Laura Nyro

Band members                              Related acts

- Laura Nyro (aka Laura Nigro) (RIP 1997) -- vocals, keyboards


  backing musicians (1967)

- Jay Berliner -- guitar

- Stan Free -- piano

- Bill Lavorgan -- drums

- Buddy Lucas -- harmonica

- Lou Mauro -- bass

- John Sedlar -- horns


  backing musicians (1970)

- Duane Allman (RIP) -- guitar 

- Barry Beckett -- vibes

- Alice Coltrane -- harp

- Felix Cavaliere -- keyboards, bells

- Dino Danelli -- percussion 

- Richard Davis -- bass 

- Cornell Dupree -- guitar 

- Joe Farrell -- woodwinds 

- Ashod Garabedian -- oudi 

- Roger Hawkins -- percussion 

- Eddie Hinton -- guitar

- Dave Hood -- bass 

- Jack Jennings -- drums 

- Ralph MacDonald -- drums

- Chuck Rainey -- bass 

- Stu Sharf -- guitar 
- Michael Szittai -- cimbalin 


  backing musicians (1978)

- Felix Cavaliere -- keyboards, bells 

- Cyril Cianflone -- bass

- Vinnie Cusano -- guitar 

- Will Lee -- bass

- Tony Levin -- bass

- Nydia Mata -- percussion 

- Andy Newmark -- drums, percussion

- John Sebastian -- harmonica 

- John Tropea -- guitar 




- none known





Genre: rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Laura Nyro The First Songs

Company: Verve Forecast

Catalog: FTS 3020

Year: 1969

Country/State: Bronx, New York

Grade (cover/record): VG+/ VG+

Comments: minor ring wear

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 1473

Price: $10.00


She's been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but remains largely unknown in this day and age, but for an artist that's been dead for nearly twenty years, Laura Nyro retains an almost fanatical cult fan base who seem to consider it their mission to spread the word of Laura Nyro to the uninitiated.



As most folks probably figured out from the cover, 1969's "Laura Nyro The First Songs" was simply a repacked version of her 1967 Verve Forecast debut "Laura Nyro More than a New Discovery".   Same cover art, sans the album title and the same twelve songs, though in a different running order.  With Nyro having signed with Clive Davis and Columbia Records, I guess you couldn't blame Verve Forecast for wanting to recoup some of their investment in the singer.  Still, you wonder if the label couldn't have been a bit more subtle in its efforts.


As a 17 year old, Nyro was signed by A&R man Artie Mogull.  The late Mogull once described his initial meeting with Nyro.   Mogull kept a piano in his office, and when he had it tuned, the tuner Louis Nigro, asked to audition his daughter, a songwriter. "Next day, this little, short, unattractive girl comes up, and the first three songs she plays are 'Wedding Bell Blues,' 'Stoney Inn,' and then 'When I Die.' I almost fainted. I went crazy."   Mogull helped negotiate a deal with Jerry Schoenbaum's folk-oriented Verve Forecast label, resulting in the release of her debut collection.  


Produced by Milton Okun, the album offered up a stunning collection of twelve Nyro originals.   In addition to showcasing her amazing voice (how could an nineteen year old sound as mature and self confident?), the collection demonstrated Nyro's diversity as a songwriter and performer.  While many acts find one niche and stick with it, Nyro showed she was equally comfortable at blues, jazz, pop, and even soul numbers.  Technically it wasn't really a pop, or rock album, rather sounded like a collection of soon-to-be jazz-blues standards that someone like Billie Holiday might have recorded had she lived.  Certainly not something I would have expected to enjoy, but I was wrong.  There was simply something warm and mesmerizing in Nyro's heartfelt deliveries.  Remember how I mentioned soul?  Well, Nyro certainly had that characteristic in her voice.  Where do you start with the highlights?   Her version of  'Wedding Bell Blues' was easily as good, if not better than The Fifth Dimension cover.  The original 'Stoney End' simply massacred the Barbara Streisand cover.   Anyone who grew up listening to Blood, Sweat and Tear's cover of "And When I Die" will be thunderstruck to hear the original.   


