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Laura Nyro died twenty years ago today. This is her first record released in 1966. She was just 19 years old. After this, she moved to Columbia Records and released the influential Eli and Thirteenth Confession, New York Tenderberry, Christmas and the Beads of Sweat and Gonna Take a Miracle – an album of soul covers with Labelle. She was the first artist to be managed by a young David Geffen. She came back after a short hiatus away from the business in 1976 and released Smile, Nested, Mother’s Spiritual and other LPs in the 80’s and 90’s including a few live albums. She succumbed to ovarian cancer in 1997 at the age of 49.
Her avid fanbase includes Elton John, Todd Rundgren, Elvis Costello, Bette Midler, Ricky Lee Jones and many performers like Barbara Streisand, Three Dog Night and The Fifth Dimension that had hits with her songs. At one point in 1969, she had three of her songs covered by others in the Billboard top ten. But it’s her own versions that really show her emotional depth. Though Laura Nyro was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, she still remains largely unfamiliar to many. I urge anyone with a heart and soul to check out her music for themselves. She was a rare artist and poet.
More Than A New Discovery / Laura Nyro (Verve Folkways FT/FTS 3020 : FT-3020-S-1 MG-780 / FT-3020-S-2 MG-781)
1. Goodbye Joe
2. Billy’s Blues
3. And When I Die (Hit play)
4. Stoney End
5. Lazy Susan
6. Hands Off The Man
1. Wedding Bell Blues
2. Buy And Sell
3. He’s A Runner
4. Blowin’ Away
5. I Never Meant To Hurt You
6. California Shoe-Shine Boys
All of the above compositions written by Laura Nyro (BMI)
Arranged and Conducted: Herb Bernstein
Produced by: MILT OKUN
Production Supervisor: Jerry Schoenbaum
Production Assistant: Jean Goldhirsch
Director of Engineering: Val Valentin
Engineer: Harry Yarmark
Cover Design: Michael Malatak
Cover Photo: Murray Laden
Dennis Lotis sings “How About You?” Nixa Records (England) I never heard of this guy before but thought it was a cool cover. Seems he had a long successful career on the other side of the pond as a concert performer, recording star and in films. Listening to a few cuts here, I can’t say I’d put him on before a dozen other more famous crooners.
Young model Nico on the cover of this French LP. Emil Stern Hit Parade Barclay Records Photo by: Willie Maywald
On October 16, 1938, Velvet Underground singer, model, actor and member of the Warhol Superstars, Nico was born in Germany. Nico’s trademark deep voice, exquisite style and somewhat troubling attitude made her one of the most interesting figures in rock and roll.
By the time she was 17 Nico had moved to Paris to continue her modeling career. She worked briefly for Coco Chanel, but abandoned the job to move to New York City.
Modeling wasn’t Nico’s only successful job though. By 1965 she had recorded a cover of Bob Dylan’s “I’ll Keep It With Mine” as well as her first single “I’m Not Sayin’”. Soon after, she met Andy Warhol, who was putting together the Velvet Underground. Warhol suggested that the band take on Nico as a “chanteuse”, and albeit reluctantly, they accepted her. The band became a centerpiece of Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable.
Lou Reed and Nico had a short physical relationship, which Nico ended. This did not help her relationship with the band, which considered her an “interloper”. After her tenure in the Velvet Underground was up, she had mentioned to Warhol in several letters a desire to make another record.
Nico released her first solo album, Chelsea Girl, in 1967. Her 1969 album, The Marble Index, contained more original songwriting as a result of Jim Morrison’s coaching in California. She would continue writing her own music for her later albums as well.
Nico died on the island Ibeza in 1988. She was riding her bicycle and suffered a heart attack, and then a concussion from falling. A local taxi driver found her, but could not get her admitted to a hospital because she had no insurance. Eventually, she was incorrectly diagnosed with having heat exposure, but x-rays later revealed her actual cause of death to be cerebral hemorrhaging.
Nico and the Velvet Underground have had a huge influence on the world of music. Brian Eno even said that despite their lack of success for their first albums, “everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.”
“An Evening with Anita O’Day” Columbia Records (England) This album started in 1954 (in the US on Norman Granz’ Norgran Records) and was completed by 1955, but not issued until 1956. An Evening With Anita O’Day began its life as Songs By Anita O’Day, a ten-inch record released in 1954 for Norman Granz’ Norgran label and later expanded to its present form. The music is comprised of three small group sessions that took place in Los Angeles in the spring of 1954 and the summer of 1955. These are studio recordings, leaving the listener to assume that the titular “evening” refers to the time of day in which the listener will want to experience these songs, which feel like they must have been recorded by candlelight. Stellar guitar work by Tal Farlow and Barney Kessel
I had an evening with Anita O’Day. She’s been one of my favorite singers for as long as I can remember. It was in the Winter of 1984. I had just moved to New York City after college. I saw that she was appearing at a club in Teaneck, NJ – just over the George Washington Bridge. Easy. Or so I thought. Having no money and no car, I tried to walk it from my room on the Upper West Side. It was a snowy night and I ended up willing myself there with a combination of hiking, hitching, bus and subway. Finally inside that warm, intimate jazz room, with Anita sitting on a stool in the spotlight and singing on a low, small stage, the world outside melted away. It was magical. After the first set, I had the gumption to offer her a drink and she took a seat and we talked about her music, her band, her schedule. Meeting your idols can go either way, but she was very nice – sensing, I’m sure, my excitement and appreciation. I stayed for the late show before trudging out through the snow in the early morning feeling that the world was a little smaller and the future filled with wonders.