Harry Nilsson - Schmilsson
Actually that is not true - I bought it because of one song. Without a shadow of a doubt, the soaring vocals and simple piano line, blended with the orchestration across the refrain have made that one song, deservedly so, one of the greatest songs of all time. I don't care if it has been overplayed, "Without You" sounds as good today as it did when it first came out over thirty-five years ago. And who would have thought that a totally re-worked cover of an obscure Badfinger track could ever be such a huge track, commercially and otherwise.
After that track, the album pales into insignificance by comparison. "Jump into the Fire" barely scrapes an okay, but the rest is on a slow and inexorable decline to awful. And awful is reached with the twee "I'll Never Leave You". This is music which is just a small step above the bland lounge music played in hotel lobbies, lifts and cocktail lounges. But it gets worse - truly awful is reached with "Coconut" which is a kids' song if it is anything, and sung in mock Caribbean voice as if it were some sort of musical calypso tradition.
Perhaps the problem is that Harry Nilsson wanted to demonstrate a variety of styles in one album. Now while that may be a great idea for demonstrating the versatility of the musician, it does absolutely nothing for the coherence of the album which, as already noted, does not hang together at all. For instance, for the two best tracks on the album, "Without You" is a soaring power ballad while "Jump into the Fire" is an uptempo rock track which probably sounds best when the top is down and the pedal is hard on the floor. Then, of two worst, "I'll Never Leave You" is a dreary, ultra-slow piano-driven piece of maudlin while "Coconut": nuff said already. In between is pretty much half a dozen different styles of music, none of them with anything particularly outstanding about them to make you sit up and take note.
The result, whatever the intention behind it, is utterly mundane and lacks any vision in its conception or framework. I am not a musician, so I cannot say if there is any inherent merit in the musical construction of the songs, but if there is, it is lost in the flaccid vapour of weakness which permeates this whole album. And yet this album has near-legendary status and is generally highly regarded, even amongst serious music freaks. I have to say I don't get it. I can understand Nilsson wanting to display his ability to sing in different styles and I can sympathise, if indeed that was his intention, to stick two fingers up at the music business and his record company by ignoring any sort of commercial coherence. But really, this is a mess.
This album gets its rating because of "Without You". All the rest can be safely ignored. If not for that track, I could barely give this a single star. Indeed, if not for that track there would be no reason for me to possess this album at all and so I would not be giving it any sort of rating at all.
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on 2011-05-30 CharlesMartel Said:
Even after all these years I still fail to appreciate this album. Harry Nilsson was a clever and talented artist, as the variety on this album shows, but it really fails to strike a chord with me.