One of the ironies is Nyro all but disowned the collection in her latter years, unhappy that producer Okun had brought in sessions keyboardist Stan Free to play on most of the album and claiming arranger Herb Bernstein had not allowed her to participate in developing the arrangements; instead pushing the set in a pop direction.  Equally strange, while the album didn't do a great commercially, it served as a breeding ground for hit cover versions by other groups.   Blood, Sweat & Tears took 'And When I Die' to # 2 on the US pop charts.  The 5th Dimension hit # 1 with 'Wedding Bell Blues' and # 21 with 'Blowin' Away'.  Streisand hit # 6 with her atypical rocking cover of 'Stoney End'.  



And that raises the interesting question why didn't Nyro enjoy a massive hit with the collection?  Well, I'm certainly not a Nyro scholar (they seem to exist), so take my comments with a grain of salt.  I love the debut album, but from an unbiased standpoint I guess I can see why the collection wasn't a massive success.   Nyro was a gifted writer and certainly had a killer voice, but her overarching sound wasn't particularly focused.  There simply aren't a lot of artists who could successfully take on a range of genres that include Brill Building-styled '60s pop, jazz, singer-songwriter material, and even Tin Pin Alley tunes.  Nyro could and did, but I think that diverse sound simply left a lot of potential fans confused as to who she was.  It was also an album that simply took awhile to sink in.   Sure there were some radio friendly tunes here, but they were buried in adult themes that lacked the mindlessness of so much top-40 fodder.   Another thing - You wouldn't think it would matter given her immense talent, but Nyro simply wasn't your typical girl-next-door beauty.  Given her Italian, Polish, and Russian Jewish heritage, she just wasn't your typical California blonde; the kind of girl labels could easily pimp for the pop audience.  It may not be fair, but the music business thrives on image, reinforced by the fact  most consumers are shallow.  You couldn't help but wonder if that somehow impacted sales.   Maybe it didn't given Nyro looked positively angelic on the album's Murray Laden cover photo.


"Laura Nyro" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Wedding Bell Blues   (Laura Nyro) - 2:40

It's a fact that most folks know this tune through the cover done by Marilyn McCoo and The Fifth Dimension.   Kudos to producer Bones Howe and The Fifth Dimension for essentially lifting Nyro's arrangement verbatim.  The downside is few people have heard the original which, I'd argue is even better, on the strength of Nyro's heartfelt vocal.  Of course, courtesy of YouTube you can always judge for yourself.  Here's s short clip from her June 1967 performance at the Monterey Pop Festival:    Interestingly, the version released was apparently nothing like what Nyro originally intended, which was a multi-part suite with unconventional rhythmic changes   Much to Nyro's dismay, producer Okun and arranger Herb Bernstein quickly killed that idea.  Verve tapped the song as a single:



- 1966's 'Wedding Bell Blues' b/w 'Stoney End' (Verve Folkways catalog number KF 5024) # 103 pop  rating: **** stars   

2.) Billy's Blues   (Laura Nyro) - 3:16

I'm not a big jazz fan, but even I can recognize how good this tune was.  Heartbreak at its best; a wonderful example of her songwriter talent and a song that any self-respecting contemporary jazz singer should include in their repertoire.   rating: **** stars.

3.) California Sunshine Boys   (Laura Nyro) - 2:40

For folks who only associated her with doom and gloom, 'California Sunshine Boys' demonstrated she was capable of bouncy, folk-tinged pop tunes.  Actually, this one's always sounded like Nyro was trying to channel '60s Brill Building girl groups.   rating: **** stars

4.) Blowin' Away   (Laura Nyro) - 2:20

Another tune most folks know from The Fifth Dimension  hit cover (again recorded almost verbatim).   A bit derivative compared to the other tunes on the album, but you almost have to laugh when you realize The Fifth Dimension owe their careers and retirement IRAs to Nyro.   rating: *** stars

5.) Lazy Susan   (Laura Nyro) - 3:50 

Another jazzy torch  tune that showcased her special voice. Maybe it's just me, but I've always thought this was one of her sexiest performances.   Buddy Lucas' harmonica solo pushed the song into another realm.   rating: **** stars

