Iconoclassic Records is giving fans of the late Laura Nyro a reason to Smile with tomorrow’s expanded reissue of the singer-songwriter’s 1976 album of the same name. Smile marked Nyro’s return to music after a four-year hiatus following her Gamble and Huff-produced Philly soul gem Gonna Take a Miracle. This reissue – which appends three bonus tracks receiving their first domestic release – is the latest in Iconoclassic’s impressive series which also includes reissues of Season of Lights (1977), Nested (1978) and A Mother’s Spiritual (1984).
Much had changed for Laura Nyro since the R&B-flavored LaBelle collaboration Gonna Take a Miracle. She married and divorced David Bianchini, and during the recording of Smile, was faced with the death of her mother from ovarian cancer, the same disease that would take her own life two decades later. Despite these challenges and heartaches, Nyro sounded to be in relatively content territory on much of Smile. Charlie Calello, with whom she had worked on 1968’s Eli and the Thirteenth Confession, returned as producer for the first time in almost a decade, and she brought a clutch of new, timely, and intensely personal compositions to the studio.
This time, the prevailing sound was jazz-influenced, with the Brecker Brothers, Will Lee, Hugh McCracken and Rick Marotta among the players. The result made Nyro sound a bit like Joni Mitchell to casual listeners, despite the fact that Nyro’s earliest pop/jazz forays predated the famous Canadian’s. It was impossible to hear the albums’ opening cut, Moments cover “Sexy Mama” (the album’s lone song not written by Nyro), and not hear a bit of Court and Spark. But elsewhere, Smile couldn’t have been mistaken for anything but the work of the boundary-breaking, genre-bending Laura Nyro. She’s playful adopting the voice of a rather perceptive feline in “The Cat-Song,” heartbroken but guardedly optimistic on “Stormy Love,” and wounded but stronger on the ironically upbeat “Money,” likely a jab at her former manager David Geffen. “Midnite Blue” is a love song likely aimed at then-boyfriend Greg Bennett; the impressionistic and musically spellbinding “I Am the Blues,” on the other hand, builds on its lyrical conceit with a variety of evocative images.
After the jump: more details including the full track listing and pre-order links!
With its diverse assortment of original songs from one of the most original voices in all of popular music, Smile performed mildly well. It peaked at No. 60 on the albums chart, and led to a full-band tour which would be preserved on Season of Lights. A 2008 Japan-only reissue appended three unreleased songs in demo form: “Someone Loves You,” “Get Me My Cap” and “Coffee Morning.” While “Coffee Morning” was issued in the U.S. on Legacy’s Playlist: The Very Best of Laura Nyro, “Someone Loves You” and “Get Me My Cap” both make their U.S. debuts on Iconoclassic’s Smile.
Like Iconoclassic’s past Nyro reissues, Smile features a detailed new essay from biographer Michele Kort. Original album artwork and lyrics have also been reprinted. Vic Anesini has remastered the album at Battery Studios. It’s out tomorrow, and can be ordered at the links below! (For more on Laura Nyro’s remarkable career and catalogue, please visit our Back Tracks feature!)
- Sexy Mama
- Children of the Junks
- I Am the Blues
- Stormy Love
- The Cat-Song
- Midnite Blue
- Someone Loves You (Demo)
- Get Me My Cap (Demo)
- Coffee Morning (Demo)
Tracks 9-11 first released on Smile, Columbia (Japan) SICP-1956, 2008