Battle of the Band: Laura Nyro

by Kevin Wierzbicki

Our Battle of the Band column has two releases from the same performer battling it out; this time around we listen to two Omnivore Recordings releases of rare material from the late Laura Nyro.

Laura Nyro - Go Find the Moon: The Audition Tape

This CD contains super rare Laura Nyro music; it's the demo she recorded when she was just 18-years-old and has never been released before. The program begins with a take on "And When I Die," the song that would eventually become a smash hit for Blood, Sweat & Tears. Two takes on "Lazy Susan" are included, sort of. The first is a "false start" with just a snippet of the tune while the second presents the whole song. "In and Out" also has a quirk, it ends cold, but not before Nyro very impressively channels Carole King. "Go Find the Moon" is a breathtaking display of the immense talent that Nyro would soon gift the world. While most of the set consists of songs written by Nyro, she sings a couple lines from a few covers including the Leiber/Stoller hit "Kansas City." All songs feature only Nyro on vocals and piano. Not for everyone but this release will be cherished by Nyro completists and others who are curious about her nascent years.

Laura Nyro - Trees of the Ages: Live in Japan

Recorded at various venues in Japan in 1994, this live set has been hard to find until now. Featuring mostly self-penned songs, including biggies like "And When I Die" and "Wedding Bell Blues," the show also features select covers and opens with two of them, "Dedicated to the One I Love" and Smokey Robinson's "Ooh Baby Baby." Other than a three-woman harmony group adding backing vocals, as they do notably on "A Woman of the World," the show is all Nyro, just her vocals and her piano playing, and no more is needed on sublime tunes like "Louise's Church," "To a Child" on which she speaks an intro in Japanese, and "Save the Country." Late in the program Laura performs the Bacharach/David chestnut "Walk on By," and Phil Spector's "Oh Yeah Maybe Baby (The Heebie Jeebies)." The set ends with "Art of Love," appropriate enough since Nyro gives her heart throughout the show.

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