Saturday, February 19, 2011

Michael Fremer Album Review

A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night

Harry Nilsson

RCA/Audio Fidelity AFZLP 083
Produced by: Derek Taylor
Engineered by: Phillip McDonald
Mixed by: Phillip McDonald
Mastered by: Kevin Gray at AcousTech



Audio Fidelity Reissues Nilsson's "Standards" Album
by Michael Fremer
February 01, 2011

The iconoclastic singer Harry Nilsson lived hard and mostly sang softly. His Los Angeles debauchery with his pal John Lennon and the resulting outcast behavior including being tossed with Lennon from The Troubadour for heckling The Smothers Brothers is well known, as are many of the songs he wrote, including "One" covered by Three Dog Night and "Cuddly Toy" covered by The Monkees.

Nilsson scored hits with songs written by others like Fred Neil's "Everybody's Talkin'" that was key to the film "Midnight Cowboy," and Badfinger's "Without You" written by Pete Ham and Tom Evans. He also scored with novelty hits he wrote "Coconut" and "Jump Into the Fire."

Nilsson was friends with all of The Beatles and more importantly, they respected his musical abilities, particularly his singing. Beatles publicist Derek Taylor was a champion and thus his producer credit on this album recorded in a week long session at CTS Studio in Wembley, London late winter/early spring of 1973.

At the time Nilsson went in to record this album he'd had considerable success with 1971's Nilsson Schmilsson followed quickly by the more blunt forced Son of Schmilsson, which infamously contained the "hit" single "You're Breaking My Heart (you're tearing it apart so fuck you)." Actually I used to play on my late night FM radio show in Boston an edited version. The songs was a rocker featuring George Harrison (billed as "George Harrysong"), Peter Frampton, Klaus Voorman, Jim Price and Bobby Keys.

While that album didn't do as well, it did well enough. So following it up with this album of really old standards backed by a thirty nine piece orchestra lushly arranged by the great Gordon Jenkins was an odd choice to say the least—unless you were Harry Nilsson! A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night was not a commercial success but it surely was an artistic success and all these years later both showcases Nilsson's superb pipes and interpretive abilities and presages where Rod Stewart would later take his career, not because he wanted to as much as because it was the logical place for it to go. Nilsson paid the price for his move, Rod was paid a handsome price for his! Such is life.

The tunes include "For Me and My Gal," "It Had to Be You" (Woody Allen used it effectively in "Annie Hall"), Irving Berlin's "Always," "You Made Me Love You," "What'll I Do," and even an obscure "Lazy Moon" supposedly never recorded but sung by comedian Oliver Hardy in a 1930s movie. The set ends with "As Time Goes By."

The arrangements are sublime and despite Nilsson's cutting up on his previous release and grossing out some of his growing fan base, he takes everything here seriously and the results are soothing and stunning, aided by a superb orchestra and recording. Nilsson's soaring vocals, his crisp phrasing and well controlled vibrato contribute to a stellar performance that's a fitting testament to his talent.

Nilsson's later life was filled with tragedy: his flat in London was the scene of two famous deaths: that of "Mama" Cass Eliot in the midst of her triumphant Palladium solo stand and later Keith Moon's of an overdose of an anti-alcohol prescription medication.

A few years later his dear friend John Lennon was shot and at the beginning of the 1990s he found himself almost penniless when it was discovered that his "financial advisor" had embezzled virtually all of his royalties. Since he never toured, preferring the studio, he never made the kind of money touring provided. He died of heart failure at the age of 52 in 1994.

Take into account a short but adventurous life well-lived as you listen to this nicely produced reissue mastered by Kevin Gray. The original was pressed on RCA's thin Dynaflex vinyl, yet the copy I have at least is remarkably quiet and smooth-sounding.

This reissue is not as warm, nor does it possess the original's stage depth, but it is more dynamic and detailed and the bottom end is more extended. The slight edge to Nilsson's voice and to the massed strings could be a result of more honest mastering that gives you what's on the recording, even if that means delivering the microphones' rising high frequency response.

Thanks to Michael over at  for the exclusive rights to reprint this material. Stop by for more reviews and features.

©2010 & Michael Fremer - - All rights reserved

Reprinted by Permission

Here is one of my favorite Nilsson cuts, he was truly a genious!

