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Nilsson Schmilsson by Harry Nilsson []



Though RCA records proudly proclaimed, “Harry’s Got a Rock Album” upon the release of 1971’s Nilsson Schmilsson, it’s safe to say Mr. Nilsson had dabbled in rock n’ roll previously. However, his output mostly belonged in the vaudeville and light psychedelic, Sgt. Pepper stratosphere. After his first album, the mysterious solo artist was cited as the Beatles favorite “group”. He followed with two strong lps; one includes his version of Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin’” (which wound up as the Oscar winning vocal performance for the film Midnight Cowboy). Next Nilsson jumped into an album completely of Randy Newman material (then a mostly unknown songwriter) just before releasing a story and song record that later became the animated classic The Point.

Producer Richard Perry, who had received critical acclaim for his work with Tiny Tim, assembled Klaus Voormann, Jim Price, Jim Gordon, Herbie Flowers, Jim Keltner and other notable session musicians for the London Nilsson Schmilsson sessions. The tracks proved to be heavier than what was expected from the Harry of old (see the seven minute “Jump Into the Fire”), but we still have the necessary ingredients for a classic Nilsson recording: his amazing three octave range, sense of humor and delightful arrangements. A cover of Badfinger’s “Without You”, the ridiculous one chord, beatnik jam that is “Coconut” and the dreamy “Moonbeam Song” help rank Nilsson Schmilsson as one of Harry’s most memorable.
Incidentally, the progression into rock n’ roll wasn’t Nilsson’s last metamorphosis. As the 1970’s trucked on, our hero dabbled in lush standards from the 1930’s and 40’s, steel drum music, comedy tracks and songs about… well, writing songs among other things. It was a career spent confounding critics and delighting fans. Well played.