(As published in New Zealand's Real Groove ... )
Time and Love: The Music of Laura Nyro
Having never met anyone who owns a Laura Nyro album and having only owned one myself (a promo of 1984's Mother's Spiritual that I traded in after listening to it once), my familiarity with the recently croaked songstress comes courtesy of the hit versions of her best-known compositions: "And When I Die" by Blood, Sweat and Tears, "Eli's Comin'" by Three Dog Night, "Wedding Bell Blues," "Stoned Soul Picnic," and "Save the Country" by the Fifth Dimension, and "Stoney End" by whoever had a hit with that. So I'm always surprised to discover that some people, instead of regarding her as the female Jimmy Webb and letting it go at that, actually worship her. Writes Peter Gallway, this album's producer, in the liner notes: "Her concerts were religious experiences. Laura gowned, surrounded by roses, alone in purple light at the grand piano. Her style, her holiness, her reclusivity, her high standards"--what, she wouldn't date the boys that chew?--"became the stuff of legend"; Roseanne Cash: "Laura Nyro is a part of the template from which my own musical and Feminine [sic] consciousness was printed"; Beth Nielsen Chapman: "Laura Nyro's songs have always touched me deeply" (if it were Madonna talking, I might be jealous of Laura Nyro's songs); Jonatha Brooke: "I wasn't familiar with Laura Nyro's music--I'm not sure how I missed out." Hey! Who invited this heretic? Anyway, the good stuff is Phoebe Snow doing "Time and Love," the Roches doing "Wedding Bell Blues," Beth Nielsen Chapman doing "Stoney End," and Dana Bryant doing a Tricky-like "Woman's Blues." Everything else here is girls being girls, with all the amorphous, Tori Amos-like ooze that girls being girls implies. And Jane Siberry, who couldn't decide which one to do, does a medley of four. Talk about ominous implications for future tribute albums!