Harry/Nilsson Sings Newman Best of
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|7. Mournin' Glory Story|
|9. Marchin' Down Broadway|
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See all 25 tracks on this disc
Two albums on one CD. Featuring 'Harry' (1969) and 'NilssonSings Newman' (1970). Bonus tracks, 'Waiting' and 'Snow'.Standard jewelcase with slipcase. 2000 release.20+ years before his 1994 death from a heart attack, American singer/ songwriter Harry Nilsson released several albums that did well in the charts, spawned some hit singles, got lots of critical acclaim and won the respect of his peers (including The Beatles, who were huge fans). However, Nilsson's back catalogue has never gotten the same just reward ...until now! BMG's Camden subsidiary in England has reissued all of Nilsson's best records for RCA, all digitally remastered with bonus tracks, the original cover art and specially packaged in standard jewelcases within full color slipcase covers.
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Top Customer Reviews
This is the only album of Nilsson's that contains these particular songs. I recommend it highly.
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I'd stick with the domestic versions of both (Harry is available from DCC Compact Discs while NSN is available from Buddah)as both feature more bonus tracks, hence more bang for the buck. If you're on a budget this 2fer is a great choice.
This is the only album of Nilsson's that contains these particular songs. I recommend it highly.
The beauty of the BMG/Camden re-release re-masters of these albums is that they are restored to original glories even early purchasers of the albums might have missed out on. Songs were cut after initial releases so as not to compete with other releases, and other horrifying acts of executive powers marred an otherwise original work of art deity! The Camden releases have combined PANDEMONIUM SHADOW SHOW and AERIAL BALLET onto a single disc, and have two-ferred it into a double disc set with the wonderful Nilsson re-release AERIAL PANDEMONIUM BALLET on the second disc with unreleased bonus tracks thrown on for good measure. The result is a glory-halleluiah for Nilsson fans. The 3rd and 4th albums are also combined into one disc and also sport a couple unreleased bonus tracks: HARRY and NILSSON SINGS NEWMAN. Harry's catalog has seen a resurgence in interest and thankfully record companies are giving us our due pound of flesh finally. THE POINT has been remastered and released with stunning quality, bonus tracks, and a fantastic booklet. The Schmilsson albums are also re-glorified as well as the opulent Lennon and Nilsson masterpiece of drunkenness, PUSSYCATS. (Note: Camden also released the definitive version of A LITTLE TOUCH OF SCHMILSSON IN THE NIGHT by releasing the UK version of the album, also known as AS TIME GOES BY, re-mastered with outstanding sound and containing the entire 20 song suite as it was envisioned by Harry). But this review is for the two CD sets representing the first four albums compiled by Camden so I have gone a tad too far. Oh and before the grisly know-it-alls raise their ugly heads I will freely admit that there was indeed an actual "first" album by Harry released in 1966, called "Spotlight On Nilsson" but technically, no, sorry, not really an "album" so much as a compilation of four singles (and 4 respective B-sides) which he had released from 1964 to 1966 while a songwriter at the Tower label (plus two unreleased recordings). Yes it was a vinyl LP but it saw next to no sales until well after Nilsson became famous and it was re-jacketed for exploitation. Even Harry did not refer to it as his "first" album.
Prior to the release of THE POINT, and it's respective television animated film, Nilsson albums were not large commercial successes, however he did have a cult following and the critical reviews of his albums were great successes and lent to the commercial sales he did garner, by those audiophiles willing to read critiques and more willing to experiment. Nilsson's name was not pure mystery as it was associated with The Monkees, Midnight Cowboy, Three Dog Night, The Courtship of Eddie's Father, and even earlier he composed songs for Glen Campbell, Fred Astaire, The Shangri-Las, and even The Yardbirds! But the Beatles press conference with the highest endorsement he could have possibly received, and following that with outstanding critical press for PANDEMONIUM SHADOW SHOW and AERIAL BALLET and HARRY shed enough light into the dark to illuminate Nilsson for some record-buying public. It was NILSSON SINGS NEWMAN that put a few off. First of all, who the heck was this Randy Newman guy anyway, and why would Harry go so out on a limb as to record an entire album of this music? Stereo Review Magazine actually named it their choice for Record Of The Year and in truth it was a masterpiece of engineering and production, but commercially, Harry nearly nailed his coffin shut. Regardless how wonderful the album really is, in 1970 it was as close to professional suicide as he could have gotten. The album sales were as dismal as the critics' praise was reverent. This then was the mire from which Nilsson raised his head and smashed the definitions of "success" with THE POINT and NILSSON SCHMILSSON.
