More Than a New Discovery

Laura Nyro

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More Than a New Discovery Review

by Lindsay Planer

These 12 sides represent singer/songwriter Laura Nyro's earliest professional recordings. More Than a New Discovery was originally issued on the Folkways label in conjunction with Verve Records in early 1967. The contents were subsequently reissued as The First Songs in 1969 after she began to garner national exposure with her first two LPs for Columbia -- Eli and the Thirteenth Confession (1968) and New York Tendaberry (1969), respectively. Many of these titles became international hits for some of the early '70s most prominent pop music vocalists and bands. Among them, "Wedding Bell Blues" and "Blowing Away" were covered by the Fifth Dimension. "And When I Die" became one of Blood, Sweat & Tears signature pieces. Likewise, "Stoney End," as well as "I Never Meant to Hurt You," are both arguably best known via Barbra Streisand's renditions. Accompanied by a small pop combo, Nyro's prowess as both composer and performer are evidence that she was a disciple of both Tin Pan Alley as well as the Brill Building writers. Additionally, Nyro was able to blend the introspection of a classic torch ballad with an undeniable intimacy inherent in her lyrics. "Buy and Sell," as well as "Billy's Blues," exemplify her marriage of jazz motifs within a uniquely pop music structure. Also immediately discernible is that these were far from simplistic, dealing with the organic elements that tether all of humanity, such as love, death, loss, and even redemption. While artists such as Tim Buckley and Joni Mitchell were attempting to do the same, much of their early catalog is considerably less focused in comparison. For example, "Lazy Susan" incorporates the same acoustic noir that would become the centerpiece of her future epics "Gibsom Street" and the title track to New York Tendaberry. There are a few differences worth noting when comparing More Than a New Discovery and First Songs. After Columbia Records bought Nyro out of her contract with Verve/Forecast, they also issued this collection in 1973 as First Songs, boasting a revised running order, as well as a title change from "Hands Off the Man" -- as listed here -- to "Flim Flam Man." Beginning in 2002, Sony/Legacy began an exhaustive overhaul of Nyro's classic '70s albums. In addition to remastered sound and newly incorporated artwork and liner notes, the series also boasts "bonus tracks" where applicable. Both casual listeners, as well as seasoned connoisseurs, can find much to discover and rediscover on these seminal sides from Laura Nyro.

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