Sunday , May 19 2024
A new remastering of this classic 70's album. . .

Nilsson Schmilsson

Though I’ve long owned and regularly played its first CD remastering (released by RCA as a “24 Karat Gold Disc” back in 1995), I recently purchased a copy of the new BMG Heritage remastering of Nilsson Schmilsson, an album that I’m so unabashedly fond of that I’ll probably purchase it when it’s released in whatever format is the next big thing. (C’mon, tell me you’ve got an album that you’ve bought at least three times!) The new release comes with slightly more clean-cut, farather reaching sound than the formerly state-of-the-art gold disc, but what really grabbed my fanboy interest was the selection of bonus tracks.
I’ve raved about Harry Nilsson’s breakthrough popdisc in the past – it’s one of the seventies’ musical touchstones – and if the bonus material isn’t essential, it does add to our understanding of the way this smartypants songwriter worked, something you can’t always say about reissue filler tracks. Three of the cuts are smooth-sounding demos (“The Moonbeam Song,” “Gotta Get Up,” and “Old Forgotten Soldier,” a song that would later appear on Nilsson’s collaboration with John Lennon, Pussy Cats). “Soldier” is perhaps the most surprising track: hearing it sung when Harry is still in sweet voice mode (by the time he recorded it for Lennon, his instrument had grown rougher) muffles its ironies, much as Schmilsson‘s harmonic “Moonbeam Song” hides its sardonic view of human imperception within a gorgeous arrangement.
As for the other bonus tracks: “Si No Estas Tu” is a Spanish version of Nilsson’s big hit single, “Without You.” The backing track’s exactly the same, but hearing the way the singer takes different dips with his vocals provides its own small surprises. Even more revealing is “How Can I Be Sure of You,” which provides some of the lyrical grounding for 1974’s ironic “Good for God” but still keeps things within the proto-crooner framework that Nilsson was largely (if only temporarily) abandoning with Schmilsson. A sixth track, “Lamaze,” is an instrumental throwaway with a few giggling shout-outs, but it also anticipates the excessive jokiness that would characterize the follow-up elpee, Son of Schmilsson.
Would I recommend this release to other hard-core Nilsson heads? Well, I don’t regret buying it, and I’m usually much less enthralled by bonus demo crap. (Still, if you can find a cheap copy of the gold disc remastering and you don’t own this album, I’d say get that.) So BMG, howsabout a Heritage repackaging of Son of Schmilsson, a disc that to the best of my knowledge has never received the CD remastering treatment?
UPDATE: Visiting the Harry Nilsson fan page to see if there was any news on a Son reissue, I was pleased to learn that a DVD of the Nilsson scripted and scored teevee cartoon, The Point, is set for release on March 24. (There are something like three or four different narrated versions of this ‘toon: this is the Ringo Starr model.) Clearly BMG is going through its Nilsson catalog and making it readily available once more – very good news, indeed.

About Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman is a Books editor for Blogcritics. With his lovely wife Rebecca Fox, he has co-authored a light-hearted fat acceptance romance entitled Measure By Measure.

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