PANDEMONIUM SHADOW SHOW - AERIAL BALLET - AERIAL PANDEMONIUM BALLET
Nilsson's career was carefully crafted with two insanely incomparable talents: a four-octave range voice of amazing purity, and a wit which ranged from the sardonic to coy tongue-in-cheek humor and sometimes downright silly slapstick. In addition to these, Harry was also capable of the most heart wrenching and achingly beautiful emotional singing to be found. His songwriting craft was stealthy and methodical using metaphor galore to illustrate without obvious conspicuousness. PANDEMONIUM SHADOW SHOW debuted this wonderful showcase in an extraordinary way. He utilized taping techniques to create "a chorus of 98 voices", used The Beatles own pioneered pitch-shift vocal techniques, and with self-penned songs augmented by some select covers, he created an entirely new facet of the genre pioneered by his heroes, The Beatles. The title of the album comes from the dark carnival circus sideshow named in Ray Bradbury's novel "Something Wicked This Way Comes". He had originally requested permission from the author to use the book title as the title to the album, but that permission arrived too late and RCA had already gone to production with his second choice for title. Fittingly enough though, the music presented in a format reminiscent of both the title and the avant-garde work of Sgt Pepper era Beatles, transcended the formula of the day and in hindsight it would have felt miraculous to listen to this album directly upon its release. Remember: recorded in '67, studios were limited to 4-track tape decks, so Harry and his engineers synched up two decks to get 8 tracks which allowed not only multilayered instruments but as many as 8 synchronized Harry vocals at a time!
"Ten Little Indians" opens the album with a slightly mad allegorical recounting of the Ten Commandments; "1941" is vocal exercise in autobiography effectively illustrating the sins of the father visited upon the son through Harry's own life circumstances; "Cuddly Toy" is the original slappy novelty song he gave to The Monkees to showcase his work, a delving into shaming the naughty girl (Cuddly Toy was "tailor made for Davy Jones"); and "She Sang Hymns Out Of Tune" is a Beatlesque vaudevillian chant-ballad. "You Can't Do That" is probably what prompted Lennon to go on a 36 hour binge of playing the album over and over again. With those 98 Voices, Harry takes the core Beatle song from Hard Day's Night, overlays massive vocal arrangements with references to twenty or more other Beatles songs, dropping some into lyrics exchanges, and literally creates and entirely new song that would be called a "mash up" today. He ends the song with a winking "I love the Beatles for ever". Harry then ended what was side one with "Sleep Late My Lady Friend", a night-club jazzy exercise in romantic vocals and scat that could have been a Sinatra standard. Flip album over here. Ah yes, why wouldn't a die-hard Beatle fan cover the enigmatic "She's Leaving Home", done up here with every psychedelic Sgt Pepper flourish that Harry could find, in fact he recorded She's Leaving Home only 10 days after the release of Sgt Pepper. The result is one of the best ever covers of this wonderful song. Harry then takes you on a side-car ride with him through four oldie style oldies: "There Will Never Be" by Botkin; Harry's own self-penned oldie style "Without Her" which was beautifully rendered by Blood Sweat & Tears on Child Is Father To The Man and also covered nicely by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass on Warm in '69; a very old oldie "Freckles", a satirical vaudeville number; and the lovely Harry-penned "It's Been So Long". Nilsson ends the debut album with another tribute song, this time to Phil Spector through the Ike & Tina Turner driving rocker "River Deep Mountain High". As Nilsson had worked with Spector in the past this one was a fitting tribute and Harry employs the full Wall Of Sound technique developed by Phil and used in the original recording. However, the technology utilized by Harry results in a Wall Of Sound Magnifique and unparalleled by any other cover ever. His vocal prowess matches and maybe even exceeds Tina's and his delivery is spot on, note for note, perfect! Only Celine Dion's more recent cover on Falling Into You can compare to Nilsson's and Tina's wailing vocals. PANDEMONIUM SHADOW SHOW was one of the best kept secrets of the psychedelic year of 1967.
