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Gonna Take a Miracle

LaBelle & Laura Nyro

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Album Review

With the 1971 release Gonna Take a Miracle, pop composer and vocalist Laura Nyro completed her four-album/four-year deal for Columbia. Nyro's passion for R&B can be traced back to some of her earliest compositions, such as "Wedding Bell Blues" and "Stoned Soul Picnic" — both of which were covered by the R&B vocal quintet the Fifth Dimension. More recently, her version of "Up on the Roof" was one of the highlights of Christmas and the Beads of Sweat. So, enthusiasts who had paid any attention at all to the course of Nyro's career would not have been surprised by her direction on this project. As much as Gonna Take a Miracle is indeed a Laura Nyro album, it could likewise, and perhaps more accurately, be described as a collaborative effort between Nyro and the female soul trio LaBelle — featuring Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx, and Sarah Dash — as well as producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. It is ultimately this team that is responsible for the album's overwhelmingly solid results. Leading off in an apropos style is a succulent cover of the Shirelles hit "I Met Him on a Sunday." The vocal performance is structured as a round — with each woman singing a consecutive line. The song is rightfully returned to the street corner doo wop tradition from which it originated with the simplicity of unadorned vocals creating an inconspicuous a cappella symphony. Nyro has never sounded so comfortable, easy, or "in her element" than she does backed by an all-star Philly soul ensemble that Gamble and Huff assembled for these sessions. The material reaches beyond just the sounds of Philadelphia, with Motown ("You've Really Got a Hold on Me" and "Nowhere to Run") and Brill Building ("Spanish Harlem"), as well as lesser-known covers of the Charts' "Desiree" and the Baltimore-based Royalettes "It's Gonna Take a Miracle." In 2002, Sony/Legacy issued an "expanded and remastered edition" of this album, including four "bonus tracks": "Ain't Nothin' Like the Real Thing," "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," "O-o-h Child," and "Up on the Roof" — all of which are previously unissued live solo performances.

Biography

Formed: 1962

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '70s

The female trio responsible for the proto-disco funk classic "Lady Marmalade," LaBelle's outlandish space-age costumes and brash incorporation of rock & roll were a far cry from their early days as a typical '60s girl group, not to mention the later solo career of frontwoman Patti LaBelle. While Patti naturally seems like the focal point in hindsight, the group was also blessed with a talented and prolific songwriter...
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Gonna Take a Miracle, LaBelle
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