Lou had just recorded his first solo album, and had yet to fall into the Bowie circle, so he delivers some sleepy acoustic renditions of his old and new material—“Black Angel’s Death Song” is particularly striking in this format—before stepping aside to shakily strum behind the other two. Cale does three songs, two of which were never otherwise recorded, and then Nico sings a serviceable “Femme Fatale” before dragging her harmonium out to accompany her unique brand of lieder.
This can be startling if you’ve never heard it before, but basically, after the chamber pop of her Chelsea Girls album in 1967, the Teutonic titwillow started writing her own songs to the seesawing accompaniment of the aforementioned harmonium, which were then helped onto wax by Cale. And while they may seem to be simple two-finger noodlings, she still manages to sound convincing. Whatever these songs are about, they mean something to her.
For the sake of preserving history, a full minute of Nico coughing is not edited out, perhaps to excuse whatever might go wrong with “I’ll Be Your Mirror”, which is good because nothing does. She even comes back to sing lead on a jaunty rendition of “All Tomorrow’s Parties”.
Amazingly, for all the time spent tuning between songs, they never seem to find the right pitch. This is even sadly apparent on the snippets of “rehearsals” stuck on the end of the disc. Both happen to be songs from the third VU album, so perhaps this was the first Cale and Nico had heard them.
As with many bootlegs gone official, this doesn’t quite live up to the hype. Still, it’s a fascinating snapshot of Lou the troubadour, with giant hair and less attitude. YouTube clips abound, for easy sampling, teasing and/or repelling, depending on where you stand or sit.
Lou Reed, John Cale & Nico Le Bataclan ‘72 (2004)—2½