AERIAL BALLET followed just under a year later and was this time named after Nilsson's actual grandparents' high wire circus act. During 1968, while recording the album, Nilsson accepted an invitation to visit with the Beatles in London and his friendship with John and Ringo, whom he would work with extensively in the future, was ignited. John played demo cuts of the upcoming "white album" for him and Harry in turn played him new demos for AERIAL BALLET. The new album originally opened with "Daddy's Song" but after the first pressing it was removed so as not to compete with itself as a new single for The Monkees. This CD marks the first time I have had this song on this album and it is a welcome relief. Of course the song relives and expands upon the narrative used in "1941" earlier. My copy of the album started with the second song "Good Old Desk" which upon first listen seemed an ineffectual ode to a piece of furniture. That is until the listener grows up a few years and figures out that the song initials G.O.D reveal the true nature of which he is singing. Then the lyrics make sense! "Don't Leave Me" is one of those Nilsson catalog songs for which he would also become famous. A heartfelt love ballad sung from his lower register and emotive core. Nilsson returns to Beatle-Land with the heady "Mr. Richland's Favorite Song", a rather McCartney-ish crafted tune with Lennon-esque lyrical counterpoints that eventually wade into musings about what the Walrus said. "Little Cowboy" is actually a lullaby written by Harry's mother who, according to new liner notes states that his mother actually wrote the song and he only added the short introductory line. The lullaby is shortly reprised again later. His vocal high-notes by now are so memorable that you've stopped shaking your head at the shifts and are just enjoying it all with relish. "Together" is a McCartney-ish love song, and finally one of his most memorable hits pops up on the radar. Funny how Harry wrote "I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City" at the directors request when John Schlesinger played Harry Fred Neil's "Everybody's Talkin'" and asked Harry to write a song like that. Harry did and then John asked him to go ahead and sing the Fred Neil song anyway, and ended up using that one instead and here it is, "Everybody's Talkin'", and the other song won't show up on an album for another year again. Harry's first big hit is the one he did not write! (it will happen again with Without You!) "I Said Goodbye To Me" is one of Harry's sardonic humor songs, about a man preparing to commit suicide, thankfully Harry reprises "Little Cowboy" after that contemplation. "Mr. Tinker", like Mr. Richland, is a jaunty bio-pic with brush strokes from Beatles, but lesser so in this outing. A year after release of this album, Three Dog Night had a huge career lifting #1 hit single with "One" by Harry Nilsson. TDN changed the arrangement slightly from this version and only early Harry Nilsson fans were really familiar with the song before then. "One", as arranged and sung by Harry is another of his vocal exercises, his own version delivering the loneliness and longing that really is inspired in the song and entirely missing from the rock version. Once you have it Harry's way, you can't go back! "The Wailing Of The Willow" is another of Harry's lighter love songs, a beautiful enchanting piece that sticks with you long after it is over, and the album (and first CD of the double-CD set) ends with "Bath". Not the English town of Bath but a real bathwater bath! Actually, what sounds like a silly and innocent song, if you delve just under the suds, is about returning home from an overnight stay in a brothel.
The second disc of this two-fer which is actually a three-fer, is the 1971 Nilsson release called AERIAL PANDEMONIUM BALLET. To my knowledge, Harry Nilsson is the first artist ever to do what has become rather routine now. If there was one done prior to this, and I have tried to find an example but failed, it is unknown to the masses. In any case this is one of the very first "remix albums" ever made, if not THE first! Harry's voice had matured in '71, The Point was a commercial success (#25 on album charts), and he was about to release his first ever smash hit album and single (and knew how good they would be) so he concurrently worked on remixing songs from his first two now out of print albums into a new conceptualized album. Harry truncated songs for length and in an act of brilliance with the times, he assured the album could be transferred to 8-track tapes with the songs being re-sequenced. This was accomplished both by mixing the songs for equal lengths in four sections and adding a silly 30 second "filler" where Harry whispers his idea for accomplishing this feat! So if you purchased the 8-track version of the album, all of the songs which naturally run into each other and offer a story-telling grouping remain true to the vinyl original. Was that not brilliant? For you youngsters, 8-track tapes were a travesty thrust upon the music loving public so that we could port our music into our cars. The drawback was that 8 tracks were divided into four equal length "programs" and this resulted in the re-sequencing of albums in a era when the "concept" was king and music was meant for non-interrupted linear play. Often longer songs were faded out in the middle of play and then after the audible click to the next program the song would fade back in. Try enjoying In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed or Layla butchered like that friends!
