Gregor von Kallahann | 01/01/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I loved Laura Nyro back in the day, but I think I worried about her too much. Yep, she didn't need me fretting over her artistic and commercial ups and downs, wondering if she was too depressed or bitter to soldier on musically. She was certainly a sensitive soul, and perhaps truly one of those true artists whose brush with fame was more harmful than helpful to her overall development. But I also think she was a lot tougher than I gave her credit for. When she took one of her hiatuses, it wasn't necessarily a sign of defeat or despair. Now I think of her as an artist who knew herself well enough that she knew when she needed to retreat.
When her fifth album turned out to be a collection of oldies, I was concerned. Why would one of the great emerging songwriters of the day suddenly need to do an album of "covers"? Of course, I bought it and LOVED it, but had to wonder, had she lost her muse?
What I didn't understand is that Laura's "heartbeat" songs, the tunes she had learned as a young teen in the early 60s--the ones she'd sung with friends in subway stations and on streetcorners--were an essential part of her musical soul. On her previous record CHRISTMAS IN MY SOUL, she had included her own exquisite version of Carole King's "Up On the Roof" among some equally beautiful originals, and it all seemed to flow together, creating one expansive musical ode to her native New York.
That number had worked so well, in fact, that it likely served as the inspiration for this record. And hooking up with Patti Labelle, herself a genuine veteran of the "girl group" era Laura so admired, was a stroke of pure genius. Patti, of course, has already begun recording with her own group as, simply, Labelle. It was pretty clear that Patti, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash, were on their way to considerable success on their own, but working with the era's pre-eminent white sould diva certainly wasn't going to hurt. (This was a few years prior to "Lady Marmalade" and the spacesuits.)
But they were all veterans in their own way, and all capable of keeping it both real and ethereal.
Those harmonies! Laura whispers and wails, Labelle seconds those emotions and add a grit and sass that only they could provide. It was an inspired partnership, and joyous--if Laura was indeed depressed at the time, it didn't show here.
The upbeat numbers, several by Martha and the Vandellas, are just fine. These ladies knew how to cook. But, I've got to admit that my favorite tracks are the gorgeous doo-wop inspired tracks like "The Wind" and "The Bells." Those haunting tracks remain among my favorite Nyro cuts of all time. Which is saying something."
BTW Désiree is pronounced Dez-a-RAY as in GAY
Ralph Bruno | San Francisco, CA | 03/04/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Thanks to denkee's alert, I learned of the Rev-Ola CD and the Amazon.com release. I agree the sound quality surpasses the Sony CD. I enjoyed the graphics. I like the respect shown "Désiree" by noting the belief that "Désiree" was Laura's paean to her soul mate, Maria Desiderio. The liner notes, written by Duglas T Stewart, were good. Even better would have been if he had noted the difference in pronunciation of both the Charts versions, "Deserie" & "Desiree" as Dez-ä-ree like key, and Laura's attribution "Désiree" pronounced Dez-ä-ree as in ray. I believe my complaint is valid as Stewart took the time to elaborately note both of the Charts 1957 and 1967 releases while describing Laura's title change as slight.
I was disappointed in the missed opportunity re: "Spanish Harlem" in failing to note Laura's uniquely personalized covers in the albums Gonna Take a Miracle (GTAM) and Spread Your Wings And Fly (SYWAF). Laura gender shifted the lyrics of "Spanish Harlem." Laura sang, "I'm goin' to pick that rose and watch him as he grows in my garden." (Originally, "watch her as she grows"). Laura added an original gender reference, i.e. "With eyes as black as coal he looks down in my soul." (Originally, "with eyes as black as coal that look down in my soul")
Stewart in discussing both the "Wind" and "Désiree" misses the raw, sultry, corporeal passion of these songs. For me these songs are anything, but ethereal. The "Wind" is an earthy post coital reverie, e.g. "as he lay warm and tender in my arms." In "Désiree," Laura surrenders completely to a woman. In GTAM, ELI, as well as "American Dove" (SYWAF) vis-à-vis "Désiree," Laura sang of her intense love for both a man and a woman. "American Dove" and "Désiree" were recorded within sixty days of each other. These songs and their juxtaposition attest to her bisexuality.
But my criticisms are trivial against the overall excellence of this CD. The bonus ditties, the live tracks from SYWAF, were such a thrill for me. "Up on the Roof" takes me back to my teenage years, the nights in the Bronx. Four of rock's great Divas singing about love, how can you miss? Buy this CD. Rabdrake"