6.) Good By Joe   (Laura Nyro) - 2:36

Back to Brill Building-styled pop ...  what a spectacular voice.   Should have been another massive hit for The Fifth Dimension   = )     Interesting to note the liner notes and inner label managed to misspell the song title.  It should have been 'Goodbye Joe'.    Verve tapped it as the second 45 and reissued the single in 1969:


- 1967's 'Goodbye Joe' b/w 'Billie's Blues' (Verve Folkways catalog number KF 5038)  

- 1969's 'Goodbye Joe' b/w 'I Never Meant To Hurt You' (Verve Folkways catalog number KF 5112) rating: **** stars

(side 2)
1.) Hands Off the Man (Flim Flam Man) 
   (Laura Nyro) - 2:25

Wonderful example of her Brill Building roots and influences.   How does an 18 year old sound that mature and self assured ?  The album's third single:



- 1967's 'Flim Flam Man (Hands Off the Man)' b/w 'And When I Die (Verve Forecast catalog KF 5051)

2.) Stoney End   (Laura Nyro) - 2:41

Another one where the cover is better known that Nyro's original.  Shame since her version is a wonderful mix of pop and rock moves.   Only questionable move was Buddy Lucas' harmonica backing which sounded out of place.  Verve probably should have tapped this one as a single.    rating: **** stars

3.) I Never Meant To Hurt You   (Laura Nyro) - 2:49

t sounded like an old jazz classic, but if you ever doubted she had a great voice, this might be the track to check out.  Again, you had to wonder how a nineteen year old could sound like this ...   rating **** stars

4.) He's a Runner   (Laura Nyro) - 3:37

Another jazzy number, 'He's a Runner' was actually funny and heartbreaking at the same time.  One of the better commitment issue tunes ever written, it was the kind of song you could easily image Billie Holiday cutting.   The video and sound quality aren't great, but YouTube has a clip of a live January, 1969 performance on the NBC "Kraft Music Hall Presents the Sounds of the Sixties" television special: rating: **** stars

5.) Buy and Sell   (Laura Nyro) - 3:34

Opening up with a reference to drugs and alcohol was a big surprise and made for one of the album's most enigmatic lyrics.  After all these years I'm still clueless with respect to the song's meaning  ...   prime Billie Holiday territory.    rating: **** stars 

6.) And When I Die   (Laura Nyro) - 2:37

Perhaps her best known song, 'And When I Die' was  also  the album's most rock-oriented tune.  Complete with bright horn charts and an enthusiastic vocal that demonstrated she could belt it out, it was one of the album highlights.  The video and sound quality aren't great, but YouTube has a fan recorded 1994 performance of the tune:    One of the ironies surrounding this song is the fact Nyro was dating a member of Blood, Sweat and Tears and seriously considered joining the group after founding member Al Kooper left.  It was only through manager David Geffen's efforts that she was dissuaded from making the move.    rating: **** stars




Columbia catalog number KC 31410


As hardcore fans will know, the same songs were reissued again in a 1973 package - "The First Songs".  Different artwork, though the same songs with 'Hands Off the Man' appearing under the title 'Flim Flam Man'.  



Genre: rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Christmas and the Beads of Sweat

Company: Columbia

Catalog: KC-20359

Year: 1970

Country/State: Bronx, New York

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: minor ring wear

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5067

Price: $10.00


There's no arguing what a talented artist the late Laura Nyro was.  That said, at least to my ears her catalog can be challenging to get into.  1970's "Christmas and the Beads of Sweat"  serves as a perfect example of those comments.  Separately produced by Arif Mardin and Felix Cavaliere, the collection found Nyro churning out an album that mixed her jazz roots with a distinctive soul feel.  At least to my ears that resulted in an album with an almost schizophrenic feel.  Bolstered by support from an all star cast of sessions players including the Muscles Shoals 'Swampers' crowd half of the album was extremely commercial.  Displaying a true affection and talent for blue-eyed soul, highlights included the oddly titled 'When I Was a Freeport and You Were the Main Drag' and the horn propelled 'Blackpatch'.  At the other end of the spectrum, exemplified by the four Cavaliere-produced songs on side two, tracks like the extended 'Upstairs by a Chinese Lamp' and 'Beads of Sweat' showcased Nyro's sensitive singer/songwriter moves.  Stark, haunting and often framed in pseudo-jazzy arrangements these songs were equally impressive, but not particularly accessible and when stretched out to seven or eight minutes ('Map To the Treasure'), started to wear out their welcome.  And then there was the album's lone non-original - 'Up On the Roof' which stood as an indicator of what Nyro would do with her next release "Gonna Take a Miracle".  


