Harry Nilsson – The RCA Albums Collection

The profound musical gifts of Harry Nilsson are on full display in THE RCA ALBUMS COLLECTION. This deluxe 17-CD box set, available now, presents Nilsson’s definitive 14 U.S. albums from RCA. Bonus material on those albums add up to 65 tracks, of which 26 are previously unreleased. Adding to the box set’s historical provenance are three newly-compiled CDs containing 58 tracks, of which an additional 29 tracks are previously unreleased.

Nilsson: The Life Of A Singer-Songwriter

In this first ever full-length biography, author Alyn Shipton traces Harry Nilsson’s life from his Brooklyn childhood to his Los Angeles adolescence and his gradual emergence as a uniquely talented singer-songwriter. With interviews from friends, family, and associates, and material drawn from an unfinished autobiography, Shipton probes beneath the enigma to discover the real Harry Nilsson. The book is in stores now.

Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?

A wildly entertaining, star-studded documentary that tells the story of Harry Nilsson. Director John Scheinfeld brings added emotion and intimacy to the story with over 50 Nilsson recordings, rare or never-before-seen film clips, home movies and personal photos. The DVD also contains 93 minutes of Bonus Material Deleted Scenes, Extended Sequences, an Alternate Ending and more.

Music

A Little Touch Of Schmilsson In The Night

littletouch_backAfter the worldwide success of Nilsson Schmilsson, and the four-letter-word shock of Son of Schmilsson, Harry’s next release was yet another career about-face. He hired veteran arranger Gordon Jenkins (famed for his work with Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and others) and recorded an album of standards entitled A Little Touch Of Schmilsson In The Night (Shakespeare fans got the joke). Singing the oldies might seem like a routine career move these days, but among the hipsters of 1973 it was simply unheard of (with Ringo Starr’s Sentimental Journey being the sole example). At the time Harry conceived the idea, many friends, fans and insiders were flummoxed by the non-commercial move. Producer Richard Perry, who was already envisioning multi-platinum follow-up LPs with Harry, was so convinced it was a mistake he outright refused to produce it.


Highlighted by Jenkins’ stunning, intertwining arrangements, Harry’s seventh LP is more than just a collection of old songs, it’s an expertly arranged song cycle — flowing from one track to the next as melodies are instrumentally quoted within each other. Years arranging for Sinatra had already fine-tuned Jenkins’ sensibilities and adaptability to singers, and you can hear where a few of his treatments even echo Harry’s simple, two chord vamp style. Nilsson did something very unusual for these sessions — he sang no harmonies, recording every take live with the orchestra. Recorded during a week in March 1973, just days later Nilsson and Jenkins would recreate the experience in front of cameras for a 1973 BBC TV special.


A largess universal, like the sun,
His liberal eye doth give to everyone,
Thawing cold fear, that means and gentle all,
Behold, as may unworthiness define,
A little touch of Harry in the night.
– Prologue to Act IV, Shakespeare’s Henry V


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THE SEQUEL, 1988: Fifteen years after the sessions, this set of previously unheard tracks was quietly released in Europe. A Touch More Schmilsson In The Night was actually stitched together with six (then) unreleased outtakes, four alternate takes, two tracks from 1977’s Knnillssonn… and a revised cover that paid homage to Sinatra’s In The Wee Small Hours). The remastering is a hair different and the sequencing offers a unique perspective. Amazingly, Gordon Jenkins’ gorgeous arrangements seem to puzzle together regardless of any configuration. The two Knnillsson tracks, “Perfect Day” and “All I Think About Is You,” are among Harry’s strongest ballads from the late 1970s, so the shoehorning of these into the orchestral setting isn’t totally inappropriate. It was also this CD that first introduced the audio clip of Harry deadpanning, “Chris, could I have some Scotch, some water, some matches and some heroin, please.” Hear the outtake, “It Had To Be You,” with comically altered lyrics.


