Release Date: Jul 30, 2013
Record label: RCA
Genre(s): Singer/Songwriter, Pop/Rock, Contemporary Pop/Rock, Psychedelic/Garage, Soft Rock, AM Pop, Psychedelic Pop, Sunshine Pop, Baroque Pop
A second chance to go wild about Harry…While the stoned and tie-dyed hordes were overrunning the West Coast during 1967’s Summer Of Love, Harry Nilsson was holed up in Hollywood’s RCA Studios with Jefferson Airplane producer Rick Jarrard and an assortment of top LA session musicians working on his debut album. The 26-year-old was one of an elite coterie of literate, relatively short-haired iconoclasts that included Randy Newman and Van Dyke Parks. These were the true radicals of the era, beholden to no trends or movements, each conjuring up his own visionary world while simultaneously keeping alive the values and conventions of American musical tradition from Stephen Foster to Tin Pan Alley.
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.
You could tell Harry Nilsson was trouble from the start: long before it became apparent that he viewed having talent to burn not as a gift, but an incitement to pyromania. If there's an image of Nilsson fixed in the public imagination, it's the one on the front of his biggest-selling album, 1971's Nilsson Schmilsson: a blurry shot of him looking like bad news in a bathrobe, disheveled and staring blankly into space. You can virtually smell the hangover.
The Beatles loved him, of course, hearing echoes of themselves in his winsome, classically tailored songs. George Harrison and John Lennon leapt at the opportunity to be on his records, and the latter tapped him up as a drinking buddy on his infamous 18-month “lost weekend” in early 70s Los Angeles. But Harry Nilsson was much more than a Fabs flunky, the boozy companion recalled in lopsided obituaries following his death in 1994.
This box contains 14 studio albums Harry Nilsson made between 1967 and 1977, extended with hours of rarities. It is not overkill. It is the necessary account of a brilliant, wayward pop life still best known for tawdry and misleading reasons: the boozy antics with John Lennon during the latter's "lost weekend"; the hits Nilsson had with other writers' classics (Fred Neil's "Everybody's Talkin'," Badfinger's "Without You").
Harry Nilsson The RCA Albums Collection (Sony Legacy) How much Harry Nilsson is too much? For the casual fan familiar with the hits, "Everybody's Talkin'," "Coconut," and "Without You," the 17-CD RCA Albums Collection is clearly overkill. For those who know Nilsson as the so-called Fifth Beatle, composer of songs covered by the Monkees, Three Dog Night, Blood, Sweat & Tears, and the Yardbirds, it's the mother lode for under $140. For the fanatic, 55 previously unreleased tracks are a gold mine.