If I had children, I’d play them The Point! or, indeed, most things the Nilsson catalog. Now I need to hear Nilsson Sings Newman pronto.
1. Nilsson Schmilsson (1971)
Sometimes consensus is correct.
2. Aerial Ballet (1968)
With songs unfolding like short monologues in Off Broadway productions Aerial Ballet is where Nilsson finds his unique voice — in every sense. Creating the impression that he’s a man who, like the Antoine Doinel of Stolen Kisses, keeps himself amused also keeps listeners from noticing his loneliness. The love song to a old desk is more deeply felt than his songs directed at women, maybe because to Nilsson people are inanimate objects too, more ways of keeping himself amused.
3. Knnillssonn (1976)
His last coherent collection is laser-sharp. His confident self-production shows what he learned from Lennon, Gordon Jenkins, etc: the strings with which “I Never Thought I’d Get This Lonely” opens, the cracked harmony vocal; the Latin boogie of “Laughin’ Man”; the closer “Perfect Day,” as fragile as Lou Reed’s. In my half-cocked way, I almost put this album first because it’s not the first album neophytes reach for, and if I have any persuasive ability I’d urge readers to start with Knnillssonn, still found in used record bins.
4. Son of Schmilsson (1972)
A listenable mess. Paul Buckmaster transforms “Spaceman” into a wracked epic; it should be as well known as “Without You.” Giddy with malice, “You’re Breakin’ My Heart” has nothing in common with peace-and-love (George Harrison’s slide reminds listeners of his appearance the year before on “How Do You Sleep?,” itself giddy with malice). A French horn plays the mournful figure in “Turn on the Radio.”
5. Pussy Cats (1974)
(In)famous for the debauched sessions, recounted with amazement by producer John Lennon a half decade later, the released album feels like a salvage. The too pretty for words “Don’t Forget Me” shares space with covers of Jimmy Cliff (poignant) and Dylan (given the Plastic Ono Ban treatment) and originals like “Old Forgotten Soldier,” on which Lennon should’ve done his pal a favor and given that rubble of a voice some honey and tea .
6. The Point! (1971)
Even the interludes don’t get cloying.