1968, Music

Eli and the 13th Confession (1968) by Laura Nyro

I was barely aware of Nyro when I listened to this record – I had heard her name, likely from seeing it listed in credits and mentioned here and there I guess, but I didn’t know what I was in for.

The biggest surprise for me is Nyro’s reputation is as a songwriter yet what stands out here is her big, bold, brash singing style, and how arranged everything is. This is not a songwriter who recorded a bunch of demos and decided to put them out. This is someone who is trying to sell herself as a performer. It through me for a loop.

Nyro’s songs are, to my ears, not anything particular special. I can’t say I love her lyrics – though the odd line is alright – and they seem to have dated more than some of her contemporaries’. And the songs themselves don’t really strike me as that interesting – just better-than-average pop soul tunes with the odd quirk.

What I do find interesting is Nyro herself, particularly her crazy tempo changes that occur seemingly at random. Maybe these are written into the songs themselves, I don’t really know, but to my ears its her interpretations of her own work that I find compelling. (I don’t feel compelled to seek our other version’s of her songs because I can’t imagine they would be more interesting than this record.)

This isn’t really my thing – it’s too far on the pop side of soul and I like my jazz-influenced popular music to be a lot jazzier – but I appreciate the idiosyncrasy and the sheer unpredictability of her tempos, which must have been hell for this band to learn.

7/10

All tracks written by Laura Nyro.

  1. “Luckie” 3:00
  2. “Lu” 2:44
  3. “Sweet Blindness” 2:37
  4. “Poverty Train” 4:16
  5. “Lonely Women” 3:32
  6. “Eli’s Comin'” 3:58
  7. “Timer” 3:22
  8. “Stoned Soul Picnic” 3:47
  9. “Emmie” 4:20
  10. “Woman’s Blues” 3:46
  11. “Once It Was Alright Now (Farmer Joe)” 2:58
  12. “December’s Boudoir” 5:05
  13. “The Confession” 2:50
  • Laura Nyro – piano, vocal, harmonies, “witness to the confession”
  • Ralph Casale, Chet Amsterdam – acoustic guitar
  • Hugh McCracken – electric guitar
  • Chuck Rainey, Chet Amsterdam – bass
  • Artie Schroeck – drums, vibes
  • Buddy Saltzman – drums
  • Dave Carey – percussion
  • Bernie Glow, Pat Calello, Ernie Royal – trumpet
  • George Young, Zoot Sims – saxophone
  • Wayne Andre, Jimmy Cleveland, Ray DeSio – trombone
  • Joe Farrell – saxophone, flute
  • Paul Griffin – piano on “Eli’s Comin'” and “Once It Was Alright Now (Farmer Joe)”

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