Harry Nilsson – Son Of Schmilsson & A Little Touch Of Schmilsson In The Night

Son Of Schmilsson
RCA/Legacy (82876 78249 2)

A Little Touch Of Schmilsson In The Night
RCA/Legacy (82876 78248 2)

Released in the wake of the monumental success Harry Nilsson experienced with his 1971 album Nilsson Schmilsson and the #1 single ?Without You,? 1972?s Son OfSchmilsson and 1973?s A Little Touch Of Schmilsson In The Night could hardly have been more dissimilar in style. As these remastered reissues serve to remind, Nilsson could be brilliantly irreverent on the one hand, and on the other hand he could slip earnestly into the guise of interpretive crooner.

Son Of Schmilsson, by far the more essential of these reissues, is simply one of the finest albums of the ?70s. The range of Nilsson?s songwriting skills was never more in evidence than on this unduly overlooked effort. High points include ?Joy,? a honky-tonk send-up that?s so wonderfully crafted it transcends its intended status as parody; ?Spaceman,? which sounds like a great lost Who song (if you can imagine Pete Townshend?s guitar replaced by a string arrangement); and ?Take 54,? a horn-fueled blast of pop-rock that emits a distinctly T. Rex?like vibe. Four bonus tracks are included, the best of which is a Jimmy Webb cover titled ?Campo De Encino? that sounds like a template for the Nilsson original ?Remember (Christmas).?

Much of Nilsson?s charm lay in his facility for framing his greatest gift ? his voice ? in ironic settings, and it?s precisely that lack of irony that derails A Little Touch OfSchmilsson In The Night. Using a 37-piece orchestra and enlisting legendary arranger Gordon Jenkins, Nilsson offers up by-the-numbers renderings of standards such as ?It Had to Be You? and ?As Time Goes By.? Perhaps straight-jacketed by his reverence for the material, Nilsson comes off as stiff and overly sincere, and the result is something not far removed from elevator music.

Six bonus tracks, all recorded during the original sessions, are included on A LittleTouch Of Schmilsson, but what?s more notable is what?s absent. Specifically, Nilsson originally intended to record an orchestrated version of John Lennon and Paul McCartney?s ?Hey Jude,? but Jenkins (an avowed non-fan of The Beatles) nixed the song as ?too new.? As it stands, the best of the bonus material is Nilsson?s affectionate rendering of ?Over The Rainbow.?

Leave a Reply