Vinyl Record News & Notes, Did You Know? has this interesting piece of music trivia:

Smashing Pumpkins' New Bassist Was 'Siamese Dream' Cover Kid

by Sam Parker

It's a story that somehow feels like it belongs on an awful daytime chat show -- 'My New Bandmate Was My Album Artwork Child' -- yet here apparently that's just what's happened to one of the grunge era's biggest bands.

Read the rest at


and even more great news from our friends at

The Smithereens Talk Facebook, Vinyl and Playing in Fans' Living Rooms

by Ronnie Koenig

With recognizable hits like 'Blood and Roses,' 'A Girl Like You,' and 'Too Much Passion,' the Smithereens are one of those bands whose records blasted from college dorms during the '80s.

And thanks to their 1960s power-pop-influenced tunes, the New Jersey rockers -- founded by singer-songwriter Pat DiNizio, guitarist Jim Babjak, drummer Dennis Diken and bassist Mike Mesaros -- haven't lost their appeal.

Read the rest of the interview at


Arcade Fire Announce Entire U.S. Spring Tour

Arcade Fire have just confirmed what they claim will be all the remaining dates of their upcoming U.S. tour. Special guest openers for the run will vary by city and include Local Natives, the National, Okkervil River and Explosions in the Sky, respectively.

For the rest of the story and tour dates visit


great to see our friends in the UK celebrate Record Store day!

EMI To Release DEEP PURPLE Retro Single To Celebrate U.K.'s 'Record Store Day'

According to the Darker Than Blue web site, EMI will celebrate the U.K.'s "Record Store Day" in April by releasing a retro DEEP PURPLE single containing "Hush" — recorded for Chris Grant's "Tasty Pop Sundae" in early 1969 — and "Speed King", recorded for Stuart Henry's "Noise At Nine" in October that same year. Both are from the upcoming "BBC Sessions" project. The picture sleeve is based on the original Harvest art and will be unveiled next week. The single will only be distributed to the participating indie shops in the U.K. and the pressing run is low at around 1400 copies.


Shawn over at  has his take on some great new metal coming, and I couldn't agree with him more!

Original: Most Anticipated Metal Albums Of 2011

With the recent release of Nola sludge legends Crowbar's much anticipated new album, Sever The Wicked Hand, I started to think about what other huge albums 2011 has to offer the metalheads among us. With new albums from genre heavyweights like Atheist, Fear Factory, and Agalloch turning last year into a seriously stellar year for metal, 2010 is going to be hard to top, but here are 10 (+2) albums that I think will give 2011 more than just a fighting chance.

Children Of Bodom – Relentless Reckless Forever (March 8)

With their unique brand of power metal infused melodic death metal, Children Of Bodom has quickly become one of the biggest names in extreme metal........

Read the rest of Shawn's list at

------------------------------ has this news, I hope to catch Costello in Chicago in May:

Elvis Costello Announces Spinning Wheel Tour

In May, Elvis Costello and his band the Imposters will head out on "The Revolver Tour", where they'll pick their set list via spinning wheel. Members of the audience will spin the Spectacular Spinning Songbook wheel, which will feature 40 songs, "including hits, rarities, and covers," according to a press release. When the wheel lands on a song, Costello and his band will play it, and the audience member who spun the wheel will be invited to dance in an onstage go-go cage or to sit and be served refreshments in an onstage lounge. (Costello pulled this trick before, on a 1986 tour.)

Get the rest of the story and the tour dates at


and this from the UK caught my eye:


MIKE Darby is a man on a mission. An unusual one, perhaps, for a 50-something who declares himself to be a "white, middle-class boy from Frampton Cotterell".

It comes to fruition on Monday with the release of a very special album compilation of homegrown Bristol reggae music.

The Bristol Reggae Explosion covers the years from 1978 until 1983 when bands playing the hypnotically rhythmic music of Jamaica took centre stage night after night at gigs in the city and further afield.

Mark runs Bristol Archive Records, a label which, basically, sets out to celebrate the hits of Bristol and its music scene from 1977 onwards.

"It's designed to remember and acknowledge the people, the bands, the faces, players, clubs, and the era, so it never gets forgotten, because it is an integral part of social history," he explains.