I’m Always Chasing Rainbows (previously unreleased)
Make Believe (previously unreleased)
You Made Me Love You (I Didn’t Want To Do It) (alternate take)
Trust In Me (previously unreleased)
Lullaby In Ragtime (alternate take)
All I Think About Is You (from Knnillssonn)
Perfect Day (from Knnillssonn)
Always (alternate take)
It’s Only A Paper Moon (previously unreleased)
It Had To Be You (alternate take, alternate lyrics)
Thanks For The Memory (previously unreleased)
Over The Rainbow (previously unreleased)



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THE COMPLETE SET, 1996: Remixed, remastered and, for the first time, including all of the elements from the sessions, As Time Goes By was a smart and considered compilation — important, given the intertwining nature of Gordon Jenkins’ arrangements. Great sequencing (re-sequencing, as outtakes were added), great new artwork, all the songs… you just can’t go wrong here. Of course, it’s not actually “complete,” as the four alternate versions from A Touch More are not included. But that’s a good thing. Song duplication spoiled the flow from start to finish on later re-issues of A Little Touch, which have ranged in length from 19 to 22 tracks.


Intro
Lazy Moon
For Me And My Gal
It Had To Be You
Always
Makin’ Whoopee!
You Made Me Love You (I Didn’t Want To Do It)
Lullaby In Ragtime
I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now
What’ll I Do
Nevertheless (I’m In Love With You)
This Is All I Ask
I’m Always Chasing Rainbows
Make Believe
Trust In Me
It’s Only A Paper Moon
Thanks For The Memory
Over The Rainbow
As Time Goes By


THE REISSUE, 2002: The 2002 Japanese reissue actually is a complete version of the A Little Touch Of Schmilsson In The Night sessions, as it includes the four alternate takes from A Touch More. The sound is superior, but the four alternates here are not added to the end of the “official” running order like bonus tracks (neither are the former “outtakes”). Instead, they are woven into the mix, so that you’ll hear four tunes twice before you hear the climax of the album.


Lazy Moon
For Me And My Gal
It Had To Be You
Always
Makin’ Whoopee!
You Made Me Love You (I Didn’t Want To Do It)
Lullaby In Ragtime
I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now
What’ll I Do
Nevertheless (I’m In Love With You)
This Is All I Ask
As Time Goes By
I’m Always Chasing Rainbows
Make Believe
You Made Me Love You (I Didn’t Want To Do It) (Alternate Take)
Trust In Me
Lullaby In Ragtime (Alternate Take)
Always (Alternate Take)
It’s Only A Paper Moon
It Had To Be You (Alternate Take)
Thanks For The Memory
Over The Rainbow

littletouch_inside

THE ORIGINAL IDEA: Harry’s handwritten notes, outlining his original concept for A Little Touch Of Schmilsson In The Night, tentatively entitled Always. As you can see, Harry had first envisioned a completely different array of music, including “Auld Lang Syne,” “The Days Of Wine And Roses,” “Let’s Not Be Beastly To The Germans” and “Hey Jude,” among others. According to this excerpt from producer Derek Taylor’s book, 50 Years Adrift In An Open-Necked Shirt, arranger Gordon Jenkins rightfully objected to “Hey Jude” as being “too new.” Note Harry’s references to Sgt. Pepper’s, suggesting possibly that he may have envisioned this as an interconnected concept album from the start. Thanks to Ian Drummond for sharing this curio with us.

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THE JUKEBOX EP: Featuring six songs from A Little Touch Of Schmilsson In The Night: “Makin’ Whoopee,” “Nevertheless (I’m In Love With You),” “You Made Me Love You,” “I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now,” “For Me And My Gal” and “It Had To Be You.”

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Track listing:
Lazy Moon
For Me and My Gal
It Had to Be You
Always
Makin’ Whoopee
You Made Me Love You
Lullaby in Ragtime
I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now
What’ll I Do?
Nevertheless (I’m in Love with You)
This Is All I Ask
As Time Goes By


Additional Images:

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