"It's surprising and sad that Laura Nyro has become a kind of cult artist - adored by a few, unknown to most. In the late 60s, when she was barely out of her teens, everyone knew she was a genius, and everyone rushed to cover her songs. Maybe that was the problem. Barbra Streisand tried to sing "Stoney End" to escape her MOR image and sound hip, and just sounded silly ( Streisand has a gorgeous voice, but hip she has never been.) The Fifth Dimension made "Stoned Soul Picnic" sound bland. And Blood, Sweat and Tears added a cowboy schtick to "And When I Die" that is just plain embarrassing. Never has a composer been worse served by the artists who covered her work.You just have to hear the originals, which blend pop, jazz, r&b, gospel, rock, folk and just about every other genre of popular music into an organic whole. I don't think there's ever been another singer-composer in pop music who was as aware of her musical roots as Laura Nyro was. Certainly there's never been one who used those roots so effectively.She's as brave and inventive a singer as Van Morrison, as lyrically interesting as Joni Mitchell, and musically, she has no peer. With many artists, a "best of" or "greatest hits" collection is the best place to begin. But in the case of Laura Nyro, "Eli and the Thirteenth Confession," her second album, is a better choice. "Stoned Soul Picnic" - her "best of" collection - is terrific, but Nyro was so original that I think you have to educate your ear on some of her more accessible stuff before you can be ready to listen to her later music.Not every song on this album is perfect. Nyro was barely in her twenties when she made it, and as she struggles to stay in tune on "Timer" and "Woman's Blues," her youth and inexperience show. But most of the songs are wonderful, and "Sweet Blindness," "Poverty Train," "Eli's Coming," "Emmie," and " Stoned Soul Picnic" are nothing short of brilliant. (Just forget you ever heard the Fifth Dimension.)I've been listening to this album since it came out more than thirty years ago and I haven't tired of it yet."
The original is always the greatest
Howard J. Satinsky | CT USA | 07/16/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am old. I first listened to this record in 1969. At the time Hendrix, Joplin the Doors and Cream filled my ears. A junkie that I met played me the record and it sang to my soul -- immediately and completely. It still does (as do all Nyro records). The production on this record is dated today (it was cheesy back then too -- remember, Columbia had "another Streisand" on its hands). The songs and singing transcend the production as they transcend the thirty-plus years that have come and gone since the original recording. These are still among Laura Nyro's finest songs and performances. Artists of varying talents have come and gone since this recording. I read an interview with Joni Mitchel a few years back and she said that it was she "and Laura Nyro" that started the whole female singer/songwriter genre. She is almost right. It would be two years before Joni Mitchel would make a record with emotional depth on the same planet as that of Ms. Nyro (Blue). Joan Osbourne can get close as can Shawn Colvin (occassionally) and Melissa Ethridge.If you "use" your art for escapism then don't buy this record. If you prefer to become a changed and charged human being after spending forty minutes with a recording -- then this is one of the finest ever made -- don't let a few smaltzy trumpets put you off ..."
hostelgirl | uk | 09/18/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"How this album is not more well known than it is, I will never know. In England, where I am from, I don't know anyone that has heard of her.
It is sheer genius. A totally original folk meets gospel opera. This is the first Nyro album I have purchased. The mood is upbeat and just the thing for a Sunday morning or anytime you feel like singing along or being cheered up. Her voice is a sleigh ride of peaks and valleys and her lyrics poignant and heartfelt whilst the severe chord changes sustain a musical interest. She is totally absorbing. Whilst listening to this album you get the feeling you are almost hearing someone singing in the shower, uninhibited and unaware you are there. There is no polish, just raw melodies and anthems that capture your imagination. Think of Carole King meets Motown and it gives you a bit of an idea of the style of the album but nothing can prepare you for how great it truly is. Poverty train is my favourite track as I love the deep lyrical content. These are all tracks that fit together perfectly as an album and I would recommend this rather than listening to them individually in compilations as it deserves to be savoured it was made.
Buy this album and play it loud."
Really, the only album and artist you'll ever really need
Damien Bjorn Ruud | Boulder, CO United States | 12/06/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Why is Laura so unknown? Why is she despised by many? And why is she regarded with indifference by the rest? Because quite honestly, she was able to get so close to her center, her soul, her inspiration, and herself that she throws others for a loop.Eli & The 13th Confession is the album for all moods and all time. Melodic, instramental, and lyrical prowess which has been copied and emulated by almost all artists after whether they know it or not (Rufus Wainwright, Tori Amos, Joni Mitchell, Rickie Lee Jones, Kate Bush, Portishead)."
Bill Your 'Free Form FM Handi Cyber | Mahwah, NJ USA | 03/26/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I normally don't review albums that are this well known, only becuase many others have, but I am listening to Eli right now and just have to write why I love this albbum.
Nyro's writting is unique and fresh even forty years later. When people say singer-songwritter, many think of someone with a guitar using pretty basic writting skill. Nyro does nothing of the sort. All her songs draw from tin-pan alley, soul and jazz. The numbers have parts that are unperdictable, but sit together perfectly. Just listen to how "Emily" goes from a panio ballad to a powerful piece of soul, or the way Eli's Comming funks the house down. "Women's Blues" again starts slow, and turns on a dime into a syncopated shuffle. Your not going to find effort like this on a James Taylor album. Even the great Carol King didn't use permutations like this.
I have always thought that some of the best composers wrote on the panio and not the guitar. This makes sence: You can simply experiment with a lot more voicings and inversions on a keyboard. (Ok, it wouldn't work for Blue Cheer, but you know what I mean.) Eli and the 13th backs my theroy up: Every song here has meloies and harmonies that are either totally unique, or use old ideas in new ways. Chords shift all over the place, aggressivley, and you're always suprised by the route these songs take. Even Nyro's use of cleches--which she is toying with, not using to fill the record-are fresh, because their is always some unexpected twist in the chord voicings.
And each song--Lucky, Louie, all the numbers--has horns and vibraphones and a jazzy bassline. This music is never jazz, but is infromed by jazz, going back to the 20s, which makes what are on the surface high end pop numbers even more dynamic. When we hear music drawn from these sources recorded now, it sounds like dry rehahes from the American Songbook, because nobody experments with it. (Having a perfect digital sheen doesn't help either.) But in 1968, everybody was trying to outdo each other-and the Beatles-and Nyro's album reflects the excellenance bred by compititon in those days.
The playing is also outragous. I doubt a modern session band would even know how to approach music like this.