Laura Nyro

Laura: Laura Nyro Live at the Bottom Line

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Listening to this CD, this reviewer found himself swept up in its upbeat, ebullient introduction ("The Confession"), and then he had to resist the impulse to cry just a little. Officially titled Laura, and subtitled (and usually referred to as) Laura Nyro Live at the Bottom Line, this disc has been out of print since the mid-'90s, and so for many listeners it's like finding a long lost, intimate photo album, or even a home movie, of a deceased beloved friend or relative. It catches Nyro at her most delightfully assertive, ranging across her whole musical history, from "And When I Die" to "The Japanese Restaurant Song," with very personalized detours into numbers like "Up on the Roof" and "Hi Heel Sneakers" (gee, Laura Nyro overlapping repertoire with the Rolling Stones...and holding up). Vocally she was in superb form, having given up smoking at that point, and psychically, she manages to be reflective and outgoing at the same time, soaring beguilingly on the new material, so that numbers like "Roll of the Ocean" are as alluring as her decade-old hits. She is so tuned in to the music, her new band, and the crowd that she never fails to surprise in the course of living up to expectations -- the transition into "The Wild World" and the performance itself are almost worth the price of admission on the CD. And as good as she was that night, Diane Wilson was her match on harmony vocals, and the 1988-vintage live recording has held up as well across the years. This is a much smaller band than the one she had on Season of Light, her Columbia live album from the 1970s, and the Bottom Line is a more intimate venue than anywhere that album was recorded. Thus, not only Nyro's voice, but Jimmy Vivino's guitar and the rhythm section of Frank Pagano and David Wofford all sound up close and personal, and Pagano's drumming even generates a peculiarly melodic quality that's picked up well. Nyro slides across styles and sounds, morphing effortlessly but overpowering everywhere she stops, on soul, folk, jazz, gospel -- the first time this reviewer heard this performance of "And When I Die," he couldn't listen to the Blood, Sweat & Tears version for six months, and then only with wincing. The only flaw with the CD is a minor technical one -- the index numbers on the back are one off from the songs' actual indexing, which should only be the worst flaw on any CD. It's strange to think, as this is being written, that Nyro and the Bottom Line are now both gone -- anyone wondering why the artist and the room were legends couldn't do better than this release to get their questions answered.

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