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Album Review

Nilsson started going off the tracks at Pussy Cats, but his descent into sheer, unhinged lunacy became apparent with 1976's Sandman, his second album recorded in 1975. It was easy to view Duit on Mon Dei as transitory, but this proves that it was a transition to craziness and cultdom. At this point, he was abandoned by Lennon, left alone in L.A. and Nilsson just didn't care. He continued to roam, rampage, and record, ensconcing himself in his own world of in-jokes, Tin Pan Alley melodies, soft rock, clever wit, and sheer drunkenness. Check the cover: on the front, he has a bottle of wine between his legs, on the back he's overcome by a sand crab. On the album itself, he repudiates rock & roll, realizes "Pretty Soon There'll Be Nothing Left for Everybody," has a drunken conversation with himself (so extreme that he's thrown out of the bar), explains why he did not go to work today, writes an ode to flying saucers, offers cheekily literal instructions on how to write a song and then covers a song from the last album. Melodically, he's still strong, but the gleeful craziness overwhelms the pretty music and accessible production, resulting in an album that makes Son of Schmilsson and Pussy Cats seem normal, which may only signal just how far away from the mainstream Nilsson was at this point. But, in a way, he was still brilliant — these are exceptional recordings, and his warped sense of humor is funnier than its ever been. That's not to say that Sandman is an easy record — you have to not only accept Nilsson's quirks, but embrace them more than his talents to love this album — but if your head is properly calibrated, this is one to treasure. [Originally released in 1976, Sandman was reissued with a bonus track in 2002.]


Born: 15 June 1941 in Brooklyn, NY

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Although he synthesized disparate elements of both rock and pop traditions, singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson was at heart a maverick whose allegiance belonged to neither. His initial series of albums in the late '60s made him a personal favorite of the Beatles, who found a natural affinity with his knack for catchy melodies, witty lyrics, and extraordinary vocal range. Thought of as a songwriter first and a performer second, he became a pop star himself in the late '60s and early '70s with "Everybody's...
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