Recorded just a few years before her tragically early death at age 49, these performances at her annual Christmas Eve concerts at New York's Bottom Line find Laura revisiting her own stunning songs as well as cover songs she held close to her heart. These riveting, spare arrangements feature only voices and piano and include To a Child; And When I Die; Save the Country; Angel in the Dark; Wedding Bell Blues; Broken Rainbow; Wind; Emmie; Let It Be Me; Ooh Baby, Baby; Dedicated to the One I Love 24 impassioned performances on 2 CDs!
Double-CD, career-spanning retrospective that offers little in the way of surprises: it's a tastefully selected overview of her career highlights, heaviest (and justifiably so) on her late '60s albums. There's the inevitable feeling of letdown as disc two progresses; her post-early '70s material is far less interesting than her earliest work, even if it's inoffensive. All of the first five albums (through 1971's Gonna Take a Miracle) are now on CD, so this is most suitable for the fan who isn't passionate enough to be a completist. Includes a couple of previously unreleased live tracks from the 1990s; the version of "Sweet Blindness," unfortunately, is not the original late-'60s recording, but from a late-'70s live album.
Angel in the Dark is a lovely recording featuring the graceful vocals and finely crafted songs that everyone expects from Laura Nyro. These sessions were completed in the summer of 1995 and represent the last music Nyro recorded. The title cut and "Sweet Dream Fade" mine the same soul terrain as her late '60s recordings, featuring horns and underlined by heavy guitar riffs. These upbeat pieces perfectly integrate voice, arrangements, and lyrics to create an organic whole, and are two of the best cuts on the album. Slower, piano-based songs like "Triple Goddess Twilight," "He Was Too Good to Me," and "Serious Playground" are mixed in-between these songs. These pieces are quieter and introspective, with Nyro's voice more intimate. It is almost as though she was sitting at the piano, late at night, and singing to herself. There are also several covers including "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" and "Let It Be Me." The first of these is over five minutes and has been slowed down so much that it drags. In fact, she slows down all of the covers as if to convert them into heartfelt ballads.
Laura Nyro's third Columbia effort is easily the equal of her previous two. The overwhelming strength of her song writing and distinctive arrangements fuel Christmas and the Beads of Sweat. Her unmistakable style of delivery maintains the continual examination of herself as a performer. The results are uniformly interesting and provocative as she continues to draw upon her love of jazz, folk, and R&B – which would inform Nyro's next album ,Gonna Take a Miracle, featuring the soul vocal trio LaBelle. Conceptually, this album is as potent as her previous effort, New York Tendaberry, but in a much different way. Rather than hanging together thematically, Christmas and the Beads of Sweat features two inclusive and distinctive sides of music – with different musicians and producers for each.
This entry into the Japan-only Premium Best series highlights the recordings of composer/performer Laura Nyro. Unlike other single-CD North American compilations, this 16-track disc gives sufficient time to her tragically underappreciated post-Smile recordings. Several of these titles are not even available on CD in the States, which is perhaps correlated to the seeming lack of interest. There are actually numerous advantages to this collection – not the least of which is the artist-sensitive track list. Presumably the Premium Best series is aimed at the casual enthusiast, as the hardcore collector would either already own the contents or buy it anyway if they were a completist. By including seminal album sides such as the imperially haunting "New York Tendaberry" and "Upstairs by a Chinese Lamp," a more accurate overview of Nyro's career is presented here.
These 12 sides represent singer/songwriter Laura Nyro 's earliest professional recordings. More Than a New Discovery was originally issued on the Folkways label in conjunction with Verve Records in early 1967. The contents were subsequently reissued as The First Songs in 1969 after she began to garner national exposure with her first two LPs for Columbia – Eli and the Thirteenth Confession (1968) and New York Tendaberry (1969), respectively. Many of these titles became international hits for some of the early '70s most prominent pop music vocalists and bands. Among them, "Wedding Bell Blues" and "Blowing Away" were covered by the Fifth Dimension . "And When I Die" became one of Blood, Sweat & Tears signature pieces. Likewise, "Stoney End," as well as "I Never Meant to Hurt You," are both arguably best known via Barbra Streisand 's renditions.