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The relationship between Harry Nilsson and John Lennon is legendary. They were notorious booze hounds and carousers, getting kicked out of clubs for misbehavior and generally terrorizing L.A. during Lennon’s “lost weekend” of 1974. They wanted to make an album together — hell, anyone working at such a peak would — and the result was Pussy Cats, a Nilsson album produced by Lennon. Almost immediately, Nilsson got sick, resulting in a ruptured vocal cord. Not wanting Lennon to stop the sessions, Nilsson never told his friend, stubbornly working his way through the sessions until he lost his voice entirely. These are the sessions that make up Pussy Cats, an utterly bewildering record that’s more baffling than entertaining. Like many superstar projects of its time, this is studded with contributions from friends and studio musicians, all intent on having a good time in the studio — which usually means hammering out rock & roll oldies. In this case, it meant both Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and the children’s song “Loop de Loop,” which gives a good idea where Nilsson was at. Through its messiness, Pussy Cats winds up showing how he and Lennon violently careened between hedonism and self-loathing. Of the new songs, the inadvertently revealing “All My Life” is the strongest, followed by the sweet “Don’t Forget Me,” yet this is more about tone than substance. It’s about hearing Nilsson’s voice getting progressively harsher, as the backing remains appealingly professional and slick. It doesn’t quite jibe, and it’s certainly incoherent, but that’s its charm. It may not be as wild as the lost weekend itself, but it couldn’t have been recorded at any other time and remains a fascinating aural snapshot of the early days of 1974.

Realizing that he had nothing left to lose when he got to the end of his RCA contract, Harry Nilsson wound up recording his best, most distinctive record since Pussy Cats, maybe, Son of Schmilsson. Abandoning the very idea of a mainstream pop album is just the beginning of his conceptual coup here with Knnillssonn. Recording almost all of the sounds with keyboards and guitars, Nilsson also decided to drive the guitars into the background. In some ways, this may make it similar to A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night, but instead of being a standards record, this is all new material, written in a classical pop style and delivered in a slightly modernistic fashion. The result is an album that’s out of step with its time and with the era’s music in general. With its old-fashioned pop sensibility and weirdly out of sync production, plus Nilsson’s trademark clever songsmithery and impish humor, Knnillssonn is a pop album like no other. It has his best set of songs in many a year, and the production is fascinating, yet at times it sounds like he’s trying a little too hard. Still, there are brilliant moments, whether it’s a tune as seductive as “All I Think About Is You” or the Agatha Christie murder mystery salute “Who Done It?” For all the cultists who struggled with, and at times embraced, his years of uneven records, this is their reward: an album that may only appeal to a small audience, but that satisfies their every desire about what an album from their favorite artist should be.

-Stephen Thomas Erlewine, allmusic.com

DOWNLOAD:
PUSSY CATS (1974)
KNNILLSSONN (1977)
320kbps

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2 Comments

  1. i adore nilsson but had never heard these albums in full. "all i think about is you" is my new favorite song. thank you so much! max (www.maxabelson.com)

  2. Thank you so much! I have really felt like listening to some Harry Nilsson but I hadn't heard either of these albums. Thanks again!


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