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A Little Touch of Schmilsson In the Night

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Following the wooly rock ‘n’ roll exorcism of Son of Schmilsson, and the confusion that followed it, Harry Nilsson did the most uncool thing possible: he hired an arranger from the ‘40s and put out an album of pre-World War II-era standards. As a student of songcraft Nilsson was already well-versed in the works of Irving Berlin, Gus Kahn and Howard Arlen, but rather than roll out a new round of stodgy renditions, he invested in these performances a singular tone, and therefore they sound modern rather than antique. Nilsson had long been fond of a particular swaying, woozy rhythm, and that imprint is all over this album, from “Always” to “It Had To Be You” to “What’ll I Do.” In Nilsson’s hands these aren’t so much songs as they are memories of songs. Gordon Jenkins’ arrangements are as detailed and finely woven as an embroidered frock, and producer Derek Taylor captures every sound in microscopic detail. The heart of the album belongs to Nilsson’s vocals. Through the verses of several long-dead lyricists he manages to express himself with withering, aching clarity.


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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