harry nilsson - nilsson schmilsson

Harry Nilsson: Nilsson Schmilsson (1971)

Day 9 is a quick #mayvinylchallenege for my wife, since I spent the day with her and her family for Mother’s Day. She’s slowly gotten into the vinyl addiction with me, but she sticks to a few of her favorite records to listen to: Van Morrison, Paul Cauthen, the Beatles…and Harry Nilsson, whose Nilsson Schmilsson not only contains the ubiquitous “Coconut” which has been used in dozens upon dozens of movies and television shows, thus working out for today’s theme of “music discovered via movies or TV” but also happens to be one of those perfect classic pop/rock records, full of brain burrowing hooks, inventive melodies and musical flourishes that adventurous hooks and production flourishes that feel like the lost cousin to the Beatles without ever really imitating them. It’s a stone classic, and for much more than “Coconut.”

Like I said, this is a quick one, so let’s get into it. “Gotta Get Up” is on of those perfect album openers, wide-eyed driving infectious pop that propels you headfirst into Nilsson’s particular songwriting style. “Driving Along” feels like the best Partridge Family song they never performed, which sounds like a sleight but damn it’s so catchy it feels like what that show was aiming for and never quite achieved, especially with its gorgeous George Harrison-esque harmonies. Then there’s the spare cover of “Early in the Morning” before moving into the easy listening of “The Moonbeam Song” before completing Side 1 with the Paul McCartney-ish “Down.” Again, it feels like a distant cousin of the Beatles, but with its own peculiar dramatic lilt to it.

Side 2 makes us wait one song before we get to “Coconut,” but that one song is the massive ballad “Without You” that is so huge and bombastic with its symphonic touches and over theta chorus I can’t help but still love it every time it come son. I probably didn’t need to say anything about “Coconut” except that it managed to make this scene work, so its magic is stronger than anyone can rightly quantify:

I’ll say this: the older I get the more I realize that as much as the scene and movie wants me to focus on Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman, I can’t take my eyes off Stockard Channing. So there’s that.

And then if all of that wasn’t enough, there’s the seven and a half minute explosion that is “Jump Into the Fire.” We don’t deserve this song, but we have it, drum solo and all. It makes up for the fact that the two other songs on Side 2 – “Let the Good Times Roll” and “I’ll Never Leave You” are simply good and not amazing.

There you go. Nilsson Schmilsson. Great album. Happy Mother’s Day and here’s hoping you find the time to drink them both up.

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