Old/New Albums: Harry Nilsson’s “Nilsson Schmilsson”

nilssonIt took me nearly an entire six months, but I’ve finally reached the first album in this series that I genuinely disliked.

I’m relatively new to Harry Nilsson’s work, although most people would likely recognize a few of his bigger hits, like “Everybody’s Talkin'” and “I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City.” After discovering that his work is featured not once, but twice, in the classic rom-com You’ve Got Mail, I decided to check him out. And judging from the few albums I’d heard that led up to Nilsson Schmilsson, I went into this one thinking it’d be a hit.

I was wrong. There are a number of things I disliked about the record, and let me be clear that it’s the record as a whole that I disliked. There were a few songs I enjoyed, but the overall experience of the album was not one I enjoyed.

First, with a few exceptions, the songs just didn’t connect with me. The album consists of three covers and seven originals, and man oh man does this album run the gamut of genres. I’m not a stickler for genre themes; it can be nice to have an album with a lot of different styles. As long as they flow. This album feels so disjointed, going from early ’70s pop to a stripped down R&B cover to an overwrought ballad to a one-chord calypso tune to a voodoo stomper to a bland rock and roller that is twice as long as it needs to be.

Again, mixing up genres is great as long as there is at least a semblance of some cohesiveness to the record. None of that is present here. It just bounces the listener around with no regard to flow.

Secondly, the songs themselves are mostly bad. I’m not sure where Nilsson was going with this album, especially after hearing albums like Harry. The stuff I’d heard prior to this album had an almost Randy Newman quality to them; well orchestrated and put together. However, there are tunes here that genuinely sound like he put zero effort into it. Overtly amateur. His cover of “Early In The Morning” has some truly atrocious vocal work and it pained me to listen to it. Like he woke up, put on the bathrobe he’s wearing on the album cover, and immediately went and recorded. I kept hoping continued listens would improve my experience but it didn’t help.

I also want to address one of the more popular tunes on the album, “Without You.” I wanted to like this song so much, I really did. But gosh it was just too much. I haven’t heard Badfinger’s original, so I can’t attest to its quality, but Nilsson takes this song and turns up the cheese dial to 11. It’s just too much; you can nearly hear the syrup dripping from the piano chords. It’s the predecessor to the terrible hair metal love ballads of the ’80s.

So there you go. I genuinely disliked this album and wouldn’t recommend it.

Top 3 Tunes:

  1. The Moonbeam Song
  2. Coconut
  3. Gotta Get Up

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