● Bristol Reggae Explosion 1978-1983 is released on Monday, February 21, in CD and limited edition vinyl. It's available from, Rise Records, Clifton, or Plastic Wax, Gloucester Road.

Read the rest at


and a quick look at what's selling at Grimey's, the world famous record store:

Grimey’s Top 10 Vinyl Best Sellers 02/07-02/13/2011

Spin magazine has ranked Grimey’s as one of the top indie record shops in the nation, calling it “A stalwart of indie cool in a town that’s known for a very different kind of music scene.”

1. Jeff The Brotherhood / Best Coast – split 7″

2. The Civil Wars – Barton Hollow

3. Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More

4. PUJOL – How High 7″

5. Drew Holcomb – Chasing Someday

6. Yann Tiersen – Dust Lane

7. The Decemberists – The King Is Dead

8. Akron/Family – A/F II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT

9. Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean

10. Destroyer – Kaputt


Did You Know?

more stuff everybody should know...

A glorious event for all of us, in 1878, Thomas Edison was granted the patent for the phonograph.

Crocodiles swallow stones to help them dive deeper

Due to gravitational effects, you weigh slightly less when the moon is directly overhead.

February 1865 is the only month in recorded history not to have a full moon.

Gerald Ford pardoned Robert E. Lee posthumously of all crimes of treason.

If a surgeon in Ancient Egypt lost a patient while performing an operation, his hands were cut off.

In Casablanca, Humphrey Bogart never said "Play it again, Sam." Sherlock Holmes never said "Elementary, my dear Watson." Captain Kirk never said "Beam me up, Scotty," but he did say, "Beam me up, Mr. Scott."

It is believed that Shakespeare was 46 around the time that the King James Version of the Bible was written. In Psalms 46, the 46th word from the first word is shake and the 46th word from the last word is spear.

It is illegal to be a prostitute in Siena, Italy, if your name is Mary.

Lady Astor once told Winston Churchill 'if you were my husband, I would poison your coffee'. His reply ' if you were my wife, I would drink it!'

and in music history today:

In 1964, a British company shipped a half ton of Beatle wigs to the US. An American reporter later asked John Lennon, "How do you feel about teenagers imitating you with Beatle wigs?" John replied "They're not imitating us because we don't wear Beatle wigs."

In 1966, Lou Christie enjoyed his only US number one record with "Lightnin' Strikes," a song that his record company, MGM, hated so much, they initially refused to release. Label head Lenny Shear actually threw the tape in the wastebasket and said it was a piece of crap. After Christie's management team promoted the record themselves, it started to gain attention and three months later, Billboard magazine featured a picture of Shear presenting Christie with a Gold record.

In 1972, Paul McCartney released "Give Ireland Back to the Irish", his commentary about the Britain-Ireland conflict. The song was immediately banned by the BBC, but the notoriety the song received from the banning only increased its popularity and the record soared into the UK Top 20.

Although he had written songs that were recorded by The Turtles, Rick Nelson, Blood Sweat and Tears, Lulu, The Monkees and Three Dog Night, Harry Nilsson had his only US number one hit in 1972 with "Without You," a tune written by Pete Ham and Tom Evans of Badfinger.

In 1974, KISS made their TV debut on "Don Kirshner's Rock Concert."

In 1980, Bon Scott, vocalist for AC/DC, died of alcohol poisoning at the age of 33. What a shame.....

In 1981, Judge Richard Owen of New York State Supreme Court ruled that George Harrison 'subconsciously plagiarized' The Chiffons song "He's So Fine" in his hit "My Sweet Lord." Harrison was ordered to pay ABKCO Music $587,000.

In 1982, Ozzy Osbourne was arrested in San Antonio, Texas for urinating on a statue in front of the Alamo. Osbourne was wearing a dress at the time of his arrest. After he made bail, the Black Sabbath singer skipped town. Where was Sharon when he needed her?

In 1997, a very smart New York judge dismissed a $7 million lawsuit filed against Motley Crue for hearing loss of a fan that was suffered at one of their concerts. Duh!

Tragically, in 2003, 99 people were killed in a fire at the West Warwick, RI nightclub The Station. Sparks from a pyrotechnics display by Great White caused the fire. The group's guitarist, Ty Longley, was one of the victims.

Birthday wishes to Toni Iommi from Black Sabbath who turns 63 today.