It is pouring with rain at one minute to midnight on Friday the thirteenth, and the driver of a London bus is peering through his blurred windscreen as his vehicle sails down an empty road. Suddenly, lightning strikes, and a vast crane above topples into the path of the oncoming bus… Then Big Ben begins to wind backwards. Time recedes. And we discover the lives of all the passengers and the events that brought them to that late-night bus journey, from the con-man with a hundred-pound cheque to the businessman's distraught and elderly wife. Time flows on, inevitably, to the crash – and past it, as some live and some die.
Nyro peaked early, and Eli and the Thirteenth Confession, just her second album, remains her best. It's not only because it contains the original versions of no less than three songs that were big hits for other artists: "Sweet Blindness" (covered by the 5th Dimension), "Stoned Soul Picnic" (also covered by the 5th Dimension), and "Eli's Comin'" (done by Three Dog Night). It's not even just because those three songs are so outstanding. It's because the album as a whole is so outstanding, with its invigorating blend of blue-eyed soul, New York pop, and early confessional singer/songwriting. Nyro sang of love, inscrutably enigmatic romantic daredevils, getting drunk, lonely women, and sensual desire with an infectious joie de vivre. The arrangements superbly complemented the material with lively brass, wailing counterpoint backup vocals, and Nyro's own ebullient piano.
The Microscopic Septet is one of those rare groups that have been able to take a unique and enduring approach to various forms of popular music, be it jazz, blues, R & B, rock, pop, and so on, by balancing respect with irreverence, namely such outfits as Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention, the New Rhythm and Blues Quintet (NRBQ), the Sun Ra Arkestra, the Jazz Passengers, the Vienna Art Orchestra, and Mostly Other People Do the Killing.