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[Off The Record]
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Laura Nyro

It’s the saddest of ironies, but Laura Nyro’s last recordings — done mainly in the summer of 1995, after a long dry spell and just before she was diagnosed with terminal uterine cancer — have the feel of a fresh beginning. The mix of cosmic and earthy elements will be familiar to her fans — she was blurring sexual/spiritual lines long before Prince got the idea. But there’s a playfulness here that hadn’t been around since her seminal ’60s albums, and these unpolished piano demos capture her natural charm better than the tight production on her last few official releases.

This 16-track disc is half new originals and half covers (including tunes by Bacharach and Gershwin). Most likely they would have gone onto separate albums if Nyro had lived, but they all contribute to this disc’s hopeful and romantic feel. " Gardenia Talk " brings out a sly sexiness that she never really lost; " Serious Playground " is a self-depreciating look at the pleasures of songwriting. The covers form something of a sequel to her popular 1971 album Gonna Take a Miracle, a personalized version of vintage soul: she turns the Shirelles’ " Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow " and the Delfonics’ " La La Means I Love You " into something close to gospel without losing the basic innocence that drove those songs. The final complete track is apparently the last song she wrote: " Don’t Hurt Child " is addressed to her teenage son, but here it also sounds like a final embrace for her fans. And I’m pretty sure she meant it that way.


Issue Date: May 17 - 23, 2001

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