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Thursday, 30 June 2016
"Eli And The Thirteenth Confession" by LAURA NYRO (2002 Columbia/Legacy 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...
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"...A Little Magic...A Little Kindness..."
A rare beauty and typically
gone too soon. Laura Nyro's 2nd album - the wonderfully named "Eli And The
Thirteenth Confession" scraped a No. 181 position on the US LP charts in
August 1968 months after its March release (it was an improvement on the the
total non-chart placement of her 1966 set "More Than A New
Discovery"). And in truth I know people who can't bear her busy
arrangements and that voice you either love or loathe. Yet you have to say that
Columbia have done her memory and musical legacy proud with this elegant and
beautiful sounding CD reissue. Here are the testimonials unveiled...
UK released August 2002 -
"Eli And The Thirteenth Confession" by LAURA NYRO on Columbia/Legacy
508068 2 (Barcode 5099750806821) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster with
three Previously Unreleased Bonus Tracks and plays out as follows (52:23
Side 1: Part 1
3. Sweet Blindness
4. Poverty Train
5. Lonely Women
6. Eli's Comin'
Side 2: Part 2
8. Stoned Soul Picnic
10. Woman's Blues
11. Once It Was Alright Now
12. December Boudoir
13. The Confession
Tracks 1 to 13 are her 2nd studio
album "Eli And The Thirteenth Confession" - released March 1968 in
the USA on Columbia CS 9626 (Stereo) and August 1968 in the UK on CBS Records S
63346 (Stereo). Produced by CHARLIE CALELLO and LAURA NYRO - all songs written
by Laura Nyro.
BONUS TRACKS (all Previously
14. Lu (Demo recorded 29 Nov
15. Stoned Soul Picnic (Demo
recorded 29 Nov 1967)
16. Emmie (Demo recorded 29
The CD Reissue is Produced
by AL QUAGLIERI - the 12-page booklet features affectionate and informative
liner notes (with a rear sleeve note from singer Phoebe Snow) - a photo of her
at the piano with Miles Davis - lyrics to the songs and recording dates - a
photo beneath the see-through tray and the usual reissue credits. It feels
classy right from the off...
The last time the album has
a CD transfer was in May 1997 on Columbia 487240 2 – an album-only reissue. But
this new 'Expanded Edition' on their Legacy imprint from 2002 comes with a
fresh remaster involving two very experienced Audio Engineers - MARK WILDER and
SETH FOSTER. A pretty ballad like "Emmie" and "Lonely
Women" have quite passages and the tape hiss is evident in places
("Poverty Train" too) - but nothing too much to detract. In fact
re-listening to stuff like the brass arrangements on "Woman's Blues"
is a stunning experience - the remaster is beautiful - as is the music (you can
'so' hear where Blood, Sweat & Tears got their musical signatures from).
Although she couldn't seem
to get arrested with regard to sales of her own records - her songwriting
prowess soon got noticed. Laura Nyro was one of those songsmiths where her odd
melodies and tunes had a Soulfulness that others hooked into and could bring
out – even make better. The 5th Dimension famously picked up on two songs – "Stoned
Soul Picnic" and "Sweet Blindness". Their cover of "Stoned
Soul Picnic" hit the US singles charts in June 1968 on Soul City 766 and
crashed the top ten - eventually settling at an impressive No. 3. They followed
this success in October 1968 with their cover of Nyro's irrepressible and busy
bopper "Sweet Blindness" on Soul City 768 (lyrics from it title this
review). It peaked at No. 13. Later the following year those great interpreters
Three Dog Night took "Eli's Coming" to a No. 10 slot on Dunhill/ABC 4215
in November 1969. Obscurities - Linda Hoyle of the British Jazz Fusion ensemble
Affinity issued "Eli's Coming" as a British 45 on the Prog label
Vertigo 6059 018 in 1970 - while Ronnie Dyson's debut September 1970 album
"(If You Let Me Make Love To You Then) Why Can't I Touch You" on Columbia
Records featured a cover of the mellow vibes tune "Emmie" - probably
one of the loveliest songs on the “Eli...” album.
Album highlights include the
staggering hurt in "Lonely Women" where "...no one hurries home
to..." these aching ladies - the fuzzed-up guitars in the brilliant and
political "Poverty Train" and the piano/brass chug-and-stop of
"Once It Was Alright (Farmer Joe)" - a song that starts out rocking
but goes off into soaring vocals and different rhythm tangents. There's hiss on
the beautiful "December's Boudoir" but its quickly forgotten as those
gorgeous strings and plucked harp notes swirl around your speakers. Her vocals
on this song are 'so' soulful. It ends on "Confession" - more vocal
pyrotechnics and frantic arrangements that sound like no one else. In fact the
whole album is like that...
But the big prize for fans
is the three beautifully recorded demos - all recorded 29 November 1967 and
Previously Unreleased. They feature Laura on piano with doubled vocals - and
that's it. They sound and feel utterly amazing - and I'd push the boat out by
saying that I prefer this 'piano and voices' version of "Stoned Soul
Picnic" version to the finished result. "Emmie" has always been
a ballad hidden in the bowls of the album. Here it's even more intimate with
just her on Piano producing something that's Todd Rundgren/Tori Amos beautiful
(if you know what I mean). Wow - what a find...
On the song "Time And
Love" from her next album "New York Tendaberry" (September 1969)
- Laura Nyro would sing "...nothing cures like time and love..."
Laura Nyro passed in 1997
aged only 47 from Ovarian Cancer. She was impossibly special and her music is a
musical cure waiting to be discovered again and again...