Monday, September 10, 2012
NEW YORK TENDABERRY by Laura Nyro, classic album review by Chuck Joy
NEW YORK TENDABERRY
New York Tendaberry. A record, vinyl. A musical entertainment lasting about forty minutes. I wore out my copy, replaced it. Went through an entire period when I failed to remember the record, failed to remember the artist, forgot how to pronounce her name, Laura Nyro. Writer, singer, pianist. Remembered when ignorance and conviction came from an unexpected direction. Picked up her cassette Walk The Dog And Light The Light at a store on the Commons in Ithaca, New York. They don’t have stores like that store anymore. Still carried me away. I bought New York Tendaberry as a CD. Wore it out. Replaced it.
All of Laura Nyro’s recorded material is good, all of it. Less so, the covers. Some of her early material is excessively devoted to a certain style of song and can seem weirdly perky. Some of it can drown in sentimentality, sounding maudlin and meandering, such that a younger man might say, Do we have to listen to that woman whining?
Her voice connects with me on a terrible level. When I first heard New York Tendaberry I played the album over and over again, right then. I remember the record player, it was portable. Gerry Mullen was with me, ask him. One day, myself in the Bronx, in the back of a walkup flat on Webster Avenue, in the kitchen, I heard this voice coming over WNEW-FM singing a new song and I knew it was her, and it was, from Christmas And The Beads Of Sweat. Her next one. And several excellent efforts followed. Smile. Nested.
But New York Tendaberry is my favorite. I’ve written a play, an entire evening of theatre, musical theatre, bringing New York Tendaberry to life, on stage, with characters drawn from the album, a plot, and all eleven songs, every one. A theatricalization of a record album. I wrote a lot of that play, New York Tendaberry, standing in the middle of Pine Creek in northern Pennsylvania. Full disclosure: I did see Eli’s Coming on stage in New York City, near Union Square. That show was great. I took my daughter Veronica, ask her.
Laura Nyro. She is the blues. I was angry when she died. At the time I thought her collaboration with Patti LaBelle, Gonna Take A Miracle, was a misdirection. Now I like that album much better. But once one of those songs, a cover, Dancing In The Streets, came on the radio and I thought, What a chestnut, and went to turn it off. Crazy. New York Tendaberry. It’s like opera for me, or what looked like opera in the movie Philadelphia. Gibsom Street creates an entire world, a fictional world, unlike the title song, New York Tendaberry, which creates an entire world called New York City.
Save The Country is an anthem, could be for all human services, including education and even juvenile probation. Everyone should sing that song every day. And Tom Cat, the old rat, what a character! You know he’ll never make a moviemaker. Captain St. Lucifer. You could make an entire academic career from Laura Nyro’s idea of gender as presented on New York Tendaberry, with particular attention to her idea of love. Talk about being carried away. Have Mercy On Broadway. Approach this record very seriously. Listen in the dark.