Columbia also tapped the album for a pair of singles:


- 1970's 'When I Was a Freeport and You Were the Main Drag' b/w 'Been a Train' (Columbia catalog number 4-45298)

- 1970's 'Up On the Roof' b/w 'New York Tendaberry' (Columbia catalog number 4-45430)


Certainly an interesting album, but perhaps not the place for the curious, or casual fan to start with.


"Christmas and the Beads of Sweat" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Brown Earth   (Laura Nyro) - 4:11
2.) When I Was a Freeport and You Were the Main Drag   (Laura Nyro) - 2:46
3.) Blackpatch   (Laura Nyro) - 3:36
4.) Been On a Train   (Laura Nyro) - 5:52
5.) Up On the Roof   (Gerry Goffin - Carole King) - 3:15

(side 2)
1.) Upstairs by a Chinese Lamp   (Laura Nyro) - 5:34
2.) Map To the Treasure   (Laura Nyro) -  8:09
3.) Beads of Sweat   (Laura Nyro) - 4:44
4.) Christmas In My Soul   (Laura Nyro) - 7:04 


For anyone interested, there's a wonderful Nyro tribute website at:





Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  New York Tendaberry

Company: Columbia

Catalog: KCS 9737

Country/State: Bronx, New York

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: minor ring wear

Available: 2

Catalog ID: 2090

Price: $8.00


Co-produced by Roy Halee and Nyro, 1969's "New York Tendaberry" has frustrated me for years.   Critics and fans gush over the album, but when I listen to it I hear some of the least tuneful, lyrically dense, idiosyncratic, andover-sharing material in her extensive recording catalog.  Nyro was clearly a talented songwriter who could come up with extremely catchy melodies and if you read some of my reviews of her other albums you'll see I really like parts of her catalog.  Unfortunately, with the exception of 'Save the People' (which kicked the crap out of the 5th Dimension top10 cover) and 'Time and Love' (which sounded like Laura Nyro singing The Fifth Dimension),  there just weren't a host of catchy tunes on this collection - instead Nyro seemed more interested in exploring a darker, jazzy, experimental vibe that exposed her vulnerabilities and personal issues - perhaps a little too out there in the open.  By nature I'm not a "sharer" which might explain why tracks like 'You Don't Love Me When I Cry', 'The Man Who Sends Me Home', and 'Captain Saint Lucifer' struck me as being a little too personal for public consumption.  Anyhow, I just couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong - maybe I was shallow?   Maybe I was too conventional in my tastes?  We'll, I've kind of reached the conclusion I was right and this was simply one of Laura Nyro's most "difficult" releases.  Difficult doesn't imply bad - it just means it may take some time and effort to get into this one.


"New York Tendaberry" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) You Don't Love Me When I Cry  (Laura Nyro) - 4:24

Admittedly, you had to be in a certain mood to get the full benefit of the opener 'You Don't Love Me When I Cry.   Featuring Nyro on piano, this was a stark, dark, and inward looking ballad - not exactly the tune to play in the middle of a block party.  It didn't have a great deal going for it in terms of melody, but Nyro's vocals were pretty amazing.   rating: **** stars

2.) Tom Cat Goodbye  (Laura Nyro) - 5:32

Again, her somewhat dissonant, jazzy sound wasn't the most commercial thing you've ever heard, but if you ever wanted to hear  the concept of heartbreak packaged into a three minute package, this was a good place to start.  It also served to showcase what a pissed-off Nyro sounded like, as well as what an accomplished keyboardist the woman was.   rating: **** stars

