Gonna Take a Miracle

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Gonna Take a Miracle
Studio album by Laura Nyro and Labelle
Released November 17, 1971
Recorded May - June 1971 at Sigma Sound Studios, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Genre Soul
Length 33:05 (Original)
41:46 (2002 Reissue)
Label Columbia
Producer Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff
Laura Nyro and Labelle chronology
Christmas and the Beads of Sweat
(1970)
Gonna Take a Miracle
(1971)
Smile
(1976)

Gonna Take a Miracle is the fifth album by New York-born singer, songwriter and pianist Laura Nyro, with assistance by vocal trio Labelle. It was released on Columbia Records in November 1971, one year after its predecessor, Christmas and the Beads of Sweat. The album is Nyro's only all-covers album, and she interprets mainly 1950s and 1960s soul and R&B standards, using Labelle as a traditional back-up vocal group.

Nyro had originally hatched the idea to do a covers album during 1970, and on her tour to support the Christmas and the Beads of Sweat album she introduced several of the songs that would later appear on Gonna Take a Miracle, including "Spanish Harlem" and "Dancing in the Street".

Gonna Take a Miracle remains a critics' favorite Laura Nyro record for its laidback atmosphere and impressive soul grooves and musicianship, as well as classic "Philadelphia soul" production from Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. It was her last commercially successful album, peaking at #46 on the Billboard 200, then known as the Pop Albums chart, as well as an impressive #41 on the Black Albums chart.

The album was Nyro's last for over four years as she turned her back on the music industry to get married and live a rural life away from the spotlight. Her work with Patti LaBelle on the album formed a lifelong friendship.

In 2005, music magazine The Word voted Gonna Take a Miracle among the 60 Best Underrated Albums of All Time.

Overview[edit]

Nyro first met Patti LaBelle in 1970 when she was about to give an interview to LaBelle's manager Vicki Wickham. Wickham brought LaBelle along to the interview, where she engaged in deep conversation with Nyro. They went on the road together, with LaBelle cooking for Nyro. When time came to record Gonna Take a Miracle, Nyro called up LaBelle, who also brought along her vocal partners in Labelle, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash.

Studio time was booked for a week in the hot summer of 1971 in Philadelphia, the centre of the soul movement. Rather than Nyro alone, the album's strength lies in the performance of the whole cast, including legendary producers Gamble and Huff and a stunning band of musicians.

The album was recorded very quickly and retains a "rough-and-ready" quality. It also breaks the cycle of Nyro's predominantly moody, piano-based works. This is a soul/R&B record, featuring traditional soul touches and R&B grooves.

Nyro was the main selector of material for the album, and chose songs she was influenced by growing up in the Bronx of the 1950s and 1960s. The songs include The Shirelles' "I Met Him on a Sunday", The Originals' "The Bells" (written by Marvin Gaye), Smokey Robinson & the Miracles' "You've Really Got a Hold on Me", Ben E. King's "Spanish Harlem", The Charts' "Deserie/Desiree", Curtis Mayfield's "The Monkey Time", and The Royalettes' "It's Gonna Take a Miracle".

The album balances the grittier numbers with the more ethereal soul ballad, "The Wind" and the sultry love ballad, "Désiree". Nyro, Labelle and Gamble and Huff expertly mixed genres including doo-wop, soul, R&B, pop, Brill Building, and gospel. "Despite Gamble and Huff's presence on the project, Nyro remained fully in charge."

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars link
Robert Christgau (B-) link
PopMatters (favorable) link
Rolling Stone (favorable) link

Track listing[edit]

  1. "I Met Him on a Sunday" (Doris Coley, Addie Harris, Beverly Lee, Shirley Owens) - 1:55
  2. "The Bells" (Marvin Gaye, Anna Gordy Gaye, Iris Gordy, Elgie Stover) - 2:56
  3. "Monkey Time/Dancing in the Street" (Curtis Mayfield; M. Gaye, Ivy Jo Hunter, William "Mickey" Stevenson) - 4:57
  4. "Désiree" (L.Z. Cooper, Danny Johnson) - 1:52
  5. "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" (Smokey Robinson) - 4:07
  6. "Spanish Harlem" (Jerry Leiber, Phil Spector) - 2:52
  7. "Jimmy Mack" (Holland–Dozier–Holland) - 2:56
  8. "The Wind" (Devora Brown, Bob Edwards, Nolan Strong) - 2:58
  9. "Nowhere to Run" (Holland, Dozier, Holland) - 5:08
  10. "It's Gonna Take a Miracle" (Teddy Randazzo, Bob Weinstein, Lou Stallman) - 3:24

Live bonus tracks on 2002 CD reissue[edit]

  1. "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing" (Nickolas Ashford, Valerie Simpson ) - 0:59
  2. "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" (Gerry Goffin, Carole King, Jerry Wexler) - 3:01
  3. "O-o-h Child" (Stan Vincent) - 1:30
  4. "Up on the Roof" (Goffin, King) - 3:11

The 2002 remaster[edit]

During the summer of 2002, the Legacy imprint of Columbia Records reissued the album in remastered and expanded format. The additional tracks were all recorded live at New York's Fillmore East and were later issued on the live album Spread Your Wings and Fly: Live at the Fillmore East May 30, 1971. They are "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing", "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman", "Ooh Child" and "Up on the Roof", all fitting with the covers theme of the original album.

The reissue features photographs and recording details, as well as new liner notes by Amy Linden and a back-cover personal recollection by Patti LaBelle. The reissue was released alongside similar versions of Eli and the Thirteenth Confession and New York Tendaberry, and were produced and directed by the same Columbia/Legacy team.

In popular culture[edit]

References[edit]

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