Beyond the BCB 130 - Laura Nyro

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Goat Boy
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Beyond the BCB 130 - Laura Nyro

Postby Goat Boy » 03 Jun 2015, 15:25

It saddens me that someone as obscenely talented as Laura Nyro should still be something of a cult figure. Despite her greatness it still feels that she hasn’t quite been given her due as a major songwriter but then I take solace in the notion that perhaps someone as original as Nyro was always destined to be more of a cult figure. I think I first heard about her in an interview with Peter Buck in Q Magazine, one of those ‘tell us about your record collection’ things and I’m pretty sure this is what first piqued my interest. I remember being really quite taken by the sleeve of Eli as much as Bucks description of the music: the redness of her plump lips, the blackness of her hair, the paleness of her skin, the flowery font, it all suggested something incredibly sensual, erotic, feminine. There was something overpowering about the image alone for a 15 year old boy you know. The title too, typically poetic and elliptical intrigued me as well. What the hell was this record? At some point after that, I can’t remember quite when but definitely when I was still a teenager I purchased Eli. It’s not an easy record and it took me a while to fully appreciate its artistry but it’s one hell of a fucking record. I’d never really heard anything quite like it to be honest. It’s an incredibly rich album, dense and overflowing with ideas as songs career off in unexpected directions and thrilling tangents, songs that climax with operatic intensity and gospel heart. Eli is an incredible outpouring of the self really and it knocked me on my fucking arse. Listen to it initially all in one go and you might lose your mind but take a step back, let the songs breathe, and you’ll soon appreciate the heady beauty of Eli’s Comin’, The Confession, Decembers Boudoir etc. It’s singular and magical, it really is. It’s worth mentioning that Laura was 20 years old when she recorded this.

I would like to write more but I don’t have the time nor inclination right now as I would like to do justice to New York Tendaberry and Christmas and the Beads of Sweat.

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Re: Beyond the BCB 130 - Laura Nyro

Postby Jeemo » 03 Jun 2015, 19:36

I got the five album set at Christmas. I've been wanting to che k her stuff out for a while. I like her rather than love her but feel as if I should love. It will probably click at some point but her voice isn't quite working for me. But I'm not finished with her yet. The songs are fabulous in the main so I'm sure it will completely falling to place soon.

I've a feeling that listening to her in NYC will tip the scales soon.
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Re: Beyond the BCB 130 - Laura Nyro

Postby Quaco » 03 Jun 2015, 20:00

It's to my great embarrassment that I bought Eli and NYT when I was 12 years old because they looked cool -- but never got it.

It's a further embarrassment that a BCBer made me a CD-R of her Labelle album -- and I haven't listened to it.

:(

I think I'm ready.
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Re: Beyond the BCB 130 - Laura Nyro

Postby Guy E » 03 Jun 2015, 20:15

My sister and her posse of friends turned me onto Laura Nyro when I was in high school and I saw her four times in the late-60's/early-70's in Chicago... one show at the Opera House and three at the Auditorium Theater. I also saw her here in NYC a couple times at the Bottom Line during the late-70's/early-80's. She may be a cult artist these days, but it was a very big cult 45-years ago

The Theater concerts were stellar; sold out halls of 3500-4500 worshipful fans where you could hear a pin drop during any and every quiet passage. It was unthinkable that anyone would dare to clear their throat when she was performing... there were no cellphone nitwits in those days. She was alone at the piano for the first three of those concerts and always dressed in a dramatic full-length gown; the last one was the Miracle tour with LaBelle, which was magical in its own way. I remember when she came out for an encore after her Chicago Opera House debut she was smoking a cigarette and there were audible gasps of shock throughout the audience. I mean, everybody smoked back then, but it was just so startling to see an angelic diety - our Laura - strolling back on stage acting like a NY street kid.

I had no idea how young she was back then... I assumed that she fell somewhere between my own age and my parents generation. I remember once seeing an hour-long PBS documentary about her that included footage filmed during the NY Tendaberry sessions. It focused a lot on the artistic control she wielded, which was not a given for a woman in those years. I don't know if that show has ever surfaced in "collectors circles." I remember at the end of the show even my mom had to admit that Laura was a certified genius.
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Re: Beyond the BCB 130 - Laura Nyro

Postby hookfinger » 03 Jun 2015, 20:42

New York Tendaberry is one of only a handful of older records that I spent exhaustive amounts of time searching until I found an immaculate original copy. I record I will never part with and intend to go home and play this evening.
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Re: Beyond the BCB 130 - Laura Nyro

Postby Rayge » 03 Jun 2015, 20:43

Deep envy of Guy's story – I saw her just once on TV. I don't think she ever played over here.

