Top Artists – Harry Nilsson

Harry Nilsson – Pussy Cats

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  • Pussy Cats returns to the site on this vintage RCA Victor pressing with seriously good Double Plus (A++) sound throughout
  • Both of these sides are rich, full-bodied and Tubey Magical with lots of energy
  • Produced by John Lennon, Nilsson’s partner in crime, it’s a really fun album, with an appealingly ragged and spontaneous vibe
  • “It may not be as wild as the lost weekend itself, but it couldn’t have been recorded at any other time and remains a fascinating aural snapshot of the early days of 1974.”

The soundstage is huge and open, there’s some real richness and body to the vocals and, perhaps most importantly, you get all the energy and presence required to bring this wild album to life.

John Lennon and Harry Nilsson were notorious partiers during Lennon’s “lost weekend” away from Yoko, and the album basically plays like all that excess playing out in the studio. The vibe is loose and spontaneous, and Nilsson’s voice is at its most ragged. That looseness and raggedness results in some startlingly emotional peaks — “Many Rivers To Cross” and “Don’t Forget Me” are positively spine-tingling — and some good-natured romps through classic covers like “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and “Rock Around The Clock.” It’s a whole lot of fun — especially when you have a copy that sounds like this!

This album may not be a demo disc like A Little Touch of Schmilsson In The Night, but that’s really not the point here. This record is about the atmosphere, and this copy has the kind of big, open soundstage and smooth, musical tonality that really make the music work! It’s actually one of the best-sounding Nilsson albums, and the sound is perfectly matched to the material.

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Harry Nilsson – Son of Schmilsson

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Reviews and Commentaries for Harry Nilsson

  • With two nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this copy of Nilsson’s second-in-a-row Masterpiece of Bent Rock is close to the BEST we have ever heard, right up there with our Shootout Winner
  • This is one of Nilsson’s best albums, sonically and musically. (With Ken Scott at the board at Trident Studios the sound has to be good, doesn’t it?)
  • Son of Schmilsson has more than half a dozen of the best songs Nilsson ever wrote, and should make it a Must Own for every right thinking audiophile with sophisticated tastes in popular music (this means you)
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… this is all married to a fantastic set of songs that illustrate what a skilled, versatile songsmith Nilsson was. No, it may not be the easiest album to warm to — and it’s just about the weirdest record to reach number 12 and go gold — but if you appreciate Nilsson’s musicality and weirdo humor, he never got any better.”
  • This title from 1972 is clearly one of Nilsson’s best, and also one of his best sounding recordings
  • The complete list of titles from 1973 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

We had a great time shooting out a big stack of these, as we’re just wild about Harry here at Better Records. Unfortunately, most copies are too dark and grainy to get excited about.

Here’s a copy that tells a much different story —both sides have good energy, smooth and sweet vocals, and nice extension up top.

Drop the needle on Turn On Your Radio or The Lottery Song and we bet you fall in love with this one.

Ken Is The Man

It’s yet another triumph from one of our favorite engineers, KEN SCOTT (Ziggy Stardust, Magical Mystery Tour, Honky Chateau, Crime of the Century and many more).

This is one of Nilsson’s best albums, sonically and musically. Side one is amazingly good from start to finish. On the two CD set of Nilsson’s greatest hits (which is excellent, by the way) almost all of side one from this album is used, as well as the best material on side two, which includes Spaceman and The Most Beautiful World In The World.

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Harry Nilsson / Harry – Try the DCC, It’s Excellent

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Harry Nilsson

We have not done a shootout for this album in many years, but the music is so good we think everyone deserves a chance to hear it, so pick up the Hoffman-mastered CD and enjoy the hell out of it until we can find you a killer Hot Stamper pressing of the album. Hoffmann did a great job, as he did on so many of the DCC discs. (The Heavy Vinyl LPs are another matter entirely of course.) The CD sound is excellent and it will probably cost you about a tenth of what we will charge for the vinyl.

This forgotten gem sank like a stone in 1969, but time has treated this album well; it still holds up. The production is superb throughout. Judging by this early Nilsson’s album, it appears he was already a pro in the studio, as well as an accomplished songwriter, and, more importantly, the owner of one of the sweetest tenors in popular music, then or now.

OUR HOT STAMPER COMMENTARY FROM WAY BACK WHEN

We just finished a big shootout for this fun album and this copy defeated everything we threw up against it — on both sides. The sound is clean, clear and present with lots of tubey magic and high-resolution. It’s also unusually transparent with lots of space between the various instruments. You’ll have a ridiculously hard time finding another copy that sounds as good as this one.

This copy is dramatically better than most of them out there, and we’ve graded it accordingly — A+++ for both sides. The sound is full-bodied and energetic with a punchy bottom end. The sound is incredibly clean and clear — just listen to the acoustic guitar transients. Harry’s vocals sound wonderful with big time presence and loads of texture. The cover of Mother Nature’s Son should blow you away!

The average copy suffers, most notably, from a honky sound to the vocals. It seems to be an EQ problem, since it affects a very large percentage of copies with earlier stampers and not as many of the later pressings. The later copies have problems of their own, though, so you can’t just assume that the copies with high numbers will sound better — they don’t always, and the earlier ones can sound amazing when you’re lucky. It just goes to show that (all together now…) you can’t know anything about the sound of a record without playing it, and to take it a step further, you can’t really know much about the sound of an album without cleaning and critically listening to multiple copies. But that’s a lot of hard work, and who has the time?

