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POP MUSIC | RECORD RACK

A Suitably Strong Tribute

*** 1/2 VARIOUS ARTISTS, "Time and Love: The Music of Laura Nyro," Astor Place

May 18, 1997|Richard Cromelin

With women gathering strength in pop music again--the enticing lineup of the all-female Lilith Fair summer tour is one emphatic demonstration of that resurgence--this tribute to one of the original female pop icons would be timely even if it didn't come so eerily soon after Nyro's death from cancer last month at age 49.

The project doesn't boast the genre's powerhouse names, but the lineup--with such artists as Rosanne Cash, Phoebe Snow, Jill Sobule, the Roches, Suzanne Vega and Lisa Germano--is marked by an integrity and independence befitting the honoree. The singer-songwriterly tone is subverted by enough idiosyncrasies (Jane Siberry's collage of overlapping Nyro songs, Dana Bryant's spoken-word hip-hop "Woman's Blues") to give the album an edge.

Most of Nyro's best-known songs are represented--"Stoned Soul Picnic," "Stoney End," "Wedding Bell Blues," "And When I Die"--but the real point is the revelation of new facets in her unique blend of playful pop craft and cleansing spirituality. The one thing missing is more voices from the black music traditions that Nyro drew on so creatively. With Bryant and Sweet Honey in the Rock the only African American performers, the collection misses a chance to extend this music's reach.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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* Excerpts from these albums and other recent releases are available on The Times' World Wide Web site. Point your browser to: http://www.latimes.com/soundclips

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