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The First Songs

Laura Nyro

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Album Review

This disc contains a dozen of the first songs that singer/songwriter Laura Nyro ever recorded. They were issued originally as More Than a New Discovery (1967) for the folkie Forecast division of the primarily jazz-oriented Verve Records label. When Columbia Records bought Nyro's back catalog, they reissued the material under the title The First Songs in 1973 as a stopgap release during her self-imposed exile from 1971 until 1976. Pop music enthusiasts will recognize many of the songs, as they became international hits for other artists. "Wedding Bell Blues" and "Blowing Away" are signature tunes for the Fifth Dimension. "And When I Die" likewise became best known by Blood, Sweat & Tears. "Stoney End" and "I Never Meant to Hurt You" both are notable from Barbra Streisand's respective cover versions. For The First Songs, Nyro is accompanied by a small pop combo. Her duality as composer and performer demonstrate her influence from pop music's golden Tin Pan Alley to the more modern Brill Building style. Nyro's ability to synthesize the introspection of a classic torch ballad with an undeniable intimacy inherent in her lyrics is evident on "Buy and Sell," as well as "Billy's Blues" — which both exemplify her uncanny marriage of jazz within a uniquely pop music structure. Also immediately discernable is that these tunes 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 between this release and More Than a New Discovery. In addition to altering the title and cover art, The First Songs revises the running order and renames "Hands Off the Man" to "Flim Flam Man." Beginning in 2002, Sony/Legacy commenced an exhaustive overhaul of Nyro's classic '70s albums. In addition to remastered sound, 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.

Biography

Born: 18 October 1947 in New York, NY [The Bronx]

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Laura Nyro was one of pop music's true originals: A brilliant and innovative composer, her songs found greater commercial success in the hands of other performers, but her own records — intricate, haunting works highlighting her singularly powerful vocal phrasing, evocative lyrics, and alchemical...
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