I purchased Spread Your Wings And Fly five days ago and I can't stop playing it. I loved Laura Nyro in the late 1960's and early 1970's and still have my vinyl copies of Eli and The Thirteenth Confession and New York Tendaberry. I had not listened to Laura in quite a few years, as I rarely play the old vinyl records anymore, which are tucked away in the basement. But, I started thinking about her for some reason, went to Amazon, and bought the NY Tendaberry CD and Spread Your Wings and Fly. I had not heard the latter before, but, after listening to samples, decided to try it. So far, it's the only one I have played.
This live performance is with just Laura and the piano. No band, no drummer or bass, just Laura. To me, it's the best way to hear her. It was recorded at the Fillmore East and apparently was one of the last shows held there. It must have been a doozie, and the audience sounds like it was totally awed by the performance, as well they should have been.
One should be advised that the recording quality leaves a bit to be desired. Apparently, the old tapes sat around for a long time and the CD does have a few distortions of Laura's voice, particularly when she hits the high notes. There is even an acknowledgement of this on the liner notes. Nonetheless, for the most part the sound quality is just fine, and I feel this live performance captures Laura at her best. There is a mix of covers -- such as Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing, Natural Woman, Walk On By and Dancing In The Streets -- with her own songs, including American Dove, Emmie, Timer, Lu, Flim Flam Man, I Am The Blues, Map To The Treasure, Christmas In My Soul and Save The Country. The mood goes from happy and light on Dancing In The Streets and Emmie, to intense and moving on I Am The Blues and Map To The Treasure, the last being my personal favorite. And she does some amazing things with her voice on I Am The Blues. Her rendition of Natural Woman is excellent; her voice is absolutely beautiful and I think even Aretha would be proud!
Also, my favorite song by Laura has always been Save The Country. I like it even better on this CD than on New York Tendaberry, since there is no orchestra, which I thought was too strong on NY Tendaberry. The only minor negative is that the audience claps in rhythm throughout most of the song, but it is minimally distracting and does capture the spirit of the song, and, probably, the event.
I haven't heard all of her CDs, but, so far, this is my favorite and I strongly recommend it.