we can still hear his unique and distinctive musical expression, whether in his utterly expressive vocal performance or the musical approach to both covers and his own compositions.
In Eulogy to Christa, Connelly addressed the subject methodically and with great empathy and admiration for Nico, which will undoubtedly inspire many of us to find out more about this dark and complicated yet undeniably powerful and inspiring artist.