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Sassafras & Moonshine: The Songs of Laura Nyro Import

3.3 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Import, October 2, 2012
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Editorial Reviews

UK collection of tracks written by the late, great singer/songwriter. A distinctive musician, an uncompromising vocalist and a great writer whose songs sold millions, but whose records did not, Nyro the performer was possibly too "out there" for mass consumption. Her lyrics were often obscure, but her glorious melodies meant that, in more mainstream interpretation, other artists enjoyed massive commercial success with her material. The performers contained on our collection reflect Nyro's devoted fan base, which pretty much consists of women and gay men, and are drawn from the worlds of Soul, Pop, Jazz and beyond. Highlights include 'Sweet Blindness' by the 5th Dimension, 'Save the Country' by Thelma Houston, 'Wedding Bell Blues' by Bobbie Gentry and new-to-CD rarities by Melba Moore, the Blossoms and Peggy Lipton.

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Sweet Blindness - the 5th Dimension
  2. Stoned Soul Picnic - the Staple Singers
  3. Save the Country - Thelma Houston
  4. Captain St Lucifer - Melba Moore
  5. Stoney End - the Blossoms
  6. Wedding Bell Blues - Bobbie Gentry
  7. Goodbye Joe - Carmen McRae with the Dixie Flyers
  8. Time and Love - the Supremes
  9. And When I Die - Esther Marrow
  10. I Never Meant to Hurt You - Chris Connor
  11. Lu - Peggy Lipton
  12. Lazy Susan - Liane Carroll
  13. He's a Runner - Mama Cass
  14. Buy and Sell - Nnenna Freelon
  15. Captain for Dark Mornings - Tuck & Patti (Cleared As Patti Cathcart)
  16. Billy's Blues - Laura Zakian
  17. Emmie - Ronnie Dyson
  18. Eli's Comin' - the Friends of Distinction
  19. Lonely Women - Linda Hoyle
  20. Blackpatch - Judy Kuhn


Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 2, 2012)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import
  • Label: Ace Records UK
  • ASIN: B008U5LF60
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #149,203 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Barry P. Silber on December 3, 2012
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I have said for many years, that no artist can replicate the genius of Laura Nyro. However, there are some pretty damn good renditions of Ms. Nyro's work on this CD. This CD is a loving tribute to the brilliance of Laura. It is interesting that most artists on this collection chose to keep Ms. Nyro's original arrangements intact, honoring her original productions. For example, Judy Kuhn's rendition of "Blackpatch" is virtually identical to the original recording which appeared on Laura's "Christmas and the Beads of Sweat". Ms. Kuhn uses the same brass instrumentation, and other effects which still make this cut superlative.

Every song on this collection is superb. Worth noting are:

"Wedding Bell Blues" by Bobbi Gentry. Ms. Gentry validates that she is no 'one trick pony' ("Ode to Billy Joe"), with this sultry, light, breezy version. It reminds me of Nancy Sinatra's "Sugar Town"

"Emily" by Ronnie Dyson. Yes, you may believe this is a female singing, but Ronnie's version is terrific.

"Captain St. Lucifer" by Melba Moore. Ronnie's "Hair" co-star, belts it out!

"Stoney End"- the Blossoms. Who are they? Who cares? A fabulous version.

"Save the Country"- Thelma Houston. Wow! Thelma hits all the gospel notions of this brilliant Nyro anthem.

To summarize, this CD has high production values on every cut; and to complete the listener's enjoyment: Terrific liner notes, particularly those from Ms. Nyro's biographer, Michele Kort. When you listen to this recording, you will realize the influence and genius of Laura Nyro.
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What is shown here is the brilliance of Laura Nyro's early songs when she was the young superstar musical writer. There's nothing here from the wealth of material she recorded later in her career. What this set does for me is just make me want to bounce back and spin Nyro herself, because the marriage of her song craft and her vocals are sublime. Nyro the singer is simply not matched here. The only singer here who arrested my attention was British jazz singer Liane Carroll whose vocals on Nyro's blue "Lazy Susan" seem heartfelt and original. This track was from her 2007 set "Slow Down," but Carroll also recorded "He's A Runner" and "California Shoe Shine Boys" on her first set "Standard Issue" in 2005, and "Buy and Sell" on a later set "Up & Down." I may investigate those sets. I of course liked The 5th Dimension's hit version of "Sweet Blindness," Mama Cass' take on "He's A Runner" and The Friends of Distinction on "Eli's Coming." But alas, the comparison with the Master Singer herself only makes Nyro shine brighter. Enjoy!
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This album is a fine collection of Laura Nyro music. If your a fan of Laura (and even if you are not) consider purchasing this. Most notable (in my mind) are Wedding Bell Blues (by Bobbie Gentry), He's a Runner (by Mama Cass Elliot), Time and Love (by Diana Ross), and Stoned Soul Picnic (by The Stable Singer). In fact Stoned Soul Picnic is a killer version. There are a number of other good covers of Laura's material, but these come to mind.
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I have every Laura Nyro recording since the first.There's only one release (without her voice) that deserves merit. That's Billy Childs' magnificent "Map to the Treasure." Buy it. Treasure it. As for "Sassafras," the vast majority of tracks are poorly sung, ditto for the production valuesjust plain awful. I only avoided a zero rating because 5th Dimension did Stone Soul Picnic pretty well. And there's a pretty cool rendering of "Captain for Dark Mornings" utilizing 1 acoustic guitar. Overall, though, your collection of Laura's music will not be enhanced with this CD.
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