Laura Nyro was a singer and songwriter from New York. The 5th Dimension had hits with her songs (“Stoned Soul Picnic”) as did Blood Sweat & Tears (“And When I Die”) and Barbra Streisand (“Stoney End”). Ironically Nyro’s best selling single was a cover of Goffin and King’s “Up On The Roof”. Much of the appreciation for her has come posthumously as she succumbed to cancer is 1997.
Hers was a name I’d heard but I knew absolutely nothing about her until one of my regular customers, Nigel, asked me one day if I’d heard her song “Eli’s Comin’”. I had to admit I hadn’t. Nigel offered that as a soul fan I should have a listen. So I did, the first 40 seconds didn’t exactly endear me to it being in the main the dreaded vocal gymnastics (why sing one note when 27 will do !) but then in it bangs and suddenly we have soulful dancefloor shaker which I’ve played out when DJ’ing often and very often to a reaction of “WHAT IS THAT !”. There was actually a copy of this album in the shop at the time I first heard “Eli’s Comin’” and, as a quick search revealed, 7” copies change hands for 4 figures that album now lives at home with me.
The rest of the album is all written by Nyro. It features possibly her best known song, “Stoned Soul Picnic”, (a US #3 hit for the 5th Dimension as I mentioned earlier). It’s an album that has a lot of elements of soul about it but it’s not Soul music. There’s parallels with Joni Mitchell, I’m guessing Tori Amos is perhaps a big fan and I can’t help thinking of Steely Dan when listening to this. I don’t mean this as a criticism but this is grown up music, this ain’t something you’re going nuts over when you’re 14, I needed to be older before I even got close to understanding music like this. There’s soul and blues and jazz in here, crazy tempo changes and a lot of vocal gymnastics but I find it strangely attractive.
Eli’s Comin’ - https://youtu.be/SaFD-s66VG8?si=kKAz3QsIy1rC2mSd