We’re huge Harry Nilsson fans here at Better Records, and it warms our hearts that many of our customers seem to be as well. We’ve been trying to track down great copies of this album for ages, but they are tough to come by in any condition and are often noisy and/or mediocre when we find ’em. This copy has the kind of rich, full, analog sound that we’ve been trying to find for years with so little luck.
Nilsson Sings Newman is the fourth Nilsson album, the one that came right before his masterpiece Nilsson Schmilsson. Harry is in fine form here, reinterpreting a dozen great Randy Newman songs with Newman himself accompanying on piano. We’ve enjoyed a number of Randy Newman’s songs over the years, but when you take his material and put a voice like Nilsson’s up front, the result is pure magic.
Many copies we’ve played were too gritty, grainy, and thin sounding to get excited about. This one’s got the richness, fullness and smoothness that we’ve been hoping for. The overall sound is lively and dynamic with excellent immediacy. The vocals are breathy, the piano has nice weight and the tonal balance is right on the money.
There’s some surface noise behind the music, pretty much always the case on this album (and also true for most old RCA vinyl on any album — it’s practically never quiet). I don’t think you could find a copy that sounds much better and plays any quieter no matter what you did. Most of the time the surfaces aren’t really a bother, but those of you who are fanatical about such a thing are advised to take a pass on this one. You’ll be missing some lovely music and wonderful sound however.
The Beehive State
I’ll Be Home
Living Without You
Dayton, Ohio 1903
So Long Dad
… a masterpiece is what this is, albeit a subtle, graceful masterpiece where the pleasure is in the grace notes, small gestures, and in-jokes. Not to say that this is devoid of emotion; it’s just that the emotion is subdued, whether it’s on a straightforward love song (“Caroline”) or a tongue-in-cheek tale like “Love Story.” For an album that introduced a songwriter as idiosyncratic as Newman, it’s only appropriate that Nilsson’s interpretations are every bit as original as the songs. His clear intonation and sweet, high voice are more palatable than Randy’s slurred, bluesy growl, but the wild thing is, these versions demand that the listeners surrender to Nilsson’s own terms. He’s created gentle, intricate arrangements of tuneful yet clever songs, and as such, the album may be as much an acquired taste as Newman. Once you’ve acquired that taste, this is as sweet as honey.