George Tipton

Nilsson by Tipton

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With his background as a television soundtrack and jingles arranger, but also possessing a deep knowledge of the history of jazz and popular orchestration, George Tipton was the perfect collaborator for Harry Nilsson in the late '60s, bringing Nilsson's wonderfully skewed sense of pop to life on a series of classic albums that flirted with commercial appeal even as they undermined that appeal with deliberate quirkiness and a wink of the eye. At some point the two had a falling out, but assumedly before that happened, Tipton released this charming set of Nilsson tunes reassembled and reshaped as MOR instrumental fare in 1970. The album works for the same reason that Nilsson's albums work -- that goofy love of what pop music can be when a little intelligence, grace, and joy are applied to it. “Rainmaker” emerges in Tipton’s tribute version as strong, sturdy, and sure, like a bold theme to some sweeping television Western, while the repositioning of “Nobody Cares About the Railroads Anymore" sounds like a vintage 1940s vocal jazz piece. “Think About Your Troubles” is lovely, bouncing, and soothing, sugary but not to a fault. “Without You” keeps its wounded grace even as it emerges as a gentle dance samba. True, these tracks are really just a button away from being elevator music, but somehow they aren't. Tipton saw the musical history and structure that were inherent in Nilsson's songs, and with his own musical background, he knew how to bend them into familiar shapes -- make that ALMOST familiar shapes. Nilsson's odd and joyful melodic signatures always shine through. It’s nice to finally have Nilsson by Tipton with us in the digital world.

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