Harry Nilsson

Life Line: The Songs of Nilsson 1967-1971

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Harry Nilsson was always a maverick artist, following his own sense of style in the world 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 that tradition, making him, in some ways, an extremely crafty, artful and very postmodern vaudeville act stuck just slightly out of time. This collection has plenty of Harry Nilsson gems, including his own version of "One" (a huge hit for Three Dog Night), the fascinatingly realized "1941," the infectious and cartoon-like "Me and My Arrow," and the delightful "I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City," but it lacks some obvious tracks like his two dance singles "Coconut" and "Jump into the Fire," so it doesn't make the ideal introduction to this unique artist, but there's more than enough here to convince anyone that Nilsson was a one of a kind pop treasure.

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