Sunday, February 17, 2008

Brown Earth, Christmas In My Soul, Laura Nyro (1970)

I can't narrow it down to one, so I'm serving up two Laura Nyros from one particular album - Christmas and the Beads of Sweat (not a Christmas LP, by the way) - each showcasing the strengths of this otherworldly singer and brilliant composer who was better known for the scores and scores of songs others covered than for her own recordings.

Nyro never sought and actually shunned fame, and her prodigious output became the platform from which others' careers often skyrocketed. The first song of hers that I ever heard was Blood, Sweat and Tears' hit recording of And When I Die.

Brown Earth is a beauty, overflowing with the joy of being alive, the kind of song that is so uplifting one can only just surrender to it. On this lush arrangement, Nyro is backed by the Swampers, a well-respected group of session musicians from that crucible of great American music, Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

Christmas in My Soul, which was produced by the Rascals' Felix Cavaliere, is one of the most devastatingly searing indictments of the injustices and failings of that time in history I have ever heard. Achingly beautiful on every level from a musical standpoint, its uncompromising truths are harrowing to listen to, though it concludes with a sort of catharsis that envisions it could all be turned around. I typically do not fail to break into tears during this verse: Now the time has come to fight / Laws in the book of love burn bright / People you must win for thee / America her dignity / For all the high court world to see / On Christmas. Lyrics that have as much, if not more, relevance now than they did then.

Neither of these two songs is on youtube. The album's best known song (and the only one Nyro did not write, ironically) is, however, so here she is singing Carole King and Gerry Goffin's Up On the Roof.

4 comments:

karmasartre said...

Completely under my radar. Your blog entry got me motivated. Went to iTunes to listen/purchase -- not there. Tried Amazon: twenty seconds or so of each song (Brown Earth sounded wonderful); only one copy of disc available at an inflated price.

I wonder which other females your journey will include...Lucinda? the Crystals? Julia Fordham? the Wilsons? Aretha? Dionne? the Marvelettes? Ms. Nicks? Can't wait....

stefmagura said...

Wendy:

This comment is for Karmasartre, but I first want to say you have w great blog! I came across it, while doing a random google search. With that said...

Karmasartre:

There is a cd reissue of Christmas and the Beads of Swea available on Amazon. Look for the one that has a 2008 release date. It's cheap too, $6.99,so the price won't be inflated like on the other copy you saw.

Thanks,
Stefanie

KARMASartre said...

I am slow. Thanks Stephanie. I put it in my "shopping cart", where it sat for months....I finally clicked the get-your-ass-in-gear icon, and the CD showed up. Brown Earth is an incredibly BEAUTIFUL song. I have played it repeatedly. The other songs on the CD are getting jealous.Thank you Wendy. Based on your write-up, I'm not sure I'm ready for Christmas in My Soul. Stay tuned...

Adriana said...

Remarkable! Wendy, your post about this unfortunately, unknown, underplayed album was posted on my birthday. Coincidence? I think not. I rstill have an acetate square "record" that I ripped out (yes, ripped out) of LIFE magazine (I think) in 1970 promoting this album (along with others). The song was "Blackpatch" (my personal fav from this album) and I wore out that acetate copy playing it over and over again...most times getting the lyrics wrong. Thanks for reminding everyone about this album and the incredibly talented, brave and true maverick Laura Nyro (RIP).