Laura Nyro – Tree of Ages: Laura Nyro Live in Japan
Originally released in 2003 (in Japan) but not previously available in the US – this live concert approved by the Laura Nyro Trust was recorded Feb. 22, 1994, at Kintetsu Hall, Osaka & five additional songs at On Air West.
Collected on Tree of Ages: Laura Nyro Live in Japan (Drops July 16–Omnivore) with 21 impeccable live cuts. Usually, I’d say this is for completists & dedicated fans. Not here. These songs should appeal to anyone who appreciates the work of the incomparable Laura Nyro & her vivid performances (often just piano & Laura’s 3-octave mezzo-soprano vocal).
Never having what would be considered a commercial vocal appeal Nyro was first & foremost a great composer, wonderful pianist & sang with expertise in a poignant, jazzy pop vein with classical overtones. At times, confusing for commercial radio.
The late Laura Nyro (1947-1997) was born in The Bronx & though she recorded solo LPs (Verve & Columbia) she became known to record-buyers through her multiple “hits” by other artists. Starting with Peter, Paul & Mary, 5th Dimension, Barbra Streisand, Three Dog Night, Blood, Sweat & Tears.
From writing consistently great songs, Nyro’s comfort zone was also early top 40 hits (pop & soul) that she’d cover & sprinkle throughout performances & LPs. As she opens her live set Nyro covers effectively “Dedicated To the One I Love,” “Ooh Baby Baby,” “Walk on By,” & the beautiful “Let It Be Me,” among others.
My appreciation of Laura was her complete arresting originality in her music. She wasn’t pop in a Carole King style, folky & wordy Joni Mitchell (prior to Mitchell’s jazzier era) or the intensity with darker subjects like Dory Previn. Nyro’s familiar songs are standards now but “Walk the Dog & Light the Light (Song of the Road),” is a jewel with her vivid piano. Nyro in concert talks to her audience, tells stories, with a storyteller’s charm. On “The Japanese Restaurant Song” she even speaks some Japanese.
Her live “And When I Die,” is in sharp contrast with the commercial versions. This is an extraordinary reading alone at the piano. It takes on an entirely different feel from the covers. Song-wise Nyro mixes it up throughout her set & harmony group Diane Wilson, Dian Sorrell & Diane Garisto shine on “Wild World” (not the Cat Sevens song).
Her original song titles intrigue & lyrics are not always literate they explore feeling, groove, musical heat — all-important to Nyro. There isn’t a bad song in this set. Produced for re-release by Grammy-winner Cheryl Pawelski & George Gilbert, remastered with care by Grammy-winner Michael Graves.
Laura won’t lose her position anytime soon as one of the greats. Elton John would tell you (he was influenced by her piano playing). There are attractive people, alluring people, & beautiful people. Laura Nyro was one of the beautiful people.
Fire escape image courtesy Life Magazine, 1970. The 1 hour-5-minute CD @ Amazon & http://omnivorerecordings.com/shop/laura-nyro-trees-of-the-ages-laura-nyro-live-in-japan/