Laura Nyro’s 1968 album, Eli and the Thirteenth Confession was not one of the year’s most popular albums. In fact, it peaked at number 181 on the charts. But the album is one of the singer’s most acclaimed, and the acclaim stretches further than its commercial appeal
The album was produced entirely by Nyro and arranger Charlie Cabello, and the music was considered to be in the pop genre, with elements of jazz, rock, soul, gospel, and opera. Meanwhile, the songs revolved around various themes including love (Sweet Blindness), loneliness (Lonely Women), and drugs (Poverty Train). Two singles bought further significance to the album’s title, as the name Eli drew from the track “Eli’s Comin’” while the “thirteenth confession” derives from the album’s final track “The Confession”.
Again, Eli and the Thirteenth Confession was not a commercial success, becoming only a hit critically, as well as underground. But despite this, it was one of the albums by Nyro that would become a benchmark for hit covers from other artists. Three Dog Night cracked the top ten with their version of “Eli’s Comin’”, while the 5th Dimension took “Stoned Soul Picnic” and “Sweet Blindness” to the charts at number three and thirteen respectively. As for Nyro, Eli and the Thirteenth Confession began a pathway for bigger commercial success, starting with the follow-up in 1969.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Laura Nyro, inducted in 2012.