Uncle E’s Top 100 Albums: #47, Nilsson Schmilsson
Billy Joel would have given his right nut (and probably a majority of his left, too) to write a song as brilliantly simple as Gotta Get Up, the song that kicks off the impossibly perfect Nilsson Schmilsson. It’s perfect in every way, and to prove it, lets take a look at the cover. Apparently the photographer hired for the shoot showed up a Nilsson’s house one morning and was greeted by Harry at the front door looking exactly like he does on the cover. He said something like “Nice of you to dress up, Harry. OK, let’s take some pictures!” Nilsson thought that was a great idea and went with it. It’s hard to see, but do you notice the hash pipe in his left hand? How about the disheveled beard or the robe? He looks like an early prototype for The Dude, doesn’t he, a full 27 years before The Big Leboski would hit theaters.
Then there’s the music, which is stylistically all over the map, and weird, and catchy as hell. The de-tuned bass that kicks off and drives the majority of the great Jump Into The Fire is just about the coolest sound I have ever heard in my life. It sounds as if the strings are just hanging off the damned thing! Then you have the stoner joke that is Coconut, a subversive ear worm of a song if I ever heard one, the heartfelt ballads Without You (a Badfinger song) and I’ll Never Leave You, in addition to the bar room romp cover of Let The Good Times Roll. There’s the moodiness of the Moonbeam Song and the relaxed Drivin’ Along. Those eight songs are fantastic but really the whole package is worthwhile. This is the very definition of “Undervalued Classic”.
There’s a reason Nilsson was awarded Honorary Beatle status. This album sounds like all 4 rolled into one. It’s an amazing album, and one that took me far too long to discover.