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Laura Nyro
Live at the Fillmore East

Review By Steve Guttenberg
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Laura Nyro Live at the Fillmore East

CD Number: Columbia/Legacy CK 92493

 

  Over the three years of its existence the Fillmore East was home to an outrageous number of legendary performances. Just about every major act played there: Jimi Hendrix, the Who, Led Zeppelin, Big Brother, the Dead, the Band, Traffic, the Airplane, Miles Davis, and the subject of this review, singer/songwriter Laura Nyro. She graced the stage on three separate occasions; the performance captured on Spread Your Wings And Fly: Laura Nyro Live at the Fillmore East was recorded on May 30, 1971, just a few weeks before the great emporium was decommissioned.

Nyro, alone with a grand piano, starts the show with a tune we've never heard before, "American Dove." The stately anti-war song segues into more familiar territory, a half whispered "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing." She steers clear of her biggest hits like "And When I Die" or "Wedding Bell Blues," and explores tunes that moved her, in the moment. There's something about her tender vulnerability that gets to me on "You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman." Her voice's many shades of blue root her sound in the streets of the city. By the time Nyro belts out a powerful "Walk On By" and "Dancing in the Street" the hometown crowd is putty in her hands. Better still, you sense their adoring reactions touched the reclusive 23 year old artist. The intimacy of her performance a rare treat -- it's so refreshing to hear Nyro's talent in such a natural state. The churchy opening chords on "Save the Country" and Nyro's pleading vocal will take your breath away.

The set was recorded with three microphones and a consumer model stereo open reel tape machine -- without Dolby noise reduction -- so there's lots of tape hiss. That's OK with me, for once the mastering guys didn't squeeze the life out of the recording by attempting to hush the tape noise. Maybe that's why the quality is surprisingly good, far better than the scrunched sound of Nyro's studio recordings. Yes, there are tape dropouts and occasional distortions, but the sound is wonderfully open, with excellent dynamics and tonality.

 

 

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