God, Lucifer, New York City and someone known only as the Captain. These are the images, filtered through the prism of Laura Nyro’s imagination, that crop up again and again on New York Tendaberry, the singer-songwriter’s third Lp, making it a concept album of sorts, but one so opaque as to defy clear description. It presages early Bruce Springsteen (et al.) in its obsession with The City as a romantic vehicle for character and dramatic (as well as personal) exploration.
As with Eli and the Thirteen Confession, one is jaw-dropped by the musical and lyrical audacity constantly on display. Therein lies a unique problem. So talented and creative, one gets the feeling that, with fewer histrionics/eccentricities, Nyro could have been a lot more popular than she was. Instead, she swoops and jives, the music slowing down and speeding up as the drama requires it, unconventionally alluding to R&B, Tin Pan Alley and Broadway, sometimes within the same song.
Even if Tendaberry is at times more stark (and piano led) than its immediate predecessor, this is not an easy listening record; I get self-conscious and can’t listen to this with other people around, it demands too much attention.