Monday, April 23, 2012

Laura Nyro

I've just discovered that fifteen years since her untimely death, the American singer/songwriter Laura Nyro (1947-1997) has finally been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (April 12th 2012).

Laura Nyro was a precocious artist, recording her first album at the age of nineteen. The trilogy of albums Eli and the Thirteenth Confession (1968) New York Tendaberry (1969) and Christmas and the Beads of Sweat (1970) form the back-bone of her recording career; all three albums showcase her soulful voice in conjunction with her cross-genre song-writing talents.

It was from reading a glowing review by the English music journalist Charles Shaar Murray in the New Musical Express way back in 1976 that I first discovered Laura Nyro, purchasing her Jazz-oriented album Smile on the recommendation of Murray's enthusiastic review. Smile was recorded after a 4 year hiatus away from the studio, and is arguably a landmark return in Nyro's musical career. Although clocking in at little more than 30 minutes it was a long-playing disc which rarely left my record-player turn-table during the Spring and heat-wave summer of 1976, every track on it being a little gem in song-writing and singing. The album concludes with improvised Japanese koto and flute.

Laura Nyro withdrew from the music world on several occasions and never really got the breaks or the fame she deserved in her short life. I notice that the Wikipedia article now discreetly omits any mention of her struggles with cocaine addiction and subsequent recovery.

Tragically she died of ovarian cancer aged only 49 the same age as her mother who also died of the same disease.

With her highly expressive voice, vigorous piano-playing and unique song-writing talents Laura Nyro's music will continue to find new fans. Her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame although belated, is well deserved. 

1967 – More Than a New Discovery 
1968 – Eli and the Thirteenth Confession *
1969 – New York Tendaberry *
1970 – Christmas and the Beads of Sweat *
1971 – Gonna Take a Miracle (with Labelle)
1976 – Smile *
1978 – Nested 
1984 – Mother's Spiritual
1993 – Walk the Dog and Light the Light
2001 – Angel in the Dark  (recorded 1994–1995)
* Recommended
Wiki-Link - Laura Nyro


teegee said...

Unfortunately, with extremely rare exceptions, I can't get interested in pop music or even much of classical jazz, but, if I run across her, I'll give her a try. But I may be of the wrong generation, much as I respect your taste.


May well not be your cup of tea Teegee, you're of an age to know exactly what you like without exhortations or recommendations!

Karl Beech said...

Just enjoyed listening to some tracks from 'Smile' on 'Spotify'- interesting biography as well...


Thanks Karl, having now found some CD sleeve notes I could have expanded her biography much more. Glad the post inspired you to listen to 'Smile', a vastly under-rated album by an almost forgotten performer.