After a five-year hiatus, singer/songwriter Laura Nyro returned with Smile in 1976. On this disc, Nyro's somewhat idiosyncratic writing and performance style is decidedly subdued. In its stead is a light pop and jazz feel similar to that of Maria Muldaur's mid-'70s recordings. Supporting Nyro instrumentally is virtually a who's who of New York and Los Angeles studio stalwarts. While the prowess of folks like Will Lee (bass), brothers Randy Brecker (trumpet) and Michael Brecker (flute/sax), Hugh McCracken (guitar), and Rick Marotta (drums) certainly strengthens Nyro's already laid-back material, it likewise reduces her to sounding like a Joni Mitchell ripoff. The undeniable highlight of Smile is the maturity in the songwriting. It becomes obvious that the half-decade away has done some significant good in revealing a decidedly positive evolution in Nyro's approach to her own life. What's more is that the material on this album seems to come from a place of contentment.
This ten-track budget-priced collection, excerpted and resequenced from a longer version released in Japan, presents Laura Nyro at the piano along with a female vocal trio, performing a combination of the hit songs she penned, some 1950s and '60s hits of others she loved, and some of her newer material of the early 1990s. Four rock & roll oldies, the Shirelles' "Dedicated to the One I Love," the Miracles' "Ooh Baby Baby," Dionne Warwick's "Walk On By," and the Everly Brothers' "Let It Be Me," are interrupted by three of Nyro's own oldies, "And When I Die," "Save the Country," and "Wedding Bell Blues." This abbreviated version of the set then concludes with three then-recent songs, "Light a Flame (The Animal Rights Song)," "Louise's Church," and "Woman of the World," songs that continue to seem more preachy and less personal than her earlier work.