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Nilsson Sings Newman

Lovely, sweet, nasty and bitter songs

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Great songwriter meets great singer

  • Sep 25, 2009
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I have loved the songs of Randy Newman since I first heard Judy Collins sing I THINK IT'S GOING TO RAIN TODAY back in the 60s.  A lovely melody and such bitter bitter lyrics, and then Judy's lovely voice.  I sought out all of the Randy Newman stuff I could find and quickly discovered that Randy was a terrible singer.  He had an ever more unpleasant voice than Bob Dylan, and that's saying something.  Enter Harry Nilsson.  Nilsson was also a songwriter, although not of the stature that Randy was.  Nilsson wrote WITHOUT YOU and THE COCONUT SONG as well as other nearly unforgetable songs.  However, Nilsson could sing.  Oh my could he sing.  A warm and wonderfully sweet tenor voice which also could span over 4 octaves and still remain unstrained.  In other words, Nilsson and Newman were a beautiful male voice and a wonderful songwriter working together.

If you love hard rock, heavy metal or screaming, you will hate this CD.  Most of this CD is simply beautiful melodies, odd bitter lyrics and some great harmony.  Except for one song (Vine Street), it's only Newman on piano and other keyboards and Nilsson singing.  Oh yes, there are many many overdubs.  Nilsson had such range that when he overdubbed, he sounded like the Morman Tabernacle Choir all by himself.  Newman also over dubs piano, harpsichord and electronic keyboards as well.  Still, the overall feeling is still very intimate.

Then, the songs.  YOU AND ME BABE is so typical of Newman.  It's basically the life story of a "perfect" romantic relationship, from the time he and she meet until they retire until 'we pass away".  I especially love the middle verse:

We'll have a kid/or maybe we'll rent one
He's got to be straight/we don't want no bent one
He'll drink his baby brew/from a big brass cup
Someday maybe president/if things loosen up

COWBOY is a very bitter tirade against cities replacing nature.  The chorus is:

Cowboy, Cowboy/can't run, can't hide
It's too late to fight now/I'm too tired to try

CAROLINE reminds me so much of the late 1800s barbershop sound.  I'LL BE HOME is a very sweet love song, rather unusual for Newman but very moving. 

I hope you get the idea that there are really no bad songs on this CD.  It's just that there are some that are so bitter, or so lovely, that they really stand out.

There are two versions available of this CD.  One is a direct copy of the original vinyl and the other has added tracks: one new track (Snow) and four alternate takes.  I love the alternate takes because Nilsson actually changes the melody between takes and gives the alternates a new feel.

Supposedly, Newman really didn't like all the overdubbing, and perhaps it does seem a bit much sometimes, but overdubbing was Nilsson's stock and trade.  Listen, especially, to Nilsson's major hit WITHOUT YOU.  Lots and lots of overdubbing and still a very effective song.  The CD was never a major seller, but it was critically successful and did win an award.

In short, this is a wonderful CD if you love either Randy Newman's songwriting or Harry Nilsson's singing.  Personally, I love both.  I highly recommend this CD.

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October 06, 2009
Nilsson only had one big top 40 radio hit but that certainly gave a big indication of what he was capable of doing.
September 25, 2009
Sounds like a terrific disc. Maybe I'll see if they have this at my local library so I can sample it. Nilsson also loved doing standards. I have heard some of these and they are excellent as well. Thanks for the heads up. This one sounds like something I might be able to get into.
September 25, 2009
Thanks, Drifter. I am dating myself, but I first found this one on 8 Track. I wore out two 8 tracks and two cassettes before I finally found it on CD. If you even barely like Nilsson you will LOVE this CD. Great songs well performed.
September 25, 2009
Seems like we are both well worn!
September 25, 2009
Thanks for putting that politely. Most people just say that I'm old.
About the reviewer
John O'Connor ()
I am retired military. I served 6 years of Navy, nearly 6 years of Air Force, and just over 22 years of Air National Guard. I also was a full time technician for the Air Guard for just over 21 years. … more
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Studio album by Harry Nilsson Released 1970 Recorded ??? Genre Pop Length 25:17 Label RCA Victor Producer Harry Nilss

Nilsson Sings Newman is an album by Harry Nilsson, of songs by Randy Newman and featuring Newman himself on piano. While not a huge commercial success, and Newman disappointed by aspects of the production, the album was critically praised, won a 1970 Record of the Year award from Stereo Review magazine, and remains a fan favorite. The automobile shown on the album is a 1938 Graham-Paige sedan.

[edit] Track listing

All music and lyrics by Randy Newman

  1. "Vine St." – 2:50
  2. "Love Story" – 3:39
  3. "Yellow Man" – 2:16
  4. "Caroline" – 2:05
  5. "Cowboy" – 2:48
  6. "The Beehive State" – 2:04
  7. "I'll Be Home" – 2:35
  8. "Living Without You" – 2:35
  9. "Dayton, Ohio 1903" – 1:50
  10. "So Long, Dad" – 2:35
    BMG's 2000 CD re-issue contains the following bonus tracks:
  11. "Snow" - 2:29
  12. "Love Story" - 3:24
  13. "Cowboy" - 2:22
  14. "I'll Be Home" - 2:41
  15. "Living Without You" - 2:40


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