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.
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?”