I wrote at length of my love of Laura here: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=123504&hilit=laura+nyro

Laura and I go back a long way. I first heard her early in 1968, when Stoned Soul Picnic leaped off the Rock Machine I Love You sampler on CBS: that extraordinary, swooping vocal that combined a soulful growl with operatic flourishes and a bizarre lyric (what does 'surrey on down' mean?) stood out from the other tracks, and on the strength of it I bought Eli & the 13th Confession, a record that sounded like no other I had heard before, full of allusiveness, dramatic arrangements, sexual tension, astonishing harmonies (which I later learned were provided by Laura herself) and a general sense of something new, exotic and mystical, holding out a promise of knowledge that remained tantalizingly out of reach. There wasn't a bad track on it; even then, I was a confirmed skipper of songs on albums, but this was one I always let play through. That said, though, the last three tracks on each side (poverty Train / Lonely Women / Eli's Coming and Farmer Joe / December's Boudoir / The Confession) made remarkable short cycles of their own.

This was the year after my father died, and I was living outside Canterbury on a farm while attending the University of Kent. Laura became a bit of a cult among my friends, and I made a point of seeking out her first album (basically songwriting demos) and later New York Tendaberry in the import shops in London, which would often have US releases two months before they were released in the UK. While it was as exotic and mysterious as E&tTC - and the images of NYC at night and of Laura herself on the cover spoke to my 20-year-old soul in a huskily seductive voice (incidentally, she was only a year - less two days – older than me) – NYT was more minimal and stripped down, dominated by Laura's piano (she really could play that thing) and yielded its pleasures more slowly. I never got to love it as much as E&tTC, but You Don't Love Me When I Cry, Mercy on Broadway, the apparently perky, but dark, Time and Love, the knowing The Man Who Sends Me Home, the storming meta-soul of Save the Country, and the quietly brilliant, crepuscular hymn to her home city, New York Tendaberry, have all touched my heart and/or tapped my feet at one time or another. None of the tracks I haven't mentioned are less than good.

By the time Christmas and the Beads of Sweat came out at the end of 1970, I was a post-grad student and was living with some undergrad druggy fools (I was not partaking at this time) in a house just outside Canterbury: five of us moved to a 15th-century house in Faversham in January 1971, and C&tBoS was one of the soundtracks to that move. This was when I started doing acid (and, later, smoking dope) and I guess this was a factor in my coming to treasure this album, although most critics seemed to think it was a step down from NYT: in sound, it was a mix of the orchestral textures of Eli and the chiming, coruscating keyboards of NYT. It boasts an impressive array of sidepersons, too (can't be many records featuring Duane Allman, half of the Rascals, Richard Davis and Alice Coltrane), another wonderful triptych of Laura originals on the second side - the delicate Upstairs by a Chinese Lamp, the mildly epic Map to the Treasure and the tearaway Beads of Sweat, and as its crowning glory, the first non-original she ever recorded, the utterly sublime, totally NuYorican Up on the Roof, both a wonderfully evocative and literal depiction of the pleasures of escaping the clamour and heatg of the city by climbing up to the top of the building and, in Laura's performance, a metaphor for the escape provided by drugs.

It was only much later that these three stellar albums became in hindsight a trilogy - each appeared at the time to be on its own, with its particular colour palate (warm browns and gold / twilight-blue, bruise-purple and street-grey / red, white and green respectively) and lyrical concerns, and I was expecting something different again for the next album.

But not as different as it proved: Gonna Take a Miracle had Gamble & Huff taking over production and Laura eschewing her own songs in favour of versions of early soul, Motown, girl group and doowop hits; instead of recording her own backing vocals, she performed with one of my favourite ’60s girl groups, Patti LaBelle & the BlueBelles, renamed as LaBelle that year. She showed some glorious taste in her choice of material, Patti, Nona and Sarah were on top form, the whole record has a clean sharp sound, but, while a lot of my mates were entranced, I was a little disappointed; it was her songs that made the music special, and I wanted some new ones.
But then she withdrew from recording and performing (and left NYC for the countryside), and effectively retired, aged 23, to get married: when she came back, a divorced mother, four years later, with Smile, something was missing. She had the same producer as on Eli, Charlie Calello. There was a fine cover of the Moments' Sexy Mama, and two excellent new songs in I Am the Blues and the title track, but the smooth-jazz sound made for some non-stick listening. The double live Season of Lights mostly revisited her 60s material, and convinced me that while the craft was still there, the edge and daring that had made her the first great female singer-songwriter had gone: Rimbaud syndrome had set in.

