Undeservedly obscure artist #2 is American singer/songwriter, Laurie Styvers, who made three albums in the UK in the early 1970s. The first appeared when she was part of folk-rock outfit, Justine, although by the time their album came out (1970, Uni Records), she had left the group. Consequently, she’s not pictured on the sleeve, even though she’s the most prominent of the female vocalists on what is a rather sparkling, gently psychedelic, harmony-drenched collection of original songs. Styvers then moved to Chrysalis Records for two excellent solo albums, both produced by then-boyfriend Hugh Murphy, subsequently famous for his work with Gerry Rafferty. Murphy would later marry American songwriter, Betsy Cook, who collaborated with Linda Thompson for the latter’s first solo album in the 1980s.
Back to Styvers (who, in addition to songwriting, played the piano on some of her recordings) – her first album, Spilt Milk, was issued in the States on Warner Bros with an alternative front and back cover. I used to have copies of both versions and could have sworn there were one or two audible differences in the mix, perhaps on the song ‘Pigeons’. I could kick my own shins for the way I divested myself of a lot of vinyl in the mid-2000s. My American copy of Spilt Milk fell victim to that purge. Styvers’s musical style, which was becoming more polished by the time of her second LP, The Colorado Kid, is like a more pastoral, whimsical take on the early-70s singer/songwriter concept. Some of the lyrics indicate a carefree, romantic attitude to drugs (E.g. “Spend the day with MDA”, from ‘Beat The Reaper’), with songs touching on themes of love, friendship and music. Styvers has a silky, flute-like voice and is supported by such exceptional singers as Clair Torrey (on the first album) and Dyan Birch, Paddy McHugh and Frank Collins, all from the group Kokomo (on the second album). Robert Christgau would appear to have loathed Styvers’s music, judging by his coruscating and dismissive review of her first album. I beg to differ, as is so often the case when it comes to Christgau’s tastes, as much as I admire some of his pithy observations.
As you can probably tell from the images, The Colorado Kid has appeared on CD, although I would hesitate to call it a reissue. I think it’s South Korean and while it’s beautifully packaged, there’s no evidence of proper licensing and the provenance of the audio-source used to create it is anybody’s guess.
Biographical information about Styvers (originally Laurette Stivers) is scant, but you can find out more if you track down the second reissue of the Justine album (on Sunbeam Records, preceded by a rather dodgy, in-all-likelihood-unlicensed CD which is to be avoided), which comes with a booklet essay. There’s a smallish Wikipedia entry and articles about Styvers, though none very exhaustive, on a variety of music blogs.
I picked up a copy of The Colorado Kid in a charity shop a copy of years ago, and liked it enough to track down both versions of her previous album. Christgau, as so often, was out of order (he seems to have a weird attitude to female musicians anyway). Both albums are great – beautifully arranged and produced.
Seems that she subsequently succumbed to alcoholism, and that presumably accounted for her early death, which is really sad.
I found The Colorado Kid (which, unlike her first album, didn’t seem to get an American release) in a second-hand shop in Soho at the end of the 1990s and then worked my way back through her work. Yes, her premature death and departure from the recording world were both unhappy losses. Thanks for your note. CD
rather dreamy numbers no stand out singles unlike her first album
Much as I like the genre, and adore Judee Sills, I’d never checked out Styvers, until very recently, when I read a brief review in a 1971 issue of Germany’s ‘Bravo’ magazine. Having dome the checking out, I’d agree with you that Christgau was, not for the only time, an idiot.
Ha! Yes. While I like some of Robert Christgau’s pithy turns of phrase and some of his observations, he also has a tendency to be sweepingly dismissive.
I discovered her in 2009 and continue to listen her songs. I had a luck to upload her first full album at the time but I lose the files. If anyone have, I thank u kindly.