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After accolades for classic women songwriters hit Joni Mitchell, Judee Sill and Karen Dalton, cheerleaders for Laura Nyro waited with bated breath. Early in 2021, Madfish Records reissued her seven studio albums on vinyl, along with an eighth disc of rarities. The remastered 1970s albums like New York Tendaberry and Eli and the Thirteenth Confession reinforced the unique and soulful style Nyro gave the world.

The culmination, however, arrived in two later releases from Omnivore Recordings: Trees of the Ages: Laura Nyro Live in Japan, an expansive late-period Osaka show from 1994 (one of her last before succumbing to ovarian cancer in 1997) and Go Find the Moon, a CD of a 1966 audition tape. The broad-based Japan set almost has the feel of a Vegas revue, but offers fine versions of “Wedding Bell Blues” and “Broken Rainbow.” The CD is more an oddity for fans, the 19-year-old Nyro showcasing early versions of “And When I Die” and “Lazy Susan.” Both Omnivore releases provide a simpler entry into Nyro’s intriguing and underappreciated life than the imposing 8-LP set.

Also New & Noteworthy

Modern Nature, Island of Noise (Bella Union) – Jack Cooper’s new band (after the demise of his duo Ultimate Painting) declared a mission of bridging free jazz and folk-singing sensibilities. This second Modern Nature album proves the jazz case by opening with the riffs of saxophonist Evan Parker, who reprises his squeals at various points throughout the album. In between, Cooper provides lyrical observations loosely based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest. December’s boxed LP set will be followed by a digital release at the end of January and a single LP in March.

NRBQ, Dragnet (Omnivore) – Louisville prankster/party band NRBQ (New Rhythm & Blues Quartet) has existed in some form since 1965 and continues to release spontaneous minor classics like they were ancestors to Ween. Dragnet is the first studio work in eight years, though the band released rarities in 2020. Many tracks recall the exuberant sounds of their best 1970s albums like At Yankee Stadium, but in the deceptively lighthearted “You Can’t Change People,” NRBQ shows they can confront rigid belief systems with as much gravity as any topical songwriter. 

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