Laura Nyro – To Find the Moon – The Audition Tape
For all the accolades the late Laura Nyro received it’s easy to forget she could’ve easily slipped between the cracks. As a performer, she was out of sync with the era. I recall when she first arrived she was known as the writer of hits for other more famous artists. Her early spare LPs had critical acclaim but none were big sellers. Even her first Columbia LP had little in the way of big production (like the early Bob Dylan LPs). To be blunt, the 60s overlooked her talent as a performer & singer.
She never attained a level of fame Joni Mitchell or even commercially, Melanie (Safka) had. Nyro didn’t have mainstream appeal.
Her songs weren’t commercially viable with her voice until interpreted by the 5th Dimension (“Stoned Soul Picnic,” “Save the Country,” “Wedding Bell Blues”), Three Dog Night (Eli’s Coming”), Barbra Streisand (Stoney End”), Peter, Paul & Mary & later Blood, Sweat & Tears (“And When I Die”).
Without commercial success, Nyro could’ve faded. Ruthann Friedman did & she wrote “Windy” for the Association. She had her own career & Warner Bros. LP. Laura was truly blessed & fortunate: the late Judee Sill despite beautiful songs, an angelic voice & piano playing slipped into obscurity (“The Kiss,” “Jesus Was a Cross Maker”).
Appreciation of Laura Nyro took time & wasn’t an overnight sensation. Endorsements by artists like Elton John & Todd Rundgren, familiarity with her songs showed how good a writer she was but with little commercial appeal. Mainstream consumption would only come with valuable covers.
Nyro dabbled in a jazzy way prior to Joni Mitchell or Steely Dan. As time went by Nyro’s love for R&B & soul surfaced. She was not an average NYC wannabe – she interpreted soul with potency. Perfect voice, great emotive tone, & her musicianship was stellar. Ask Patti LaBelle.
Laura would run her finger across the rim of cocktail jazz, middle-of-the-road styles. “Lazy Susan,” could’ve been covered by pop/jazz artists like Anita O’Day, Patti Page, Vicki Carr, or Peggy Lee. The songs were distinctive, varied, & well-written.
The release of these well-recorded spare songs from 1966 when Laura was 18 is probably only for aficionados & completists. A worthy addition. She did have a unique songwriting style & vocal approach. She was never an exciting performer, but her forte was her voice, intonation & phrasing.
To Find the Moon – The Audition Tape (Drops Sept 10–Omnivore) & includes the original “And When I Die,” with songs, Laura never officially released & versions of classics. The CD is 8-songs deep at the beginning of a promising career.
We’re fortunate we have this much of Laura to still discover. The 19-minute Omnivore release was produced by Cheryl Pawelski & George Gilbert with original tapes produced by Artie Mogull & Milt Okun (1966).
B&W Image: Laura Nyro (1968) courtesy of Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images. B&W image: Laura at piano (1971) courtesy of Robert Altman/Getty Images.
Available @Amazon + https://omnivorerecordings.com/shop/go-find-the-moon/