To say Laura Nyro was ahead of her time is a meaningless statement considering there has been none such a perfected brand of musical prowess since. Nyro was one of the great loners. Kate Bush certainly echoed some of it, check out “In The Warm Room” from her Lionheart (1978), but she was more invested in story and narrative, unlike Nyro who captured heightened emotional moments wrapped in quasi Brill Building hooks; and they could certainly give Carole King a run for her money. Here on Eli and the Thirteenth Confession the songs are mostly better than on her ’67 debut, largely because of well-executed ornate touches which don’t sacrifice melody. Take the rhythm breaks in “Emmie” with harp or sparse drumming which feel as if they emerge from some great darkness; and the dramatic slow opening to soul-rocker “Woman’s Blues”; these carry more momentum than mere decorative fillings. Co-producer Charlie Calello must receive some recognition because something of a faint stamp can be heard on Janis Ian’s fourth album, Who Really Cares (1969). Perhaps Nyro’s stand-out, however, is her erratic yet well transitioned tempo changes; one may struggle to find another pop song with as many shifts as in “Timer”, at least ones which seemingly shouldn’t work, but somehow do. Her singing can more than keep up as well, only adding to the beguiling alchemy of this album. Her next, New York Tendaberry (1969) is a more difficult listen, whereas here she stretched the piano-pop aesthetic perhaps as much and as admirably as one can.
Eli and the Thirteenth Confession (1968) – Laura Nyro