Two Laura Nyro Classics Reissued AAA By Analog Spark

There was a period in '60s record history when you could buy "by the label" and pretty much be assured of a great listen. It was true of Elektra and later, after it got off its "high horse," Columbia, which for a while wouldn't touch rock.

So, when this Laura Nyro album appeared on the shelves, many dutifully bought what we thought, judging by the cover art, was a debut album by a sensitive folk singer/songwriter.

The hipper among us knew this was Nyro's second album; her first, produced by Milt Okun, came and went on Verve/Forecast (FTS-3020). That album went virtually unnoticed despite containing "And When I Die", "Stoney End", and "Wedding Bell Blues"—songs everyone reading this probably knows well thanks to covers by others (Columbia reissued the album in 1973). In fact, while still a teen, she sold Peter, Paul and Mary "And When I Die" for $5000. They covered it before BS&T.

While those who knew they were buying Nyro's second album also knew what they were musically getting, the rest of us were in for a shock and/or a let down. While the cover art and album title left a sensitive folk singer/songwriter impression, what we got was an odd amalgam of funk/soul/jazz married to almost Broadway-like slickness. The opener "Luckie" is a jarring jaunt featuring horns and strings. It was more mommy and daddy's music than "ours". Whatever this was, it wasn't a folk singing confessional.

The production was classy for sure, but a more adult, slick hand was in on it than we were expecting, especially based on the cover art, which included a scented fold over paper insert that to this day retains its perfume. At the time David Geffen was guiding her career. When he started Asylum he tried to get her to sign, but she stayed with Columbia, which for Geffen was a major disappointment he memorably talked about on his PBS "American Masters" television profile.

Analog Spark's reissue gives you the (non-scented) fold over and on "authentic" paper that would impress even the sticklers at The Electric Recording Company. And this reissue is, for better or worse, sonically authentic as well, compared to my original Columbia 1A pressing, which means the superbly-recorded and mixed Columbia sound is lean on bottom and bright on top. If anything the reissue is even a bit brighter than the original (especially side one), which means if you turn it up, it can get strident. This is a Ryan K. Smith sonic signature that I think needs a bit of tucking in.

Musically, this record has aged well, as have Nyro's soulful, sensitive performances. She was but twenty one when this record was released, but both her songwriting and singing sound like an older, more mature artist at work, shifting mid-song time signatures, keys and especially moods.

Nyro (real last name Nigro), was born in the Bronx of Russian and Polish Jewish ancestry on her mother's side and Italian on her father's side. Her father was a piano tuner and a trumpeter. In that context the music she produces here makes more sense: it's jazzy, Tin Pan Alley theatrical and at the same time, deep and soulful.

Nyro died from ovarian cancer in 1997 at age 49 the same age the disease took her mother in 1975. Time only burnishes her art making this a well-worthwhile, carefully produced reissue cut from the original tape and well-packaged too.

The same goes for Analog Sparks' reissue of her follow up album New York Tendaberry (AS0004). Both were pressed at RTI with "Tip-on" Stoughton Press jackets.

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audiof001's picture

Ever try Billy Childs' 'Map To The Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro'? Fantastic in my book.

xtcfan80's picture

Thanks so much for the tip on the Billy Childs/Laura Nyro CD...wish it were issued on LP but such a beautiful album. Incredible...I have been enjoying Laura's New York Tendaberry for several years now...this is a great companion album.

TonyG's picture

Thank you for bringing these two great albums to the attention of folks who may be unfamiliar with them. I've been listening to "Eli" and "Tendaberry" regularly since they were first released and have gone through many copies of each.

I agree with your "strident' comment on Eli, less noticeable on Tendaberry. My 1H copy of Eli is so crackly, I am happy to have Analog Sparks reissue (a bargain at $25). Their reissue of Tendaberry bests the Pure Pleasure release of a couple years back.

This had to be a labor of love for someone at Analog Spark. So happy they did it.

Michael Fremer's picture
Roy Halee engineered that one I believe....
Roy Martin's picture

But not always.

Explaining how I ended up with albums by Pat Kilroy and David Blue.

Grant M's picture

I purchased both Nyro titles from the analog spark website when they arrived on-line, and also have the Pure Pleasure version of Tendaberry. I concur they are bass-light. Some of it is the instrumentation, but a few tracks are really missing some bottom end. There are many quiet passages, so the overall very high quality vinyl of these reissues is great, i'm sure finding vintage copies without many crackles is not easy. In general, based on my sample of titles from Analog Spark, i agree that the mastering could use more bottom end. Maybe it's just the ones i've got, but i don't rate the sound higher than a 7 on anything from them so far. The Stoughton jackets are nice, but the photos are poor, the Pure Pleasure reissue has a much sharper picture with better colours and definition on the words printed, Analog Spark obvious copied a much more worn original jacket for theirs, the writing is almost illegible.

Grant M's picture

Analog Spark did use the original jacket image for their cover,
the one in Mikey's review is a later repressing with the title added.


Michael Fremer's picture
My original is a 1A original with no writing on the cover. From where did you hallucinate your comment?
Grant M's picture

Michael, yes, the original has no writing, as does the Analog Spark reissue, but my comment refers to the image you chose for the review at the top of this page, which is from a later version with the writing.

Dave Gerber's picture

I have many years of collecting rare records, and write in my blog how to care for them, and the sound is played forever - writing blog .