Sunday, July 31, 2011

Nilsson Shmilsson indeed

In a 2010 Rolling Stone Jenny Lewis gave her ten song playlist of 70's California rock. Fantastic playlist featuring many cool acts I'd not heard before like the awesome JJ Cale. The song that most grabbed me though was Me and My Arrow by Nilsson. I'd heard this song sampled by Blackalicious on their album NIA, but I had no idea where they'd gotten the sample from. I was in love and decided that Nilsson, who I'd previously, mistakenly disregarded as a bit of a novelty act, deserved to be re-examined. That was a couple of weeks ago. I've listend to nothing but Nilsson since.

Wow. Amazing voice, wonderful lyrics, the whole package. No wonder both John Lennon and Paul McCartney referred to him as their favorite American artist. There is a documentary on him that is pretty cool called Who Is Harry Nilsson (and why is everybody talking about him.) It's currently streaming on Netflix.

My one problem with the doc and with many of the people interviewed for it is how they seems to dismiss his work after Pussy Cats, the 1974 album he made with John Lennon where he blew out his voice, altering it permanently and greatly reducing his range. This was not the end. On the records that followed he was more experimental than ever, which in his case is really saying something, and like the Rick Rubin produced Johnny Cash albums a voice with some wear and tear can be used to great dramatic effect.

here is a play list of some of my favorite Nilsson songs. It was hard to choose, and I too lean heavily toward his older stuff but it's because I'm only in the last few days cracking into the later albums. I did include the wonderful tune Tango which is from Sandman, layed down a few years after he sacrificed his vocal chords at the alter of rock and roll. Nice that the tune starts with "Deep down in my soul, I hate rock and roll."

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