65107-2 Greatest Hits
Compilation produced by Rob Santos
Released on March 19, 2002
no chart information
Find it at GEMM
65107-2 cover
[high resolution scan]

W hile we don’t have Harry Nilsson to kick around anymore, that doesn’t stop each new generation from resurrecting the discussion of Nilsson as the great lost songwriter. Such discussions are usually contained to the late 60s and early 70s, after which Harry’s flawless pop songs began to show signs of cracking under the pressure. In 1978, RCA released Nilsson’s first Greatest Hits album, which conveniently cut the cord after 1974’s “Daybreak.” In 2002, RCA (via BMG Heritage) repeated the exercise while adding nine new tracks, again none of them venturing past Daybreak. Instead, in what essentially amounts to an expanded reissue of the 1978 album, RCA has added more of Harry’s early songs: “Good Old Desk,” “1941,” “Cuddly Toy.” The reluctance after all these years to lift the veil beyond Daybreak is telling, as it reveals a need to idealize Nilsson. The closest parallel would be the work of Cat Stevens, where again you encounter an almost physical resistance to anything beyond 1975. Wondr’ing aloud, maybe it’s because both artists “disappeared” after significant success and, like Donovan, are now inextricably preserved in the amber of a lost golden age. Anyway, a serious discussion for an artist who rarely took himself (or his music) as seriously as his fans and critics. Even in an eclectic songbook like this, there are two constants: the elevation of the material through Nilsson’s three-octave voice, and its subsequent deflation through silly nonsense syllables. In nearly every example here, Nilsson strips away the seriousness of his own artistry by breaking the song down to its basic, beautiful melody and made-up wordsounds. It’s a glimpse into the genesis of these gifts, Nilsson undermining perfection with the crudity of creation. Like Paul McCartney, Nilsson’s familiarity with his own muse results in the kind of offhand genius that most songwriters struggle to achieve. Sir Paul, however, took better care of his muse than Harry, and so the one is lovingly worn from overuse while the other remains sealed in plastic to be examined and admired from a now impassable distance.

TRACK LISTING

  1. 1941
  2. CUDDLY TOY
  3. WITHOUT HER
  4. ONE
  5. EVERYBODY'S TALKIN'    (Fred Neil)
  6. GIRLFRIEND
  7. GOOD OLD DESK
  8. I GUESS THE LORD MUST BE IN NEW YORK CITY
  9. THE PUPPY SONG
  10. LIVING WITHOUT YOU    (Randy Newman)
  11. ME AND MY ARROW
  12. WITHOUT YOU    (Pete Ham/Tom Evans)
  13. COCONUT
  14. JUMP INTO THE FIRE
  15. THE MOONBEAM SONG
  16. REMEMBER (CHRISTMAS)
  17. SPACEMAN
  18. YOU'RE BEAKIN' MY HEART
  19. DAYBREAK
  20. DON'T FORGET ME
  21. AS TIME GOES BY    (Herman Hupfeld)

    All songs written by Harry Nilsson unless noted

CREDITS

Curtis Armstrong -- compilation, liner notes
Glenn Korman -- compilation
John Hudson -- product manager
Mathieu Bitton -- art direction & design

return to HARRY NILSSON discography

REGION RELEASE DATE LABEL MEDIA ID NUMBER FEATURES
US March 19, 2002 RCA/BMG Heritage CD 65107-2  

 

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