October 29, 2020

1984-04-08 – Daily Record

1984 04 08 Daily_Record_Sun__Apr_8__1984_

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Motherhood prods Nyro outof 6- -year silence

« By JIM BOHEN

MOTHER’S SPIRITUAL
LAURA NYRO

Columbia PO 39215

A lot of rock stars are having ba-
bies and writing about it, but not
even the Pretenders’ Chrissie
Hynde has as much to say about -
the subject as Laura Nyro. The
Bronx-born singer-songwriter has
emerged from six-year silence to
devote a whole album to the joys
and sorrows of single parenthood.

In these songs, Nyro’s child is
both a miracle and a burden. It
forces the new mother to redefine
her whole life. Even when the out-
side world impinges, she reacts in
terms of how it might affect the
child.

The whole experience seems to
have prodded Nyro into a late-
blooming feminism. The woman
who once pleaded “Come on and
marry me Bill” now tells a new
lover: “You own yourself / I belong
to me.”

Actually, the explicitly feminist
songs are the least persuasive ele-
ment of Mother’s Spiritual. On
“The Right to Vote” and “Free
Thinker” Nyro slips into pam-
phleteering rhetoric that’s much
less convicing than her own per-
sonal observations.

Musically the album has an
appealingly natural sound. Most of
the songs are built around Nyro’s
piano and John Bristo’s warm elec-
tric guitar (Todd Rundgren con-
tributes some synthesizer and
“production assistance").

She’s softened the strident man-
nerisms — the irregular tempos,
the shifts in register, the purple
passion — that made her own ver-
sions of “Stoned Soul Picnic” and
“Eli’s Coming” so eccentric (leav-
ing it to the likes of the Fifth Di-
mension to smooth them out and .
turn them into hits). Her voice to-
day still has a gospel tinge, but it’s
more even.

The new songs lack the immedi-
ate melodic appeal of her old clas-
sics. But they repay close atten-
tion, yielding new details with
additonal hearings. And every now
and then Nyro remembers her old
Brill Building instincts and treats
us to some classic p0p rhythm or
chord sequence.

Mother’s SpirituaI is more like
one long work than a series of
songs. It certainly doesn’t hold any
likely hit singles. But its pleasures
are no less deep for that.

FERVOR
JASON AND THE SCORCH-
ERS

Elli America 80-19000

The punk-country energy of
Rank and File also powers Jason
and the Searchers, who were
known as Jason and the Nashville
Scorchers on the original edition of
their EP Fervor, released on an in-
dependent label last year. For this
reissue they’ve added a seventh
song: a rave-up version of Bob
Dylan’s “Absolutely Sweet Marie”
(from Dylan’s rockin’-in-Nashvilie
Blonde on Blonde).

Dylan is certainly a salutary in-
fluence, but leader Jason Ringen-
berg has another: the late country-
rock pioneer Gram Parsons. In
Parsons’s guilt-driven epics, a
Bible Belt kid confronted the 60s
(and ultimately lost). Ringenberg
has the same sense of Old Testa-
ment retribution and the same
cracked good-old-boy drawl. Both
are particularly evident on “Pray
For Me, Mama (I’m a Gypsy Now)”
and “Harvest Moon.”

The other musicians, particular-
ly guitarist Warner Hodges, are a
little wilder than you’d expect for a
country-rock outfit. They need a
good song, though; they can’t make
much of the unimaginative “Help
There’s a Fire" or “I Can’t Help
Myself," which share side one with
the Dylan song.

Side two is better, framing the
aforementioned Parsons lifts with
“Hot Nights in Georgia” (General
Sherman meets Chuck Berry) and
“Both Sides of the Line" (guitars go
crazy). R.EM. vocalist and fellow
Southerner Michael Stipe co-wrote
the latter and sings backup on the
former. It all adds up to a promis-
ing beginning for a group that may
herald a new regional style.

PARTING SHOULD BE PAIN-
LESS

ROGER DALTREY

Atlantic 80128-1

Roger Daltrey‘s singing was the
least convincing aspect of the
Who’s last few sorry albums. He
hasn’t lost his voice they way some
British rockers of his generation
have, but he has stiffened up
alarmingly.

Daltrey has always chosen chal-
lenging material and unexpected
settings for his solo albums, but
such daring hasn’t made those
records any more listenable. Part-
ing Should Be Painless, his sixth
(counting a soundtrack and a com-
pilation), features crisp production
by Mike Thorne and spendid play-

ing by an interesting mix of musi- '

cians, among them New York stu-
dio regulars (tenor saxophonist

Michael Brecker. clarinetist Dave
Toiani) and moonlighting British

which sports pounding guitars and
a convincing chorus: “Who' is the
master of my destiny?/Me! Me!
Nobody but me!” “Nations” and
“H0pe for Us All" both produced by
former Psychedelic Furs drummer
Vince Ely, have a more ethereal
sound that I suspect is closer to the
band’s own intentions.

A different record company had
John Bongiovi change his name to
Jon Bon Jovi (and his band’s name
to Bon Jovi) as part of its corpo-
rate plan. The band members don’t
even appear on the song they’re
pushing, “Runaway," which fea-
tures E Street Band pianist Roy
Bittan among its studio lineup.

The group’s material has the
sound of out-of-date arena rock, of
Styx and Foreigner hits of four or
five years ago. They try to be rau-
cous and tuneful at the same time.
which would be fine if we hadn’t
heard it all before. Bon J ovi’s sing-
ing is the best thing about the al-
bum, and even that gets unpleasant
when he shifts to his upper regis-

Laura Nyro

band members (keyboardist Mick-
ey Gallagher and bassist Norman
Watt-Roy. both of Ian Dury’s
Blackheads).

It’s Daltrey who falls short. He
sounds equally awkard on the
modest commercial rockers
(“Walking in My Sleep"). the lush,
emotional ballads (“Would A
Stranger Do?." “How Does the Cold
Wind Cry?“) and the occasional
surprise selections (Bryan Ferry‘s
“Going Strong." Eurythmics’
“Somebody Told Me").

The title is ironic in light of Pete
Townshend‘s recent announcement
that the Who are no more. Town-
shend has the range of talents he
needs to survive the band‘s
breakup; Daltrey does not.

SHRAPNEL

Elektra 60281-1

BON JOVI

Mercury 814 982-1 M-1

When a local band signs to a ma-
jor label, the resulting album fre-
quently sounds nothing like what
the group’s fans are used to hear-
ing in concert. That‘s because those
fans aren‘t really important to the
sales strategy of the record compa-
ny, which would just as soon the
band had no prior history.

That‘s what seems to have hap-
pened to Shrapnel and John Bon-
giovi, both regulars on the New
Jersey club circuit.

Shrapnel‘s five-song EP leads off
with a Gary Glitter oldie, “Didn‘t
Know I Loved You (Till I Saw You
Rock 'n‘ Roll." Was this part of
their club repertoire? Or was it the

suggestion producers Ritchie Cor-
dell and Glen Kolotkin, who’ve pro-

duced Joan Jett's covers of songs
by Gary Glitter and other British

if they were looking for a song to
sell the album. they'd have done
better to emphasize “Master of My
Destiny,“ another non-original.

W—