Harry Nilsson

Everybody's Talkin': The Very Best of Harry Nilsson [Camden]

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Harry Nilsson was always a maverick artist, following his own sense of style down the hallways of pop, turning out carefully crafted -- even baffling -- songs that shared no direct affinity with any other artist of his day, although in some ways he resembled Randy Newman (even recording a marvelous album of Newman covers). Both men drew on American Tin Pan Alley traditions, but while Newman used them to craft his own ironic view of the little cruelties and occasional kindnesses of the human condition, there was a part of Nilsson that always wanted to actually be a part of that tradition, making him, in some ways, a singer stuck out of time, forever wishing on a star. This generous 22-track collection has plenty of Nilsson gems, including his definitive covers of Badfinger's "Without You" and Fred Neil's "Everybody's Talkin'" as well as Nilsson originals "Coconut," "Cuddly Toy" (a key album track for the Monkees), the fascinatingly realized "1941," and the infectious and cartoon-like "Me and My Arrow." That he had hits at all really seems more accidental than by personal design, however, and maybe because of that, Nilsson never ended up being simply a musical commodity. This is a fine collection, but it does lack a few key tracks (most notably, Nilsson's own version of "One," a huge hit for Three Dog Night, and his hit dance single "Jump into the Fire"), although there's plenty here to convince anyone that Nilsson was a truly gifted and one of a kind artist.

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