Laura Nyro Allan Jones - Essay

Allan Jones

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[It] was inevitable that Laura, when she was ready, would return. Such a talent as hers, one surmised, could not remain dormant for any considerable length of time, and here, four years after "Gonna Take A Miracle", is Laura Nyro's sixth album, "Smile".

Her songs have always been concerned with her own experiences, and only occasionally (as on "Save The Country" and "Christmas In My Soul" particularly) taken in external, political events. "Smile" proves to be no exception…. [She] focuses here with great clarity upon the recent events in her life. "Stormy Love", one of the most immediately attractive songs …, deals specifically with the disintegration of her marriage. "Midnite Blue", with a similarly evocative melody and imagery, is a song to a new lover, full of optimism and joy. Her treatment of these themes is marked by a restraint not always apparent on her earlier albums. There is about the whole record an air of calm…. She has eschewed the confessional style of "Tendaberry" and, say, "Been On A Train", for the more composed and mature tone of pieces like "Blackpatch", "Map To The Treasure" and "Upstairs By A Chinese Lamp" from "Christmas". "Chinese Lamp" has, actually, a successor here, the equally impressionistic "Children Of The Junks". It shares with the title track a subdued, romantic atmosphere….

I miss occasionally the passion and intensity of her early style, the unexpected violence and despair, and there are moments here which somehow lack her usual conviction. "Money", for instance, is interesting in that it refers to her past experience …, but seems, at present, unsatisfying as a song. These reservations are slight, however, in the face of the album's supreme moment—the sombre, "I Am The Blues"…. It's a captivating performance which serves to emphasise her enduring talent as a singer and composer.

Allan Jones, "A Tear and a Smile," in Melody Maker (© IPC Business Press Ltd.), February 14, 1976, p. 29.∗