Saturday, September 26, 2009

This Week's Laura Nyro Blogging

Sorry, I couldn't resist after the pleasure of ringing her "Wedding Bell Blues": I tried picking apart "Stoned Soul Picnic," as perfect a marriage of druggy stream-of-consciousness and tightly knit '60s pop as you can find, and though I didn't get a chance to work out the harmonies, which are alternately basic and tricky, the form alone is another stunningly cubist Nyro construction.

The words "verse" and "chorus" aren't much help here, so bear with my attempts to describe these sections:
  • Four bars of the "Can you surrey/can you picnic" query
  • Four bars of the "Surrey down" invitation, with two bars for the added enticement of "lots of time and wine"
  • Three bars for the memorable wine list of "Red, yellow, honey, sassafrass and moonshine," followed by two bars of half-time (in a 6/8 feel)
  • Four bars extolling the "stoned soul"

The form then repeats the above from the "Surrey down" line, with slight lyric changes introducing both "green and sun" and "Lord and the lightning." Then, after two bars resembling the "time and wine" turnaround, comes the song's catchiest, sexiest turn: Five bars of a suddenly bluesy "Surrey." Which slides seamlessly into four blissed-out bars about "chains of flowers," followed by a winding seven-bar bridge Burt Bacharach would envy.

If you're not thoroughly stoned by that structure, you're not listening closely enough. Nyro ends by repeating the top form from the "Surrey down," tagging on another "time and wine" turnaround, then rocking that sexy "Surrey" to the fade. I try to avoid '60s nostalgia when I can, but this song makes those summers of love sound more fun (and quaint--I mean, "surrey"?) than they had any right to be.

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