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Saturday, May 15, 2004

ALBUM REVIEW
Laura Nyro
Spread Your Wings And Fly: Live At The Fillmore East May 30, 1971
Columbia/Legacy

April 8th is a horrible day in contemporary music history. April 8th, 1976 found Phil Ochs taking his own life after a long decline fueled by being attacked in Tanzania three years before and descending into alcoholism. April 8th, 1994 brought the discovery of Kurt Cobain's body in his Seattle home. April 8th, 1997 took away Laura Nyro, one of the first and greatest of the "Singer/Songwriters" that would change the landscape of American popular music for the better part of the late '60's and early '70's.
This latest gem from the Columbia/Legacy catalog represents one of the last concerts at Bill Graham's Fillmore East. Nyro is alone at the piano on her home turf of New York City, bringing forth more soul than any white girl before or since. Slowly, through a deft use of melody and medley, she offers the audience a brief history of the songs by herself and other contemporaries such as Goffin and King (her splendid interpretation of "Up On The Roof") that had delivered her to this point in time. As the liner notes are careful to explain, the sound quality of this disk is not without its flaws, but the occasional sonic accident doesn't diminish from this music. Nyro, on this night, effortlessly moved the audience from songs of desperation ("I Am The Blues" and the David/Bacharach museum piece "Walk On By") to songs of hope ("O-o-h Child" and "Map To The Treasure"). Two tracks on this album, "American Dove" and "Mother Earth" have never been released in any form on any of Nyro's previous releases.
It is important to note that the audience responds most vociferously to Nyro's own "Save The Country", a song that takes on increased relevance in these troubled times. While it is songs of life and the heart such as "Stoned Soul Picnic", "And When I Die" and "Eli's Coming" that put her on the musical map and ensured her legacy, it was songs such as "Save The Country" that give Nyro a timelessness and continue to make her music relevant seven years after her death. In fact, it is maddening that in the 33 years since this performance, we seem to have been forced back to square one with regard to ecology, war, and man's inhumanity to man by the current keeper of America's keys. As another of Laura's songs says, "I'm mad at my country", but it is Laura Nyro's shining musical messages of love and peace that give me some sense of hope and strength these days.

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