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Pop/Rock - Released March 30, 2009 | Legacy Recordings


Pop - Released September 13, 2013 | RCA - Legacy

A missing element in Harry Nilsson's catalog is an excellent double-disc retrospective. That's precisely what the 2013 compilation Essential Harry Nilsson provides: two discs that tell his story from beginning to end, hitting all the high points along the way. The first disc concentrates on his '60s work, chronicling the rise of Nilsson the maverick interpreter and songwriter; his original versions of "Cuddly Toy," "I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City," and "One" are here, as are his breakthrough cover of Fred Neil's "Everybody's Talkin'" and several selections from the landmark Nilsson Sings Newman, plus such remarkable pieces of popcraft like "1941," "Good Old Desk," "Without Her," and "Me and My Arrow." The entire second disc is devoted to the '70s, beginning with the smash 1971 album Nilsson Schmilsson and its hits -- "Without You," "Coconut," "Jump in the Fire" -- plus the album-opener "Gotta Get Up." From there, hits, non-LP singles, and the occasional oddities pile up -- "You're Breakin' My Heart," "Spaceman," "Daybreak," his straight version of "As Time Goes By," "Kojak Columbo" -- tracing his majestic rise and being kind with his fall. Although this doesn't have every great song Nilsson made (a few absent favorites are "Driving Along," "The Lottery Song," "Take Fifty Four," "Jesus Christ You're Tall"), no other compilation has captured his peculiar genius as thoroughly as this, which does indeed make it something close to the Essential Harry Nilsson. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Pop/Rock - Released January 13, 2004 | RCA - BMG Heritage

Harry Nilsson had a hit, a Grammy, and critical success, yet he still didn't have a genuine blockbuster to his name when it came time to finally deliver a full-fledged follow-up to Nilsson Sings Newman, so he decided it was time to make that unabashed, mainstream pop/rock album. Hiring Barbra Streisand producer Richard Perry as a collaborator, Nilsson made a streamlined, slightly domesticated, unashamed set of mature pop/rock, with a slight twist. This is an album, after all, that begins by pining for the reckless days of youth, then segues into a snapshot of suburban disconnectedness before winding through a salute to and covers of old R&B tunes ("Early in the Morning" and "Let the Good Times Roll," respectively), druggie humor ("Coconut"), and surging hard rock ("Jump Into the Fire"). There are certainly hints of the Nilsson of old, particularly in his fondness for Tin Pan Alley and McCartney melodicism -- as well as his impish wit -- yet he hadn't made a record as cohesive as this since his first time out, nor had he ever made something as shiny and appealing as this. It may be more accessible than before, yet it's anchored by his mischievous humor and wonderful idiosyncrasies. Chances are that those lured in by the grandly melodramatic "Without You" will not be prepared for either the subtle charms of "The Moonbeam Song" or the off-kilter sensibility that makes even his breeziest pop slightly strange. In short, it's a near-perfect summary of everything Nilsson could do; he could be craftier and stranger, but never did he achieve the perfect balance as he did here. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Pop/Rock - Released July 21, 2008 | RCA Records Label

Harry Nilsson's soundtrack to Otto Preminger's cheerfully "anti-establishment" film Skidoo is more memorable than the film itself, but that's a bit of a relative statement. The film has been almost entirely forgotten, and the soundtrack is remembered only by Nilsson cultists, primarily for the absolutely brilliant opener, "The Cast and Crew," where all the credits are sung, with a really nifty tune on top of that. Nothing tops that, even though "I Will Take You There" is nice, "Garbage Can Ballet" feels like a pleasant holdover from Aerial Ballet, and the main theme slips and slides memorably. The remainder of the record is pretty good, brass-heavy soundtrack work, quite clearly of its time yet relatively charming because of it. It's not all that striking -- it's just agreeable background music -- except for the end, when Carol Channing sings "Skidoo," a moment that's utterly jarring after nearly a half hour of lulling mood music. And not in a good way. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Pop/Rock - Released April 11, 2006 | RCA - Legacy

Nilsson was nearly a decade ahead of Linda Ronstadt and other nouveau crooners in hiring a conductor/arranger of the pre-rock era (in this case Gordon Jenkins) and recording an album of standards before a full orchestra. And he did it better than most, proving to be a marvelous interpreter of songs like "What'll I Do?" and "Makin' Whoopee!" His version of "As Time Goes By" became a minor hit. ~ William Ruhlmann

