Singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson was one of pop’s great background men. He shunned live performance but gained huge acclaim from writing and artistic involvement with the likes of Phil Spector, The Beatles and Yardbirds. Best known for hit Without You, his “famous upper register” is much in evidence over this 36-tracker.
The late Harry Nilsson had a polished vocal style and was a very gifted songwriter as well as a superb interpreter of other people’s songs, as this two-CD, 36-song set illustrates. His covers of Badfinger’s Without You and Fred Neil’s Everybody’s Talkin’ remain the best, while his interpretations of standards like Makin’ Whoopee! and It had To Be You leave latterday pretenders standing. But it is Nilsson’s own songs that take the prize, from the autobiographical 1941, to the zany Coconut and the mournful and complex One.
Q, March 2008
“Lennon’s ‘Lost Weekend’ partner compiled”
He’ll only really be remembered for his covers of Without You and Everybody’s Talkin’, plus being a demonic influence on chum John Lennon. Even so, there was rather more to Harry Nilsson than buffoonery and the countless cover versions into which this laziest of artists suckered himself. Blanket For A Sail, Remember (Christmas) and I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City are the work of a clever, durable songwriter, blessed with a golden voice and an ear for arrangement; even the novelty Coconut stands up. He died in 1994, and is long overdue reassessment.