There was nothing on Nested (1978) to suggest I was wrong - some nice tunes, sure, but I look at the track listing to research this post and I don't really recognize any of the songs.

There were three more albums of new material (one posthumous - she died of ovarian cancer at the age of 49, just as her mother had done) and several live ones, in which Laura's themes switched to environmentalism, feminism and issue-based songs generally. I hoovered them all up, of course, and played them a few times, but as far as I am concerned it is that run of albums from Eli to Miracle that make her unignorable.
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Re: Beyond the BCB 130 - Laura Nyro

Postby The Modernist » 03 Jun 2015, 21:30

I wish I could get into NYT, but I just don't like the sound: too Broadway and not enough groove.
It's put me off checking out her other stuff. I do like some of her songs covered by others though.

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Re: Beyond the BCB 130 - Laura Nyro

Postby The Modernist » 03 Jun 2015, 21:33

I should try with another album though. If "Beads of Sweat" is anything to go by I'd really like her earlier stuff.

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Re: Beyond the BCB 130 - Laura Nyro

Postby fange » 04 Jun 2015, 05:42

What i love by Nyro i absolutely adore, but there's also stuff that i have yet to really get with... but then i feel this way about Joni too, and many other artists who steadfastly march to the beat of their own drums.

I play the whole of Eli... several times every year, and Beads... almost as often, usually on reflection now in late summer or Chinese New Year walking through the markets.

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Re: Beyond the BCB 130 - Laura Nyro

Postby Your Friendly Neighbourhood Postman » 04 Jun 2015, 08:06

I love her.

Yet I don't know all her albums yet. Time to rectify this.

The LaBelle album is a 5 star one; and for me, Angel In The Dark is as great. I played it yesterday, and it gets me every time. Can't find the words. So I will leave my personal top song from it here (95 views on YouTube in 8 months and I don't mind).

On the whole, I'd rather be in Wallenpaupack.

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Re: Beyond the BCB 130 - Laura Nyro

Postby Jimbo » 04 Jun 2015, 12:43

Eli is an easy listen and fabulous. It's the only one I know well.
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Re: Beyond the BCB 130 - Laura Nyro

Postby Guy E » 04 Jun 2015, 15:40

I basically agree with Rayge that she never delivered anything magnificent after Christmas & The Beads of Sweat. Mother's Spiritual feels like the most substantial of her later albums, but I can't recollect a single song from it.

But man, when she was on fire it was something to behold. I've seen a lot of shows through the years and concert audiences in the late-60's and early-70's were typically respectful and attentive. But I've never seen a concert where the artist had the audience in the palm of her hand the way Laura did in those theaters. She needed that kind of love as a performer. Legend has it that she was boo'ed at Monterey, but I don't think that actually happened. She was uncomfortable, the audience was intrigued (and maybe confused in equal measure), but from the evidence on tape she was well-received, or at least politely. She was just too sensitive.

The later shows that I saw in NYC cabaret clubs weren't anything close to the solo theater shows. She had a band, it was tastefully groovy-jazzy, she was vulnerable and sweet with the audience. She was in good voice and I recall her making a few self-deprecating comments about her appearance... she must have gained 100 lbs. She was real. But it wasn't a soaring magical musical experience.
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Re: Beyond the BCB 130 - Laura Nyro

Postby Six String » 05 Jun 2015, 21:52

I have a good friend who rates her very highly. I vaguely remember seeing her on tv but can't remember any details. All I have is her live lp Season Of Light on Columbia. It is a bit jazzy so I wonder of it is from one of the later tours that Guy saw. I keep saying I need to explore her more as I see her records regularly and they aren't expensive.

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Re: Beyond the BCB 130 - Laura Nyro

Postby never/ever » 08 Jun 2015, 12:59

Laura's got a great voice. Sometimes a bit too great. I love And When I Die but when she sings it it always feels she's crushing the song just a bit.
This is the closest I think she came of getting it right....



NB- just her and a piano is all I need....
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Re: Beyond the BCB 130 - Laura Nyro

Postby Rayge » 15 Jan 2018, 19:40

bump
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Re: Beyond the BCB 130 - Laura Nyro

Postby Davey the Fat Boy » 15 Jan 2018, 21:29

I can’t even begin.

As great as any pop musician in the 20th century. Yes...even Bowie.
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