From the liner notes, this is what he did:
1 Introduction - :09
2 "1941" - 2:37 (slowed down the entire track & remixed the individual tracks)
3 "Daddy's Song" - 2:07 (added new vocals & unsynchronized the guitar and piano for ambience)
4 "Mr. Richland's Favorite Song" - 2:07 (added new background vocals & remixed the individual tracks)
5 "Good Old Desk" - 2:30 (slowed down the entire track & remixed the individual tracks)
6 "Everybody's Talkin'" - 2:42 (dumped the second voice & remixed the individual tracks)
7 "Bath" - 1:50 (re-equalized the original tracks)
8 "River Deep - Mountain High" (Phil Spector, Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich - 3:57 (added new vocals & remixed the individual tracks)
9 "Sleep Late, My Lady Friend" - 2:37 (remixed the individual tracks)
10 "Don't Leave Me" - 2:12 (remixed the individual tracks)
11 "Without Her" - 2:08 (added new vocals & remixed the individual tracks)
12 "Together" - 1:37 (added new vocals, edited out the bridge & remixed the individual tracks)
13 "One" - 2:18 (remixed the individual tracks)
14 Closing - :20
Harry mixed down horn sections which were deemed "excessive" in 1971 rock. He dumped many of the multi-track vocals and slowed down or re-recorded them to match his matured timbre, which would be showcased on the upcoming Nilsson Schmilsson release. He segued 1941 and Daddy's Song into a single themed cohesive autobiography and did the same with the rest of the album, uniting the songs thematically. An excellent example of his re-engineering prowess was to overlay vocalizations from "One" on top of "Mr. Richland's Favorite Song" adding a new depth of character to an already brilliant composition. River Deep Mountain High shed its "wall of sound" feel in this incarnation and his new matured vocals created an adult out of an adolescent. These were the signs that Nilsson had arrived in '71, keeping busy between the new found adoration of The Point and the theme from Midnight Cowboy, and the soon to be watershed defining moment of his career, Schmilsson. Added to the second disc are four excellent bonus tracks, actually finished recordings (not demos or half-baked filler) which were either too late for album inclusion or were too similar in content to other songs and Harry did not feel they "fit" in his story board. Thankfully they are released here so that we may enjoy some extra moments with the genius now departed.
Released in June of '71, midway between The Point and Schmilsson, AERIAL PANDEMONIUM BALLET outsold both of its original two albums combined. Harry was on his way to stardom.
HARRY - NILSSON SINGS NEWMAN
Harry's music had defied distinctive style, an experiment in 60's pop music which embraced "ballads, show tunes, nostalgic Americana, and tin pan alley-like soft shoe numbers" (stealing from one critic) and hovered somewhere in the same realm as the Beatles experiments. In '69 he polished these styles some more and released HARRY, finally landing on Billboard's 200 charts (at #120) and staying there for 15 weeks. America had taken notice and this pleasant album garnered some attention from the critics and more importantly from album sales. It featured some key jazz names (Tom Scott, Mike Melvoin, Jim Horn), some of Nilsson's best songwriting, a couple covers (The Beatles and Jerry Jeff Walker's most famous tune), and some collaboration with two other big names in American songwriting: Bill Martin and an as yet unknown Randy Newman.