Rock - Released October 20, 2017 | RCA - Legacy


Film Soundtracks - Released September 29, 2017 | Universal Music


Pop - Released April 15, 2016 | RCA Victor - Legacy


Pop - Released May 2, 2014 | RCA - Legacy

Harry Nilsson spent almost all of his rich, idiosyncratic, sometimes maddening career at RCA Records, releasing his bravura debut, Pandemonium Shadow Show, in 1967 and fading into the sunset with 1977's Knnillssonn. During those ten years, he released 14 albums and left behind a bunch of stray tracks, almost all of which are gathered on Legacy's massive and wonderful 2013 box The RCA Albums Collection. Every one of his albums is here, presented as mini-LP replicas and expanded with mono mixes, outtakes, demos, and alternate takes, many of which previously appeared on turn-of-the-millennium reissues by Buddha and Camden, but there are also three full discs of rarities, adding up to 123 total bonus tracks, 55 of which are seeing their first release here. Notably, the five-song demo session that convinced the Monkees to record "Cuddly Toy" (and also includes Harry's only version of "This Could Be the Night," an early song co-written with Phil Spector) sees its first official release, but there are many other wonderful little gems scattered throughout the session discs. Those are the necessary, enticing details for collectors, but concentrating on rarities at the expense of the big picture isn't the way to approach The RCA Albums Collection, as this allows the work of one of pop's true eccentric geniuses to be appreciated in its entirety. Nilsson's career divides into two parts, the first tracing the rise of an L.A. studio genius who rode several lucky breaks on the road to becoming a respected and successful songwriter; the second finding Harry ditching almost everything that came before in a successful attempt to indulge his every whim. Usually, the first act overshadows the second, as their attributes are more readily apparent. It's easy to hear the intelligence behind the songwriting and the intricately arranged productions of his work from 1967-1971, whereas the second seven LPs take some work on the listener's part, but the continuum offered by The RCA Albums Collection reveals that these often-derided albums wind up seeming stronger than their rep. Nilsson's relentless wit shines through, albeit often in bawdier form than before, and his musical acumen remains sharp. The only thing missing is that wondrous, pure voice, one which legendarily scaled three-and-a-half octaves and was worn down by Harry's relentless demons, but he was a smart singer, so he knew how to harness his hoarseness to his advantage, at least in the studio. Then again, Nilsson was a creature of the studio, a vocalist who never gave a concert, a songwriter who polished everything within the confines of multi-million dollar recording emporiums. He benefitted from the system then swindled it, creating recordings that evoked and influenced the times and, in doing so, transcended them as well. Seventeen discs may be an enormous undertaking, and admittedly some of the road is rocky, but the journey Harry Nilsson takes on The RCA Albums Collection is distinctive and thrilling, whether it's heard for the first or 40th time. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Pop - Released July 30, 2013 | RCA - Legacy


Pop - Released July 30, 2013 | RCA - Legacy


Pop - Released July 30, 2013 | RCA - Legacy


Pop - Released May 13, 2013 | RCA - Legacy


Classical - Released February 16, 2009 | Music


Pop/Rock - Released July 21, 2008 | RCA Records Label

Nilsson started going off the tracks at Pussy Cats, but his descent into sheer, unhinged lunacy became apparent with 1976's Sandman, his second album recorded in 1975. It was easy to view Duit on Mon Dei as transitory, but this proves that it was a transition to craziness and cultdom. At this point, he was abandoned by Lennon, left alone in L.A. and Nilsson just didn't care. He continued to roam, rampage, and record, ensconcing himself in his own world of in-jokes, Tin Pan Alley melodies, soft rock, clever wit, and sheer drunkenness. Check the cover: on the front, he has a bottle of wine between his legs, on the back he's overcome by a sand crab. On the album itself, he repudiates rock & roll, realizes "Pretty Soon There'll Be Nothing Left for Everybody," has a drunken conversation with himself (so extreme that he's thrown out of the bar), explains why he did not go to work today, writes an ode to flying saucers, offers cheekily literal instructions on how to write a song and then covers a song from the last album. Melodically, he's still strong, but the gleeful craziness overwhelms the pretty music and accessible production, resulting in an album that makes Son of Schmilsson and Pussy Cats seem normal, which may only signal just how far away from the mainstream Nilsson was at this point. But, in a way, he was still brilliant -- these are exceptional recordings, and his warped sense of humor is funnier than its ever been. That's not to say that Sandman is an easy record -- you have to not only accept Nilsson's quirks, but embrace them more than his talents to love this album -- but if your head is properly calibrated, this is one to treasure. [Originally released in 1976, Sandman was reissued with a bonus track in 2002.] ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine