Wednesday, March 13, 2013

eli and the thirteenth confession

Laura Nyro fought to get a new manager and a new record contract before recording this complex confessional tapestry of jazz, blues, pop, and soul.  She had released her debut on Verve records when she was a teenager; but the label tried to force her into a different artistic direction:    “I was miscast.  They projected me as being the ‘Teenybopper Queen’, because I was 18 at the time. I remember my first publicity pictures. I weighed 180 pounds at that time—my weight is always up and down. I was really fat that week, and they wanted to push my song called Wedding Bell Blues, so they stuffed me into this wedding dress, put a veil on my head, and flowers in my hand. I looked so uptight, the most uptight bride you’ve ever seen. And then this picture was splashed all over the industry. The next song they wanted to become a hit was Goodbye Joe and they ran big ads that said something like ‘Well, the Wedding Bell Blues gal has lost another man, but gained another hit’ . . . And then I read this article about myself that said something like ‘Life is a seesaw of joys and sorrows,’ which is a quote from Khalil Gibran, ‘but it only hurts when she laughs and you must keep an eye on her . . . Laura Nyro enjoys a good game of darts . . . ‘I mean, things like that—it really enraged me. They didn’t know what to say about me, so they said these silly things—I guess they tried to put some humor into it, or something. It was really terrible, it really was...They (Verve) picked the arranger and producer for me - they picked them and said ‘This is whom you must record with.’ And so my arranger (Herb Bernstein) went home and wrote about six arrangements in three hours. I mean, I work months and hours and years and a lifetime on my songs, and if something was a bit difficult, he’d just chop it right out . . . like if one of my changes was a bit difficult. They really kind of brought down my music. There was no balance at the beginning of me . . . there was no peace, there was no comfort, there was certainly no joy, there was no understanding and there was no sensitivity. Just incredible fights, and I was always crying—I mean, that’s the way all those old people really know me.”

David Geffen helped her sue to get released from her contracts on the grounds that she was a minor when she signed them.  He became her new manager and they set up Tuna Fish Music to publish her songs.  Nyro auditioned for Clive Davis and secured a contract with Columbia Records that gave her complete freedom in the recording of what she considered her first album, 'Eli and the Thirteenth Confession'.  Nyro composed the songs and Charlie Calello did the arrangements; and the two of them produced the album with Laura Nyro on piano, vocal, and harmonies; Ralph Casale and Chet Amsterdam on acoustic guitar; Hugh McCracken on electric guitar; Chuck Rainey and Chet Amsterdam on bass; Artie Schroeck on drums and vibes; Buddy Saltzman on drums; Dave Carey on percussion; Bernie Glow, Pat Calello, and Ernie Royal on trumpet; George Young and Zoot Sims on saxophone; Wayne Andre, Jimmy Cleveland, and Ray DeSio on trombone; Joe Farrell on saxophone and flute; and Paul Griffin on piano on "Eli's Comin'" and "Once It Was Alright Now (Farmer Joe)".   Nyro recalls the recording of 'Lonely Women' with Zoot Sims:    “I remember the day that he came in.  We played the tape for him—it was a rainy afternoon and the studio looked grey, this great big studio—it was just me and Charlie (Calello, the arranger) and our engineer. Zoot Sims walked in with his head down to the floor, looking so down and everything. Then he did a thing with his sax where you just hear the air coming out and, like, it’s all scratchy and broken and he communicates his loneliness into the song. Charlie and I sat there, crying . . . It was so beautiful and it was so great because it was all in the air . . . this older man in this great big studio on this rainy day . . . he was so quiet, it was great. Then Joe Farrell played flute on 'Poverty Train' and he kind of turned it into Alice in Wonderland, almost . . . he came into my world, and he really enhanced it.”

"Stoned Soul Picnic"

"Sweet Blindness"

"Eli's Coming"


'Eli and the Thirteenth Confession'
full album:

1. Luckie (0:00)
2. Lu (2:59)
3. Sweet Blindness (5:43)
4. Poverty Train (8:21)
5. Lonely Women (12:37)
6. Eli's Comin' (16:07)
7. Timer (20:03)
8. Stoned Soul Picnic (23:25)
9. Emmie (27:12)
10. Woman's Blues (31:32)
11. Once It Was Alright (Farmer Joe) (35:17)
12. December's Boudoir (38:16)
13. The Confession (43:20)

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