Harry opened HARRY with an unusual song he wrote that carries some pop history of its own. In 1968, after launching Apple Corp at the press conference where the Beatles shared their adulation for Harry Nilsson, their first signed act was a discovery of Paul McCartney's, an 18 year old welsh singer with an illuminating voice named Mary Hopkin whose Russian folk warbling of "Those Were The Days" smashed the English and American charts at #1 and #2 respectively. For her first album to be released in early '69 (`Postcard') Paul asked Harry to write a song for her vocal style. Harry gave Paul and Mary "The Puppy Song", a lovely song perfect for her voice and also perfect for Harry's own. Harry's version, the album opener for HARRY would actually pop up in front of the masses when it was used decades later in the hit movie "You've Got Mail" in 1998. "Nobody Cares About The Railroads Anymore" is the first of a few Americana/nostalgia works that only he could get away successfully with. Next up was a unique jazz song he penned, stepping up the lounge act of Without Her, to a true modern jazz song complete with scat and improvisational instrumental work, "Open Your Window". In fact the song is so perfectly jazz standard that the one and only Ella Fitzgerald covered the song note for note on her album Things Ain't What They Used To Be, released a few months later! Harry can't help but be in thrall of his idols so once again he went to The Beatles catalog and this time rendered "Mother Nature's Son" in a beautiful folkish style. It went over so well that The Beatles collectively called this their favorite cover song ever! "Fairfax Rag" is an Americana vaudevillian walk with hippy generation lyrics about the woes of encountering law enforcement, and "City Life" is a terrific blues tune. "Mourning Glory Song" may very well be the first song to ever address the misery of homelessness. It is a profound, heart wrenching ballad, one of Nilsson's most serious sad songs. "Maybe" is a touching love song that fit perfectly with Barbra Streisand's cover of it on her '71 release Stoney End, and "Marching Down Broadway" is another Americana piece, this time a song written by Nilsson's mother Bette (the second one he sang, after "Little Cowboy" on AERIAL BALLET). "Maybe" is also precognitive of the kind of compositions that would bind The Point into such a beautiful work of music; the piano dance and vocal arrangement are perfect representations of what would become the centerpieces of music in The Point. "I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City" was the song written, by director John Schlesinger's request, for Midnight Cowboy before he opted to go ahead and use Nilsson's cover of "Everybody's Talkin'". The two songs are very similar in both style and theme, and placed back to back they are perfectly complimentary. "Rainmaker", like "Fairfax Rag" earlier, were both co-written by Nilsson and the legendary Bill Martin. The movement into American folk and Americana, combined with the subtle jazz elements of HARRY makes for a snug fit between the two albums here sandwiched together, as the folk element will bleed successfully over into NILSSON SINGS NEWMAN. "Rainmaker" is followed by one of the greatest folk tales ever written, Jerry Jeff Walker's immortal "Mr. Bojangles". I don't have to stretch the truth to tell you that Nilsson uses a Dylanesque nuance and phrasing technique here that sets this translation of Bojangles apart from many of the covers. Sammy Davis Jr probably renders the most tearful rendition, Jim Stafford the most dramatic, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band the most faithful, and Dylan the most raw. Harry Nilsson's cover of this treasure falls smack dab in the middle of the four corners, filling it out and providing a mournful touch of each. It's love at first listen. Appropriately enough, since the next album is all Randy Newman songs, HARRY closes with a unique song written by Randy. "Simon Smith And The Amazing Dancing Bear" is very hard to describe other than it is a light-hearted (unusual in the canon of Newman) whimsical story of a boy and his dancing bear aiming for the big time. The original LP had a photograph of songwriter Bill Martin in a bear suit which had been actually handcrafted out of a real bear. The suit was deplorably smelly but it lent itself to a humorous tale. And the question arises, was Simon's bear really a bear or a man in a costume? Nevertheless, the song ends HARRY on a high note and acts as a natural bridge to the next album contained on this twofer.
NILSSON SINGS NEWMAN is another milestone in pop music history. Critics stood on their heads to give it accolades but the record buying public, even Nilsson fans, did not like it much. Even I treated it poorly when I first purchased the LP only making initial nods at a few songs and finding the rest too... depressing comes to mind. Randy Newman is an acquired taste. I began to like him shortly after this album when he provided the music and theme song to a zany cult film starring Dick Van Dyke, "Cold Turkey" where everyone in a town attempts to quit smoking to win a huge sum of money. His songs began to show up on record albums all over the map, from Linda Ronstadt's wonderful Don't Cry Now album ("Sail Away"), Ringo's self titled '73 album ("Have You Seen My Baby"), to noticing his name on credits in older stuff, Dusty Springfield, Judy Collins, Three Dog Night, Van Dyke Parks, even Nina Simone and Peggy Lee!
