- A lusciously Tubey Magical Top 100 album with orchestral arrangements by the superbly talented Gordon Jenkins
- One of our favorite Nilsson releases (of which there are many) – it’s The Ultimate latter-day standards album
- If you could only have one album of standards from the Great American Songbook, wouldn’t it have to be this one?
- “This is a must have disc pure and simple as it is the best standards album any contemporary artist has ever recorded. All the ingredients were woven together for a remarkable vision.”
After our first big shootout for this album many years ago we were so blown away by what a great copy could do that we immediately added it to our Rock & Pop Top 100 list and have never once regretted doing so. It’s the only Nilsson album to make the cut. Even more unusual, considering it was recorded in 1973, it’s actually one of the better sounding orchestra-backed male vocal albums that we know of.
This vintage RCA Victor pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What the Best Sides of A Little Touch of Schmilsson Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1973
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
Such An Amazing Album
Nilsson was way ahead of his time. Harry Nilsson understands this music SO MUCH BETTER and sings it SO MUCH BETTER than Rod Stewart that one can only come to that conclusion. Either that or the rest of the world doesn’t appreciate Nilsson as much as we do. Probably both I guess. Too bad.
The arrangements by Gordon Jenkins add so much to the character of the music. Jenkins arranged many of the greatest albums of this kind ever recorded, including top titles by the likes of Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, and perhaps most famously for us audiophiles, Nat King Cole (the Number One album Love Is the Thing and three others).
Since most of the greats have either retired or passed on, you can be pretty sure that this kind of music will never sound the way it does here, no matter how many aging rockers record albums of standards. Who has the pipes of Harry Nilsson anyway?
What We’re Listening For on A Little Touch of Schmilsson
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Derek Taylor, Producer
About two years ago [circa 1971], Harry and I were talking about songs, swapping titles, and testing memories. You know that game? Who wrote ‘Miss Otis’ and what year did Al Jolson die, and what else besides ‘As Time Goes By’ did Herman Hupfeld … write? We found a lot of marvelous songs with fine words. And what melodies! ‘You Made Me Love You (I Didn’t Want To Do It),’ ‘I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now.’ Brilliant stuff, constructed with style and flair.
One day Harry suggested ‘Why don’t we do an album of the old songs?’ and it was the best idea I’d heard since God only knows when. ‘You produce and I’ll sing,’ he said. And two years later – it’s November 1972 – he says it again, and this time it’s on.
Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.
A Tough Record to Play
This album ranks high on our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale. Do not attempt to play them using anything other than the highest quality equipment.
Unless your system is firing on all cylinders, even our hottest Hot Stamper copies — the Super Hot and White Hot pressings with the biggest, most dynamic, clearest, and least distorted sound — can have problems. Your system should be thoroughly warmed up, your electricity should be clean and cooking, you’ve got to be using the right room treatments, and we also highly recommend using a demagnetizer such as the Walker Talisman on the record, your cables (power, interconnect and speaker) as well as the individual drivers of your speakers.
This is a record that’s going to demand a lot from the listener, and we want to make sure that you feel you’re up to the challenge. If you don’t mind putting in a little hard work, here’s a record that will reward your time and effort many times over, and probably teach you a thing or two about tweaking your gear in the process (especially your VTA adjustment, just to pick an obvious area most audiophiles neglect).
A Must Own Vocal Album
This Demo Disc Quality recording should be part of any serious Vocal Collection.
Others that belong in that category can be found here.
For Me and My Gal
It Had to Be You
You Made Me Love You
Lullaby in Ragtime
I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now?
What’ll I Do?
Nevertheless (I’m in Love with You)
This Is All I Ask
As Time Goes By
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.
AMG 4 1/2 Star User Review
Harry knew something even some of his fans at the time may have well scratched their heads in wonder. What is Harry doing? Harry is being Harry. He knew the value in these early pop nuggets. He made us a sublime albums of standards at a time it couldn’t have been more out of fashion. Of course he did for himself, but in that there is a deep charm.
As he himself said his voice was at peak and he knew the value. It’s justice in that in time the world would see his vision was more than right. The greatness of these performances lives on becoming more treasured and timeless in their relevance. In the four decades plus it has been imitated by many other artists and never equaled in absolute terms. Against his former producer, Richard Perry who bowed out, Harry once more pulled a brilliant career move.
Though it would take time to fully receive the credit it so richly deserved. It has become one of his two most loved albums and the polar opposite to his other masterpiece. That vaults Harry into rarefied air few artists will ever achieve over many more years and recordings. This is a must have disc pure and simple as it is the best standards album any contemporary artist has ever recorded. All the ingredients were woven together for a remarkable vision. Thanks Harry!