I have been avoiding (Harry) Nilsson since I became aware of him through the Beatles (Lennon and McCartney were big fans). I guess I avoided him because of previous experiences of music the Beatles were fans of. And, well, I knew he was poppy, and for most of my life I have not been into that.
Nilsson has a knack for melody which he combines with his idiosyncrasies in a professional, polished package. But it’s quite polished, even when it’s not supposed to be – the “mistakes” feel rehearsed – and the arrangements are really, really over-the-top. Yes, that was the thing in 1967 but Nilsson’s arrangements are often quite traditional, recalling pre-rock pop music.
One exception to this is his bonkers cover of “You Can’t Do That,” a bizarre post-modern pastiche of 18 different Beatles songs masquerading as one. It’s really out there compared to the rest of the album, though hardly as out there or Zappa or the Beatles at the time.
I guess my issue with the record is that Nilsson really isn’t that inventive for the most part. His original songs are fine, the selection of covers aside from that one highlight are fine. But the arrangements feel excessive more than interesting and certainly don’t challenge the listener like so much of the more avant garde rock and pop music being made at the same time.
All tracks composed by Harry Nilsson; except where indicated
- “Ten Little Indians” – 2:13
- “1941” – 2:36
- “Cuddly Toy” – 2:45
- “She Sang Hymns Out of Tune” (Jesse Lee Kincaid) – 2:19
- “You Can’t Do That” (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) – 2:16
- “Sleep Late, My Lady Friend” – 2:41
- “She’s Leaving Home” (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) – 3:16
- “There Will Never Be” (Perry Botkin, Jr., Gil Garfield) – 2:27
- “Without Her” – 2:18
- “Freckles” (Cliff Hess, Howard Johnson, Milton Ager) – 2:21
- “It’s Been So Long” – 2:09
- “River Deep – Mountain High” (Phil Spector, Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich) – 3:53