"I don't accept limitations as a writer," said Laura Nyro, and no words have ever been truer with the evidence on display in American Dreamer's eight-part collection. The four albums she released from 1967 to 1970 (More Than a New Discovery, Eli and the 13th Confession, New York Tendaberry and Christmas and the Beads of Sweat) set a standard for musical complexity and innovation few have achieved. While some might view her 1971 Gonna Take a Miracle as a sideways step, these classic soul re-recordings, with the help of Labelle, offer a glimpse of the songs that shaped much of her own work and reflect a time when music was dominated by men. The five year gap before the release of Smile and Nested two years later reflect a calm woman, a more mature artist.
While their first album featured five top 10 hits for other artists, Nyro's recording More Than a New Discovery barely hit the top half of the Billboard 200 at 97. Not exactly a promising start, but Verve Records really didn't know what to do do with her. On the album she was not allowed to play the piano, she was encouraged to play the guitar but refused. Still, you can't resist songs like “And When I Die”, “Wedding Bell Blues” and “Stoney End”.
When Nyro recorded Eli and the 13th Confession in January and February 1968, he was more in control, having written and co-produced the entire album with the album's arranger, Charlie Calello. Songs like "Eli's Coming" and "Stone Soul Picnic" became hits for Three Dog Night and 5th Dimension. With players like Hugh McCracken, Chuck Rainey and Joe Farrell, this was an album that influenced everyone from Elton John and Todd Rundgren to Paul Shaffer, who thinks it is the album he wants on a desert island with him .
Nyro's darker and more intimate New York Tendaberry was co-produced by Roy Halee. Far more intimate than the previous albums, it became the most commercially successful album of their career. Nyro communicated with Halee more sparingly than in previous work using color metaphors, as she could not understand the musical notation. Thematically influenced by New York City, her hometown, it still stands and exemplifies the strength of her songwriting.
For their fourth album "Christmas and the Beads of Sweat" the former Young Rascal Felix Cavaliere and Arif Mardin took over the production tasks. The album includes the star power of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, Duane Allman and Alice Coltrane and strikes a balance between the lighter, happy side of Eli and the 13th Confession with the more atmospheric New York Tendaberry atmosphere. From the happy “When I was a Freeport and You Were the Main Drag” and Coffin and King's “Up on the Roof” to the contemplative “Christmas In My Soul”, these four albums reach heights that framed their legacy.
Gonna Take a Miracle, Nyros album with Patti Labelle, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash as backup, is not a step back, but an album full of influences that came about because Labelle's manager interviewed Nyro and Labelle went along with it. Soon they were out with Labelle, who cooked for Nyro. Produced by Gamble and Huff, Nyro remained very responsible and combined tracks like "I Met Him on a Sunday" and You & # 39; ve Really Got a Hold on Me "with soul ballads like" The Wind "and the sultry" Désiree " .
Both Smile and Nested reflect a more mature, established artist. Mirroring a woman who has moved on to marriage, motherhood, and divorce, these two albums probably never could have hit the high notes of their first four releases.
This 8-disc set is rounded off by a series of 15 rarities, singles, demos and live recordings that give a more complete picture of Laura Nyro. From the simple but sublime piano and vocal rendition of "Stoned Soul Picnic" to a live version of Carole Kings "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman", American Dreamer offers a glimpse of one of the earliest female singers and songwriters to break out and give an insight into the world of women. Laura Nyro was not only an American dreamer, but also an American original.