MaryJo Mundy: The Fourteenth Confession: Music of Laura Nyro

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MaryJo Mundy

The Fourteenth Confession: Music of Laura Nyro

(Blujazz Productions)

November 6, 2019

Reviewed by Elliot Zwiebach for Cabaret Scenes

MaryJo Mundy is an amazing singer who commits to any song she sings with pure passion and an emotional energy that reveal feelings that lie very close to the surface.  As a result, her new CD, featuring the music of Laura Nyro, is a pure, unadulterated pleasure.

The CD, recorded live at Tom Rolla’s Gardenia in Los Angeles, is entitled The Fourteenth Confession, a reference to Nyro’s album, Eli and the Thirteenth Confession. Its 12 tracks are an amalgam of some of the best of singer-songwriter Nyro combined with Mundy’s supreme talent. 

Among the CD’s highlights is “I Never Meant to Hurt You,” the kind of plaintive, emotional ballad that is a Mundy specialty. Her voice swells and falls with lovely, extended notes as she moves from powerful to tender, always with total honesty, and she’s backed by powerful, pounding piano accompaniment from Ross Kalling. Mundy is also totally in her sweet spot on the bluesy “You Don’t Love Me When I Cry,” which gives her a chance to express emotional defiance through the song’s heartfelt lyrics.

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The CD also offers winning versions of “Wedding Bell Blues,” sung without the usual background harmonies, giving Mundy the chance to get to the root of its sincere, simple essence; while Sexy Mama” (Al Gillman/Sylvia Robinson/Harry Ray), allows her to show off her playful and sensual sides.

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Mundy gets into a jazzy groove on a purring medley that combines “The Confession” and “Hi-Heel Sneakers” (Tommy Tucker), with terrific support from her musicians, particularly Tony Mandracchia on guitar. He is also outstanding on a powerful, pounding instrumental backing Mundy’s full-throated performance of “And When I Die,” which she combines with a sassy “Stoned Soul Picnic.”

Several songs feature backup singers Alexis Fae Gach and Andrea Ross Greene, including heavenly three-part harmonies with Mundy on a beautiful medley of “I Met Him on a Sunday” and “It’s Gonna Take a Miracle” (Bobby Weinstein/Lou Stallman/Teddy Randazzo), and on a high-powered, electric “Eli’s Comin’,” which opens the recording.  There’s also an upbeat “Sweet Blindness” that gives Gach and Greene extended solos for their own moments in the spotlight, plus a brief, amusing vocal contribution from the band—Kalling, Mandracchia, Jonathan Richards on bass, and John Gannon on cajon drum.

The CD’s closing number is “Serious Playground,” an anthem that includes the lyric, “Send me the music/With wings to fly.” It’s a prayer that’s clearly been answered by both Nyro and her devoted acolyte, Mundy.

Elliot Zwiebach

Elliot Zwiebach loves the music of The Great American Songbook and classic Broadway, with a special affinity for Rodgers and Hammerstein. He's been a professional writer for 45 years and a cabaret reviewer for five. Based in Los Angeles, Zwiebach has been exposed to some of the most talented performers in cabaret—the famous and the not-so-famous—and enjoys it all. Reviewing cabaret has even pushed him into doing some singing of his own — a very fun and liberating experience that gives him a connection with the performers he reviews.