October 2001

Laura Nyro - Angel In The Dark
Rounder 11661-3176-2
Released: 2001

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

[Reviewed on CD]Laura Nyro's passing in 1997 left a void in our musical universe, but thanks to Rounder Records, her music still lives to delight and speak to us once again. Angel In The Dark brings together the last eight songs Ms. Nyro wrote before her untimely death. Those songs, recorded with some of NYC’s top session players, remind us that she remained intensely creative to the end. But it is the other songs here, recorded solo (just Ms. Nyro and a piano) that add considerable pleasure to this collection. For those solo efforts bring back into our lives many of the songs that Ms. Nyro made famous, giving us one last glimpse into how those tunes had become such a part of her, and perhaps, a part of us.

For listeners of that "certain generation," sitting down with Angel In The Dark will stir memories long buried by the debris of the intervening years. It brought back to me, in vivid detail, where and who I was during those turbulent times, when Ms. Nyro’s clear, strong voice brought calm to an otherwise chaotic period. But as much fun as those strolls down memory lane are, it is the eight new songs that define Angel In The Dark. Up to the end Ms. Nyro was still able to create songs that touch and speak to us. From the title track through "Sweet Dream Fade" to "Be Aware" and the closing "Don’t Hurt Child," Laura Nyro still reaches out to us, telling us about the times we live in and how we might deal with them. These songs stand as a stark reminder of how much we’ll miss having her around.

While not demo quality, the sound here can be -- at times -- quite stunning. Most importantly, Rounder got Ms. Nyro’s voice down pat. And the harmony vocals (mostly her overdubbing herself) seem to come from behind, as well as around, her. The solo cuts clearly differentiate when she is playing acoustic or electric piano. The studio cuts, however, sound compressed, as do many contemporary records. Still, getting the voice right on an album like this glosses over a multitude of sins.

If you’re a Laura Nyro fan, Angel In The Dark is not only a must-own, but a fitting epitaph to a singer who has always spoken her mind. It records for history her final works, as well as her past glories. If you’re new to Ms. Nyro’s work, this is an excellent place to get acquainted. Laura Nyro, the person, shall be terribly missed. But thanks to recordings such as this, she never has to leave us completely.