Tuesday, October 4, 2016
By the end of the ’70s, Harry Nilsson (like his drinkin' bud Alice Cooper) was becoming a sort of swollen-livered Norma Desmond, lost to mainstream tastes that mostly favored sellout soul, corporate rock, and, to a lesser degree, some good post-punk shit.
More, conventional music-critic wisdom (yawn) has long said that Nilsson’s famously blown voice ruined his post-1973 albums. That just ain’t true.
Sure, Nilsson hedonistically trashed for good his buttery tone and soaring range while making ’74’s Pussy Cats with John Lennon, but that record and every one of his non-soundtrack albums, were incredible in some way—even ’76’s wrongly maligned, crooner-gone-mad Sandman (dig the killer “Jesus Christ You’re Tall”!). Each is musically diverse, pregnant with Nilsson’s scathing wit and pathos, and his rasped vocals add an extra layer of implied narrative (if not a darker hue).
Hence, 1980’s Flash Harry. The L.A. sessions for this overlooked Steve Cropper(!)-produced album were rife with Nilsson misadventures and party favors, and, so, there’s lots to love, even beyond the soothing nods to reggae, R&B and pop, and co-writes with Ringo, Lennon and Van Dyke Parks.