Christmas and the Beads of Sweat

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Christmas and the Beads of Sweat
Studio album by Laura Nyro
Released November 25, 1970
Recorded New York City, May 1970
Genre Pop
Length 44:55
Label Columbia
Producer Felix Cavaliere, Arif Mardin
Laura Nyro chronology
New York Tendaberry
(1969)
Christmas and the Beads of Sweat
(1970)
Gonna Take a Miracle
(1971)
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[1]
Robert Christgau C+[2]
Rolling Stone (mixed)[3]

Christmas and the Beads of Sweat is the fourth LP by New York-born singer, songwriter, and pianist Laura Nyro.

The album was released on the Columbia Records label in November 1970 after Nyro had recorded it in the early summer with producers Felix Cavaliere and Arif Mardin. Whilst Nyro had handed over production reins, she was still in control of the project and arranged her compositions.

The album is seen as the closing part of a Laura Nyro trilogy that also comprises 1968's Eli and the Thirteenth Confession and 1969's New York Tendaberry. Musically, the album is a bridge between the two, balancing the lighter and more joyful tones of Eli with the dark, sensual, and piano-dominated Tendaberry.

Nyro had by this time built up a strong reputation as a songwriter, and the album features star turns from Duane Allman, who adds a guitar solo to the driving "Beads of Sweat," and Alice Coltrane, who adds harp to a number of the more mystical compositions.

The album, buoyed by Nyro's popularity as a songwriter, became her second commercially successful album in succession, peaking at #51 on the Billboard 200, known as the Pop Albums chart. The album is also responsible for spawning Nyro's sole chart hit single, with a cover of Gerry Goffin and Carole King's "Up on the Roof," which peaked at #92 on the Pop Singles chart, now known as the Hot 100.

Christmas and the Beads of Sweat is regarded by many to be in the same league as its two predecessors, the three being the artist's main legacy.

Overview[edit]

Christmas and the Beads of Sweat is undoubtedly the least-known of the "classic trilogy" of Laura Nyro records, perhaps because it does not contain songs that became significant hits for other artists. In fact, it is notable that it is the first Nyro album to feature a cover version, that being the Goffin/King standard "Up on the Roof," which gave Nyro her only singles chart entry.

The atmosphere of Christmas is more mystical and exotic than any other Laura Nyro record. It is notably more laid back than its predecessor, 1969's cult favourite New York Tendaberry, but isn't as immediately accessible as the well-crafted Eli and the Thirteenth Confession. Instead, some songs bridge the gap between those two albums.

The presence of the Swampers band from Muscle Shoals lends the album a more easygoing, rock-inspired sound, but this is countered by Nyro's evocative lyrics and moody piano delivery. The second vinyl side features long Nyro originals, primarily solo but sometimes accompanied on exotic harp by legendary progressive musician Alice Coltrane. Thus, Christmas often has an atmosphere of being two separate divisions.

Songs such as "Christmas In My Soul" ease Nyro into the world of politics, a topic she became engrossed with during her songs and performances in the 1980s, while she sings about drug use ("Been on a Train"), and picturesque city lifestyles ("Blackpatch") elsewhere. The album was another commercial success on the back of Tendaberry, but is one of Nyro's oddly less celebrated works, despite containing some of her finest work.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Laura Nyro, except where noted. 

No. Title Length
1. "Brown Earth"   4:09
2. "When I Was a Freeport and You Were the Main Drag"   2:42
3. "Blackpatch"   3:33
4. "Been on a Train"   5:49
5. "Up on the Roof" (Gerry Goffin, Carole King) 3:13
6. "Upstairs by a Chinese Lamp"   5:34
7. "Map to the Treasure"   8:08
8. "Beads of Sweat"   4:47
9. "Christmas in My Soul"   7:00

Personnel[edit]

  • Eddie Hinton – Guitar (1-5)
  • David Hood – Bass (1-5)
  • Jack Jennings – Percussion (1-5)
  • Ralph MacDonald – Percussion (6-9)
  • Arif Mardin – Arranger, Conductor, Producer
  • Laura Nyro – Guitar, Piano, Arranger, Keyboards, Vocals
  • Doug Pomeroy – Assistant Engineer
  • Chuck Rainey – Bass (6-9)
  • Stuart Scharf – Acoustic Guitar (1-5)
  • Roy Segal – Engineer
  • Jerry Lee Smith – Assistant Engineer

References[edit]

Michele Kort's biography Soul Picnic: The Music and Passion of Laura Nyro (ISBN 0-312-20941-X)

External links[edit]