Laura Nyro was one of pop’s great songwriters and earliest of the “singer-songwriters.” A heady mix of pop, soul, R&B, jazz, blues, folk, ’60s girl group, and Broadway, she changed tempos and rhythms at the drop of a hat and packed about 27 different hooks (all equally brilliant and inventive) into three-minute gems, or else got all moody and expansive and created eight-minute suites. She excelled at both.
I could (and will) write a proper in-depth entry on the wonders of Laura Nyro at a later date, but for now I give you Nyro’s performance of “Poverty Train” at the famed Monterey Pop Festival of June 17, 1967. Here, the Bronx-born songstress was only 19, and had one minor radio hit record (“Wedding Bell Blues”) to her name. She was working on her second album for Verve, Soul Picnic, which eventually transformed into the exquisite Eli and the Thirteenth Confession and was issued the following year on Columbia instead (under the guidance of David Geffen.) “Poverty Train” was one of the inclusions. Here, it’s moody and mean, and while the backing sounds slightly uncertain at times, Nyro’s passion and power is a sight (and sound) to behold on this rare piece of footage.