3.) Mercy on Broadway  (Laura Nyro) - 2:18

'Mercy on Broadway' has always fascinated me.  In a little overt two minutes Nyro managed to take detours into virtually every musical genre known to mankind (not sure what to make about the gunshot sound effect).  I'm not the first to point it out, but the song had an interesting Todd Rundgren feel to it.   rating: **** stars

4.) Save the Country  (Laura Nyro) - 4:36

Anyone who heard the 45 version of 'Save the People' is going to wonder why this version sounds so different.  Supposedly inspired by Bobby Kennedy's assassination, tune was actually recorded and released as a single well before "New York Tendaberry" was completed.   A big Nyro fan, produced Bones Howe was convinced he could make her a star and went into the studio recording the 45 version.  It was released as a single, but did little commercially. Shortly afterwards he recorded the tune with The Fifth Dimension who enjoyed another hit with the song.  For her part Nyro was apparently uncomfortable and unhappy with the 45 arrangement and opted to include a far starker piano and vocal arrangement of the song on the album.     

- 1968's 'Save the Country' b/w 'Timer' (Columbia catalog number 4-44592)  Tube has a clip of Nyro performing 'He's a Runner' and this tune for a 1969 Bobby Darin television special. 'Save the Country' starts at the 4:48 minute mark:   For what its worth, I think the 45 version was actually better.   rating: **** stars

5.) Gibsom Street  (Laura Nyro) - 4:47

I wish it had a little more of a melody (though I've always loved the piano and bells combination), but in terms of displaying her dazzling vocal range; her passion and performing intensity you couldn't do much better than 'Gibsom Street'.   Yeah, the BS&T-styled horns were a bit jarring, but she quickly put them back in their place.  rating: **** stars

(side 2)
1.) Time and Love 
  (Laura Nyro) - 4:24

Forgive me for saying this one actually sounded like something Bones Howe and The Fifth Dimension would have recorded ...  In fact, with the multi-tracked vocals this one actually sounded like a Fifth Dimension performance.  So, it shouldn't come as a surprise to learn they recorded this one as well.   Columbia tapped is as a single:

- 1970's 'Time and Love' b/w 'The Man Who Sends Me Home' (Columbia catalog number -4-45041)    rating: **** stars

2.) The Man Who Sends Me Home  (Laura Nyro) - 2:52

A perfect example of the mysteries of Laura Nyro - fans simply gush over this spare ballad.   I find the tune hyper depressing and almost dysfunctional. That's not to imply the tune isn't fascinating, if weird as all.  It almost has a Kate Bush vibe to it - LOL   rating: **** stars

3.) Sweet Lovin' Baby  (Laura Nyro) - 3:55

Okay, by the time the album gets to 'Sweet Lovin' Baby' I've reached my fill of inner pain and turmoil.  I don't care how technically impressive the performance was - it was time for a change in pace (I did like the last couple of piano chords ...).   rating: *** stars

4.) Captain Saint Lucifer  (Laura Nyro) - 3:17

Geez, talk about a song that was experimental ...  'Captain Saint Lucifer' managed to bounce all over the place, leaving you to basically hold on for dinner life (at least until the piano propelled fadeout). It was a tune that would have given Captain Beefheart a run for his money.   As for the meaning ("'He gives to me, buckles off shingles, off a cockleshell on Norway basin, coke and tuna, boots and roses from Russia").  Beats me.   rating: *** stars

5.) New York Tendaberry  (Laura Nyro) - 5:33

If I had to pick a word to describe the title track it would be "ethereal".  Regardless it has to be one of the best love songs to New York City ever recorded ...     rating: **** stars





Genre: rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Nested

Company: Columbia

Catalog: JC 35549

Year: 1978

Country/State: Bronx, New York

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: original custom inner sleeve

