Laura Nyro

Live! The Loom's Desire

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Culled from recordings made at New York's Bottom Line on Christmas Eve in 1993 and 1994, just a few years before her passing, these two dates on Live! The Loom's Desire offer as intimate a portrait of Nyro as we are likely to ever get from a recording. Using only her piano and two different harmony groups, Nyro runs through material from her own recordings and from the street-corner doo wop singing of her childhood. 1993's group has a six-piece backing group, making the sound full of depth and warmth, giving a kind of holiday intimacy to the proceedings -- especially on tracks like Nolan Strong's "Wind" and "Dedicated to the One I Love." There are a few more recent tracks that offer her views on animal rights, but they are woven though her more well-known songs. The big winners on the first set are "Emmie," which is chilling in its sheer desire, and the gospel-like raucousness of "And When I Die." On the 1994 concert, with a smaller group -- just a trio -- the effect is more riveting; there is an immediacy here that offers no sentimentality at all. On tracks like "Save the Country," there is a conviction not heard before, even in Nyro. On "Broken Rainbow," passion and heartbreak drip like rain from the petals of flowers. Most of the music is more recent, but it plays exactly the same as it if it were recorded in her "prime." There was no period on Nyro's life as a songwriter that wasn't a prime (check out the medley of "Blowin' Away" and "Wedding Bell Blues"). The set closes with Smokey Robinson's "Ooh Baby, Baby," and it is the most fitting goodbye, a way of tenderly sending off the crowd into the night with all the wishes a holiday season has to offer, but also with the appreciation and gratitude that she was so well-received. There is no goodbye like the one that has no idea that there will be no more hellos, and that's how this set whispers to a close, with the promise of a tomorrow that never arrived.

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