Christmas and the Beads of Sweat (Accompanying Herself On the Piano)

Christmas and the Beads of Sweat (Accompanying Herself On the Piano)

Tenement arias, dreamy vignettes and political ruminations give Laura Nyro’s Christmas And The Beads Of Sweat its distinctive charm. This 1970 release was overshadowed by Nyro’s previous albums, particularly Eli And The Thirteenth Confession. Judged on its own, though, it’s an entrancing song collection filled with the emotional fireworks that characterize her canon. The moods here are extreme — Nyro careens from the serene city landscapes of “Brown Earth” to the harrowing drug nightmare of “Been On A Train” and the erotic vistas of “Map To The Treasure” like a vision-possessed sibyl. At times, her lyrics seem precious or excessively naïve, and her political musings in “Christmas In My Soul” don’t date well. But Nyro’s astoundingly expressive voice and stark, insistent piano playing more than compensate. Co-produced by Arif Mardin and the Rascals’ Felix Cavaliere, the album mixes R&B/rock arrangements with exotic touches (such as the Middle Eastern instrumentation on “Upstairs By A Chinese Lamp”). Christmas And The Beads Of Sweat was the last album of new material Nyro released before her (temporary) mid-‘70s retirement.

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