To enjoy Randy's music you have to have an appreciation for sardonic humor and Harry Nilsson certainly had a touch of that already. The album cover art was amazingly enough painted by none other than Dean Torrence of the duo Jan & Dean and lent to the album often being referred to as "the car album" because of its depiction of a '38 Graham-Paige 4-door sedan with Nilsson driving and Randy in the back seat. The album is often described as "slow" or "depressing" but if you are into lyrical interpretations, you have a complex album on your hands with deep caverns of exploration. The opening tracks "Vine Street" and "Love Story" set the stage for a story board and I will not go about interpreting this one for you, just know that if you are an audiophile of any measure, there is a lot to enjoy here, both sonically and poetically. "Yellow Man" and "Beehive State" are societal jabs, something Randy is famously good at, while most of the other songs investigate interpersonal relationships and introspective examination. Musically, Harry invested weeks, literally over six weeks, alone, just overdubbing his voice to create layers of vocals and harmonies, using four expert engineers to mix them line by line. One song boasts about 120 overdubs! Harry and Randy even purposefully remind the listener that they are in the control room by occasionally leaving in their voiced instructions to the engineers. On the Beehive State, to obtain desired backing vocal effects, Harry held his headphones up to the microphone and recorded his own vocals from headphones to microphone. The result is uncanny. Randy played the piano and keys over and over on every song until Harry felt a comfortable connection to the song, this for days before even laying down one track. The final result, with Harry on additional instruments (bass, drum, tambourine, other keys) is a remarkable feat of music and voice recording, perfection in engineering and production, and a serving of post-modernistic poetry that caught the attention of music critics and professionals all over America and the UK. As stated before, it did not sell well, a story goes that Harry went to an LA record shop and asked the salesman working there if he had any Nilsson albums. The shopkeeper pulled out all of them giving him a "tour" of its sales, sound, and quality, all with big recommendations, and when he got to Nilsson Sings Newman" he said "this one nearly finished him off." However, time has been good to NILSSON SINGS NEWMAN and more of the artistically oriented music public has steered itself to the "idiosyncratic quality" (All Music Guide) of the album and perhaps us boomers have aged a little more jaded and little more appreciative of Newman's wicked humor and melancholy writing. Nilsson's vocals are matured to the octave perfection which will produce The Point and Nilsson Schmilsson, a timbre quality incomparable with other artists that ranges from sweetly sublime to sheer profundity and awesome power. If you love the human vocal chords, this album is a showcase for perfection of the art.
The twofer of HARRY & NILSSON SINGS NEWMAN ends with two bonus tracks, "Waiting" and "Snow", two more vocal exercises with beauty and longing. This CD contains material that clearly points the way to The Point, you will hear familiar songwriting that is explored more on those two albums and hear the voice that would explode with purity on "Without You".
For anyone familiar with the Schmilsson era of Nilsson but unfamiliar with his music outside of "hits" collections, or prior to The Point, these two compilation CDs collecting five albums together on 3 physical discs (with bonus tracks) will bring you amazing pleasure. This music is simply fantastic. This is the music The Beatles listened to and loved! This is the music that other music artists loved and emulated. Again, if you love the human voice and love the craft of songwriting and instrumental composition forged for the human voice, then these albums are masterpieces of the art you love. Don't let them pass you by.
How To Buy A Harry Nilsson Album:
(these are the best recommendations for CD to purchase, in sound quality and artist quality)
(I will be posting reviews for all of them)
Pandemonium Shadow Show, December 1967, Pandemonium Shadow Show, Aerial Ballet and Aerial Pandemonium Ballet
Aerial Ballet, August 1968, Pandemonium Shadow Show, Aerial Ballet and Aerial Pandemonium Ballet
Harry, August 1969, Harry / Nilsson Sings Newman
Nilsson Sings Newman, February 1970, Harry / Nilsson Sings Newman
The Point, March 1971, The Point! (Deluxe Packaging)
Aerial Pandemonium Ballet, June 1971, Pandemonium Shadow Show, Aerial Ballet and Aerial Pandemonium Ballet
Nilsson Schmilsson, November 1971, Nilsson Schmilsson
Son Of Schmilsson, July 1972, Son of Schmilsson
A Little Touch Of Schmilsson In The Night, June 1973, A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night
Pussycats, August 1974, (Unfortunately, the legendary Pussycats album by Harry Nilsson and John Lennon is not currently available except under high markups by third party sellers)
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