Harry Nilsson

At the BBC

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Though Harry Nilsson is sort of famous for virtually never playing live, it's still not widely known that he actually did give some sort-of-live performances for television and radio. This bootleg has no less than 26 tracks he did for BBC TV and radio in the late '60s and early '70s. Taken together they slake the thirst of rabid Nilsson fans looking for different (or at least somewhat different) versions of his songs, even if they're not quite different enough to be revelatory. The first three songs ("1941," and "Together," "Good Old Desk") are from a late-'60s radio session for the Top Gear program, with very good sound. The next eight, from the early-'70s BBC television special The Music of Nilsson, are the highlights of the disc, as they not only have excellent studio-quality sound, but are somewhat like hearing Nilsson unplugged, since he accompanies his singing with nothing more than his own piano and acoustic guitar. Some of his best songs are included in that eight-song set, among them "Without Her," "Coconut," "1941," "Gotta Get Up," and "One." The last 15 tracks are from another BBC television special, A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night, and are somewhat less interesting, as the slightly hissy fidelity's not as good, though it's still listenable and fine by bootleg standards. Nilsson sang most of his material from the A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night album with an orchestra on this TV program, adding a couple of songs ("I'm Always Chasing Rainbows" and "Over the Rainbow") not on the album. Not every Nilsson fan likes that LP of orchestral standards as much as his more celebrated pop/rock stuff (though some like the album very much), so it's not as guaranteed to hit the spot as the earlier half of the disc, though it's played and sung well. Should the A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night material be presented in better sound, however, the BBC performances on this compilation would certainly make a worthwhile official release.