WHO IS HE? One of the most unconventional artists of the ’70s — he was a singer who seldom performed or toured, and a songwriter whose big hits were covers (Everybody’s Talkin’, Without You) and novelty numbers (Coconut), while other artists immortalized his own gems (Three Dog Night’s version of One). Perhaps it’s no wonder the left-field pop troubadour ended up joining the Hollywood Vampires drinking club with the likes of Ringo Starr and Alice Cooper, and joining John Lennon on his infamous lost weekend in L.A. Somewhere along the way, he also managed to win two Grammys, create the first remix album and record the first mashup.
WHAT IS THIS? A long-overdue comeback album that the down-on-his-luck veteran was recording when he died in 1994 of a heart attack at age 52. Losst and Founnd was recently completed by original producer Mark Hudson with help from heavyweights like Van Dyke Parks, drummer Jim Keltner, singer-songwriter Jimmy Webb, and Nilsson’s son Kiefo.
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? Harry being Harry — which is to say, eclectic, eccentric, wry and disarmingly tenderhearted. Though his once-angelic voice has been corroded by years of inactivity (he retired in 1980 after Lennon’s murder) and excess (he had blown out a vocal cord recording their 1974 collaboration Pussy Cats), his Beatlesque songwriting chops and wry wit were still formidable.
WHAT SHOULD IT BE TITLED? The self-deprecating Nilsson might have appreciated Comeback Shmomeback. But the actual title is pretty good — it comes from a song on the disc, and was apparently the original moniker of the album.
HOW SHOULD I LISTEN TO IT? On a playlist with other Nilsson gems like Me And My Arrow, Jump Into the Fire, Spaceman and Gotta Get Up (which you may remember from Natasha Lyonne’s Groundhog Day-like recent Netflix series Russian Doll).
WHAT 10 WORDS SUM IT UP? Unique, idiosyncratic, arch, old-school, mischievous, soulful, wistful, low-key, dusty, clever.
WHAT ARE THE BEST SONGS? After 40 years under wraps, every one of these 11 cuts is a gift — from witty pop gems like Lost and Found, U.C.L.A. and Animal Farm to earnest ballads like Lullabye and Love is the Answer, and even covers like the raucous medley of High Heel Sneakers/Rescue Boy or the tropical version of Yoko Ono’s Listen, The Snow is Falling.
WHAT WILL MY FRIENDS SAY? ‘It’s a shame he didn’t live to see it — but after nearly 40 years, we should probably be glad that any of us did.’
HOW OFTEN WILL I LISTEN TO IT? Great songwriting always brings you back for a replay.
IF THIS ALBUM WERE A TIME OF DAY, WHAT WOULD IT BE? Sunset on a warm autumn day.
SHOULD I BUY, STREAM OR STEAL IT? If the reports are true, this is your last chance to buy a new Nilsson release. So you should.