(Oh yeah. We do!)

What Were You Doing In 1969?

If the answer is “Recording an album of innocent, touching, and completely unironic pop music,” well, you could only be Harry Nilsson.

This album is simply wonderful, and it’s wonderful on a number of different levels. It’s wonderful in a way that strongly appeals to my contrarian nature (you can’t love LPs without having at least a small streak of contrarianism).

The idea of doing a nostalgic, wistful, unapologetically sweet album, as innocent as a Norman Rockwell painting — an album with songs about puppies; rainmaking; old railroads; holding hands; a broken-down old dancer; Mother Nature’s son; patriotically marching down Broadway in a World War II parade; hanging out with a dancing bear; sending flowers to the one you love—how could an album full of songs like these be recorded by a Pop Star in 1969!

You remember 1969. Protests against the Vietnam war. Hippies and the countercultural revolution. Chemical mind expansion in full swing. Tuning in, turning on and dropping out. Trying to keep up with the easy riders, not the Joneses. With all this happening, one mostly unsuccessful songwriter with an oddly Swedish name — just one in fact) — comes along and produces a record that flatly refuses to acknowledge any of it is going on. Nostalgia hadn’t even been invented yet and here was an album full of it, whose first song declares that “Dreams are nothing more than wishes, and a wish is just a dream you wish to come true”, followed by “If only I could have a puppy, I’d call myself so very lucky.” Either this Nilsson guy was incredibly naive or he had some kind of balls. A few albums down the road we realized it was the latter.


FURTHER READING

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Bad Sounding Digital Recordings on Vinyl

Digital Versus Analog 

Good Sounding Digital Recordings on Vinyl – Really? 

Harry Nilsson – A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night

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Reviews and Commentaries for Harry Nilsson

  • 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. (more…)

Harry Nilsson / Nilsson Sings Newman – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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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. (more…)

Harry Nilsson / Aerial Ballet

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A stunning “Triple Triple” copy with A+++ sound on both sides. Big, clear and full-bodied throughout; this copy is absolutely as good as it gets. A rare original pressing that includes Daddy’s Song, which is one reason it won the shootout – the original version, when it’s pressed right, just can’t be beat.

All of the elements are working here. You get silky vocals, punchy bass, breathy brass, silky highs, superb immediacy, exceptional clarity, and so forth. If you are a Nilsson fan, this copy is going to BLOW YOU AWAY.

Still Wild About Harry

Those of you who follow the site have probably gathered that we are huge Harry Nilsson fans here at Better Records. Many of us got a chance to check out the recently released documentary film “Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)” — it’s a lot of fun and I imagine most music lovers will get a kick out of it.

The Beatles’ Favorite American Artist

It’s well known that The Beatles were also huge Nilsson fans, and it’s pretty easy to see why. I can’t think of too many other artists who have created so many sophisticated, yet catchy, pop songs. And that voice! It’s a shame Nilsson blew out his vocal chords in the ’70s, rockin’ and rollin’ with John Lennon, but his masterful voice is in fine form here. (more…)

Harry Nilsson / Nilsson Schmilsson – A True Masterpiece

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Reviews and Commentaries for Harry Nilsson

  • A KILLER copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides for Harry Nilsson’s indisputable Masterpiece of Bent Rock
  • Both sides are exceptionally good sounding, and the recording is brilliant thanks to the skills of Phill (That’s Two L’s) Brown
  • A Better Records favorite (we give it Five Stars) that really comes to life on an amazingly good pressing such as this one
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…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.”

Big production pop like this is hard to pull off. Harry did an amazing job, but the recording is not perfect judging by the dozen or so copies I played this week and the scores I’ve suffered through before. Let’s face it: Jump Into The Fire will never be smooth and sweet; neither will Down on side one. But other tracks on this album have DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND. (more…)

Harry Nilsson / Nilsson Schmilsson – A Simply Vinyl Disaster

Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another Simply Vinyl pressing debunked.

Awful in every way. Made from dub tapes and mastered poorly.

Letter of the Week – “…you turn me on to albums I would never have even thought to listen to.”

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

I was totally blown away by the Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 album you sent me. The lovely, sweet female vocals and the awesome percussion was to die for. For a supposed easy listening album, I was getting very excited! In fact, I cannot stop listening to it. My only compliant is it is too short in duration. When it is over, I want (need?) more! Do his other albums sound like this? If so, I will be buying more.

This is what I love about you guys, you turn me on to albums I would never have even thought to listen to. For example, on your recommendation, I ordered Harry Nillsson’s A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night. This is an album I would never have given a second look at, yet, as soon as the needle hit the groove, I was floored. The vocal presence is startling. It is like Harry is in the room singing to me. It reminds me a lot of one of my other favourites I bought from you a while back – a White Hot copy of Willie Nelson’s Stardust. 

Willie, Harry and Sergio as demo discs…who would have thought!

Jody S. 

Letter of the Week – “The strings on side one are meltingly sweet, especially on You Made Me Love You.”

More of the Music of Harry Nilsson

Reviews and Commentaries for Harry Nilsson

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom,   

I played the A Little Touch Of Schmilsson White Hot Stamper and loved it. The strings on side one are meltingly sweet, especially on You Made Me Love You. Anytime you get a hot Nilsson stamper please keep me in mind.

All the best,
Phil