Nilsson Schmilsson (1971)
Gotta Get Up/Driving Along/Early In The Morning/The Moonbeam Song/Down/Without You/Coconut/Let The Good Times Roll/Jump Into The Fire/I'll Never Leave You
"I was on acid and I looked at the trees and I realised that they all came to points, and the little branches came to points, and the houses came to point. I thought, 'Oh! Everything has a point, and if it doesn't, then there's a point to it" - Harry Nilsson
This album was one that, back in 1971-72, a friend of mine’s elder brother owned and I would also see it as I flicked through sleeves in the record shop, looking for Slade and T. Rex. Apart from the big hit single that everyone knows, I have to admit to knowing nothing much about Harry Nilsson, other than that he liked a drink or two and was mates with John Lennon, Ringo Starr and Elton John (I think). It is not surprising, therefore, to see Lennon’s old mucker Klaus Voorman on bass and other early seventies alumni such as Herbie Flowers, Chris Spedding on duty, along with appearances by Caleb Quaye, Bobby Keys and Jim Webb.
Gotta Get Up is a punchy, brassy number that has echoes of Billy Joel about it, for me, while Driving Along is short, lively and very McCartney-esque. Early In The Morning is a blues cover and is done well, with an impressive vocal which sees Nilsson ad-libbing about a waitress saying to him ‘Harry You Sure Look Beat’. The song is a little gem, with a great vibe to it.
The plaintive, gentle tones of The Moonbeam Song is very Lennon-esque, both melodically and lyrically. Even more so is Down - every thing about it screams Lennon to me.
The afore-mentioned hit is, of course, the sublime number one Without You, with its sweeping Paul Buckmaster strings. The other song I knew from the album is the slightly irritating but strangely infectious Coconut. Nilsson had a bit of a wit about him and he displays it here as he repeatedly asks for his bellyache to be cured, giving full instructions about putting lime in coconuts. Actually I also know Let The Good Times Roll, largely because of Slade’s barnstorming 1972 cover of it. Nilsson’s version is slower and bluesier but no less appealing.
The album’s high point is the insistent, brooding bluesy rockout, Jump Into The Fire, which well and truly kicks ass. It reminds me of David Bowie’s Unwashed And Somewhat Slightly Dazed in places and it features some seriously good guitar too. And, a great drum solo backed up by some rumbling Voorman bass runs. I didn’t realise Nilsson could rock like this. Great stuff all round.
In complete contrast is the closer, the maudlin I’ll Never Leave You which sort of ends the proceedings in a slightly understated fashion. The track suffers from too much orchestration for me. This is nit-picking, though, as this is an enjoyable album, but I cannot help but feel it is a bit like a Ringo album. His 73-75 offerings, Ringo and Goodnight Vienna are quite similar, I feel. Nothing wrong with that, though, I like those albums. People say this was Nilsson’s most cohesive work, listening to it, I can understand that. The sound quality is excellent too.