Laura Nyro: Eli & The Thirteenth Confession (1968)

It's funny how some music has a weird trajectory in your life. Laura Nyro was one of those singer-songwriters I long associated with the schlock I grew up with -- the Carpenters, Carole King, all the kitschy adult pop my decidedly non-rocking parents used to play when I was a little kid. I don't think they had any Laura Nyro, though for some reason I have memories of hearing "Stoned Soul Picnic" pretty early on. I probably associate the whole vibe most closely with Todd Rundgren's "Hello, It's Me," which captures the sound I found particularly dreadful in my youth and which I was so desperate to leave behind when I discovered rock & roll radio as a 9-year-old in 1975.

These days, of course, I love (early) Todd Rundgren, appreciating his pop genius; Rundgren based that early sound, in turn, on Laura Nyro, so it was just a matter of time before I gave her another shot.

And damn how I love this album. And while I don't spend much time with her later work (she recorded up until her untimely death from cancer in 1997), which moved into a more middle-of-the-road adult contemporary territory, there is something about Eli I just find magical. Sure, some of it is that weird nostalgia that takes me back to my youth, for better or worse, but it's also a novelty to the sound, an ambitious jazz vibe that complements some of the more straightforward, Carole King-like Brill Building pop-folk impulses, kinda like Joni Mitchell would pick up in the 70s.

Anyway, I imagine this doesn't get a ton of traction with all my more punk and indie-oriented friends, but it's the sort of thing I love to spin up on a Sunday morning.

Here's the delightful "Stoned Soul Picnic":
...and "Luckie":
Here's "Poverty Train" at the Monterey Pop Festival: