Laura Nyro Richard Williams - Essay

Richard Williams

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Each of Laura Nyro's four albums has had its own distinct personality.

"The First Songs" showed an immature girl struggling against unsympathetic arrangements; "Eli" was freer, a testament to her melodic ability and to her vocal virtuosity; "New York Tendaberry" was a deep exploration of self, an inner-directed monologue.

["Christmas and the Beads of Sweat"] is different again…. In fact the essence of the music hasn't changed at all, and Laura … uses the assets of [the musicians who accompany her] to serve her approach, rather than becoming subservient to their way of playing. The result is probably her best album to date, although it's difficult to talk about her in such comparative terms. Many of the songs create an impression/illusion of greater happiness than before, like the opening "Brown Earth" (positively euphoric) and the gorgeously impressionistic "Upstairs By A Chinese Lamp," which uses Joe Farrell's flute and the oud of Ashod Garabedian to enhance Laura's descriptions…. But underneath most of the songs there's still the leitmotif of self-destruction, like "Map To The Treasure:" "My pretty medicine man / got pretty medicine in his hand." Even more depressing is "Been On A Train," which uses the railroad as a terrifyingly graphic metaphor for heroin. But perhaps the best track, overall, is "When I Was A Freeport And You Were The Main Drag."… It's rather in her tradition of singable songs….

Richard Williams, "Pop Albums: 'Christmas and the Beads of Sweat'," in Melody Maker (© IPC Business Press Ltd.), January 30, 1971, p. 22.