Home Read Classic Album Reviews: Harry Nilsson | Harry / Nilsson Sings Newman

Classic Album Reviews: Harry Nilsson | Harry / Nilsson Sings Newman

The artist's third and fourth LPs display growing confidence & skill as a songwriter.

This came out in 2003 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


Much of ’70s singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson’s fame seemed to come secondhand. As a singer, the golden-voiced New Yorker is perhaps best known for the Midnight Cowboy theme Everybody’s Talkin’ — which he didn’t write — and the novelty number Coconut. As a composer, his most enduring song might be One — though Three Dog Night had a bigger hit with the tune. And as a pop culture icon, he’s known mainly as John Lennon’s sidekick during the Beatle’s 1974 ‘lost weekend’ in L.A. Still, Nilsson’s influence on contemporary music — particularly the quirky, literate pop of artists like Ben Folds, XTC, Rufus Wainwright and Hawksley Workman — is undeniable. To give credit where it’s due, BMG has reissued virtually the entire Nilsson catalog, some 15 albums spread across 10 CDs. I sifted through them all so you don’t have to.


Harry Nilsson
Harry / Nilsson Sings Newman


HIGHLIGHTS: Nilsson’s third and fourth albums were his first recordings after finding fame, and display his growing confidence and skill as a songwriter and performer. On Harry, the tunes are stronger, simpler and less fussy than before, but with no loss of quality, as old-timey cuts like The Puppy Song, Fairfax Rag and Mr. Bojangles prove. Nilsson Sings Newman sees Harry both covering and collaborating with the equally talented Randy, who tickled the ivories on playful, nicely underproduced reworkings of Vine St., Yellow Man, The Beehive State and Dayton, Ohio 1903.

EXTRAS! EXTRAS! The bouncy Waiting, recorded for a movie, and the mourning ballad Snow.