Thursday, 30 June 2016

"Eli And The Thirteenth Confession" by LAURA NYRO (2002 Columbia/Legacy 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...





"...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 minutes):

Side 1: Part 1
1. Luckie
2. Lu
3. Sweet Blindness
4. Poverty Train
5. Lonely Women
6. Eli's Comin'

Side 2: Part 2
7. Timer
8. Stoned Soul Picnic
9. Emmie
10. Woman's Blues
11. Once It Was Alright Now (Farmer Joe)
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 Unreleased):
14. Lu (Demo recorded 29 Nov 1967)
15. Stoned Soul Picnic (Demo recorded 29 Nov 1967)
16. Emmie (Demo recorded 29 Nov 1967)

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...

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