Harry Nilsson’s mythic stature is still being explored: director John Scheinfeld’s 2010 documentary, Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)? works well as a primer, and Alyn Shipton’s new biography, Nilsson: The Life of a Singer-Songwriter, dives even deeper, but the work displayed on the The RCA Albums Collection remains the most illuminating source of pure Nilsson, in all the man’s frazzled madness and sublime sentimentality. For Van Dyke Parks, it’s a testament to his friend, of whom he remains a great fan.
“I loved the way he would get many musicians together to play together,” Parks muses. “[It recalled] the causality of Elizabethan times, or Harlem. He’d sit all these people together and they would all work beautifully together, to really heighten the suspense, and the risk/benefit. He would step up to a mic with a bar napkin in front of him and slide some lyrics into an extemporized melody. That’s … really … big time. If that doesn’t twist your knickers, nothing will. If that doesn’t twist your knickers, you’re brain-dead. So I got to see that. Isn’t that something?”