You can shake me up or I can break you down: the best of Harry Nilsson

This Beatles acolyte learned the lesson: he imitated their eccentricity because he was a natural eccentric and a natural songsmith, not because he wanted to write Great Songs. For a while they poured out of him; he was the shaggiest, loveliest, and most self-destructive of the seventies singer-songwriters. His was a doomed project, for meshing Nelson Riddle’s orchestral pop and the American Songbook tradition it invokes with a Vietnam generation’s fetish for revelation sounded impossible then, and it hasn’t worn well. But he and Carole King should have composed more soundtracks for children’s TV — imagine sequels to “Chicken Soup with Rice” written by the author of “Cuddly Toy”!

And “Spaceman” is more devastating than “Rocket Man” and “Space Oddity,” fools.

1. Spaceman
2. You’re Breakin’ My Heart
3. Jump Into the fire
4. Gotta Get Up
5. Don’t Forget Me
6. One
7. Subterranean Homesick Blues
8. Me and My Arrow
9. All I Think About is You
10. Cuddly toy
11. You Can’t do that
12. Down
13. I’d Rather Be Dead
14. The Puppy Song
15. Everybody’s Talkin’
16. Without You
17. Salmon Falls
18. 1941
19. Good Old Desk
20. Without Her

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