Harry Nilsson

Record review

Reissues & Box Sets

Harry Nilsson

Son of Schmilsson (RCA/Legacy)

Harry Nilsson

A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night (RCA/Legacy)

Harry Nilsson

Everybody's Talkin': The Very Best of Harry Nilsson (RCA/Legacy)

You may have heard a song by Harry Nilsson and not even know it. That's a crying shame, because he sang his balls off. These three reissues from the gifted singer-songwriter (1941-1994), part of an earlier campaign, get to the heart of Nilsson's gift for music. 1972's Son of Schmilsson, with its famous cover shot taken in friend George Harrison's mansion, followed up the commercially successful Nilsson Schmilsson. There's Son's good-time track, "Take 54," featuring Ringo Starr and Lowell George, and it only gets weirder from there. The pedal steel torch song "Joy," the giddy swoop of "You're Breakin' My Heart" ("you're tearin' it apart, so fuck you"), and the accordion bounce of "I'd Rather Be Dead" all surround the crystalline "Remember (Christmas)," where Nilsson's voice reaches angelic heights as he stretches the word "dream" into five heavenly syllables. Bonus tracks include Jimmy Webb's "Campo de Encino," and the pure Seventies gold of "What's Your Sign?" A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night is his 360. An album of standards led by composer and Sinatra pal Gordon Jenkins, it could have been disastrous in lesser hands, but "It Had to Be You" and bonus track "Over the Rainbow" truly harness Nilsson's vocal range. It's a feat, though a tad long at 18 songs, and a little straight-laced for a man who recorded a previous album in his bathrobe. Everybody's Talkin', with liner notes by Van Dyke Parks, is an adequate crash course for neophytes, with his well-known covers – Fred Neil's "Everybody's Talkin'" and Badfinger's "Without You" – but the chaotic yelps of "Jump Into the Fire" and the slow crash of "Me and My Arrow" are the hidden gems. Talent this sweet comes along once in a great while.

(Son of) ****

(A Little Touch) ***

(Everybody's Talkin') ***.5

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