Available: 2

Catalog ID: 5072

Price: $10.00



Whereas a lot of Laura Nyro's catalog is a challenging listening experience for me, I have to admit that I'm a big fan of 1978's "Nested".  Co-produced by Nyro and Roscoe Harding, the album should have found massive acceptance with the same crowd who worshiped Carole King (though King's own audience was rapidly falling away by the mid-1970s).  Like King's sensitive singer/songwriter material, original songs like 'Crazy Love', 'Light-Pop's Principle' and the title track showcased Nyro's highly stylized and personal tales of woe and redemption.  I've never bothered to examine the lyrics in detail (I can hear a legion of Nyro fans yelling for my head), but exemplified by tracks like 'Mr. Blue (The Song of Communications)' and 'Child of the Universe' much of the album seemed to reflect on Nyro's recent divorce and personal recovery. As for her patented social and political commentaries; well this time around it was limited to 'American Dreamer' - which actually seemed like more of a stab at former manager David Geffen than a slice of true social commentary.  Interestingly, while I'd never really thought of her as a King contemporary, on a couple of performances she actually sounded a bit like King - check out the stark keyboard powered 'Crazy Love'..  Perhaps because they were quite a bit different from the rest of the album, the rocking 'Rhythm and Blues' (with John Sebastian on harmonica) and the  fuzz guitar propelled 'My Innocence' and the adult contemporary ballad 'Light-Pop's Principle' stood as album highlights.   


Critics were kind to the collection, but Columbia seemingly didn't know what to do with Nyro - the label  didn't even bother releasing a single.  Even though she was pregnant, Nyro toured in support of the album, but it did little for sales, the album failing to hit the top-200 charts.   Shortly after her promotion tour wrapped up Nyro gave birth to a son and then went back into semi-retirement.  


"Nested" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Mr. Blue (The Song of Communications)   (Laura Nyro) - 5:01

One of her most personal tunes, seemingly about the frustration of trying to re-establish a relationship with an old lover, 'Mr. Blue (The Song of Communications)' was one of her prettier ballads, but the spoken word segments and the spacey (as in scifi), lyrics were just plain strange.   Plus, having one of those nasty words in the lyric meant radio wouldn't get near it.   rating: *** stars
2.) Rhythm and Blues   (Laura Nyro) - 2:57

Not exactly the title you would have expected for a Nyro tune ...  and the funny thing is she sounded quite impressive on a conventional rock tune.  John Sebastian on harp.   rating: **** stars
3.) My Innocence   (Laura Nyro) - 3:24

Complete with fuzz guitar solos, 'My Innocence' is one of the tunes where folks will argue over Roscoe Harding's slicked up production.  Personally I quite liked the updated sound.  In fact my only real complaint would be the song faded out just as the band was beginning to jam.   rating: **** stars
4.) Crazy Love   (Laura Nyro) - 4:18

Just Nyro and piano and a return to her classic sound, though 'Crazy Love' had a more conventional melody and refrain - her voice sounded even stronger than on earlier releases.   rating: **** stars
5.) American Dreamer   (Laura Nyro) - 4:08

I'm not a Nyro scholar, but I'm guessing 'American Dreamer' was aimed at former manager David Geffen ...   Based on the biting lyrics which seemed to include references to the infamous agreement she signed that gave Geffen half of all her earnings, I'm guessing the relationship didn't end on great terms.   Framed by a conventional rock arrangement, Nyro actually sounded a bit like prime Linda Ronstadt on this one.   rating: **** stars


(side 2)
1.) Springblown   (Laura Nyro) - 4:24

To my ears this ballad just didn't go anywhere - the dobro (?) backing provided the highlight for me.  rating: *** stars
2.) The Sweet Sky   (Laura Nyro) - 3:32

Anyone who liked her quirkier moves was likely to find 'The Sweet Sky' simply too smooth and mellow.  Yeah it was commercial, but still retained a touch of her uniqueness.  Personally, I thought this was among her best work.   rating: **** stars
3.) Light-Pop's Principle   (Laura Nyro) - 2:53

Yeah, this was pure and pure commercial pop ... and I loved every moment of it.  Will Brown was responsible for the killer bass line.  rating: **** stars

4.) Child in a Universe   (Laura Nyro) - 4:09

Pretty ballad, but the spacey lyrics were lost on my Southern sensibilities.  rating: *** stars
5.) The Nest   (Laura Nyro) - 2:27

As mentioned earlier, Nyro during the recording sessions Nyro was pregnant and that seems to have been the inspiration for the closer 'The Nest'.   Pretty; thoughtful, and ... well a nice way to close the album.   rating: *** stars