Thursday, 10 March 2016

"The RCA Albums Collection" by NILSSON (2013 RCA/Legacy 17CD Box Set - Vic Anesini Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"…Echoes Of My Mind…." 

This Box Set contains the album "Nilsson Sings Newman" issued in 1970

Wow! 17CDs containing 14 full albums (Mono and Stereo variants of the first two LPs on CD for the first time), a whopping 66 Previously Unreleased Tracks, an equal amount of other Rarities from now deleted LP and CD compilations, Foreign Language Versions, Exclusive Single Mixes, Radio Spots and a 1968 Live BBC Recordings Session - and all of it remastered to gorgeous new clarity by Tape Supremo VIC ANESINI (Byrds, Simon & Garfunkel, Elvis Presley, Paul Simon, Jayhawks, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Carole King, Janis Joplin etc). There isn’t even enough room to picture all the content on the back cover of the small clamshell box!

You could in truth argue that NILSSON doesn’t actually warrant this kind of lavish treatment – but after ‘hearing’ and seeing this gorgeous little box set – you’ll be rooting for Brooklyn’s Harry Edward instead of poo-pooing his later (and admittedly) patchy output. There’s so much to love and enjoy on here…there really is…

In order to give an idea of the level of thought that’s gone into this all encompassing Retrospective – the first two albums “Pandemonium Shadow Show” and “Aerial Ballet” were issued in both Mono and Stereo and RCA Legacy have included ‘both’ on Discs 1 and 2. But looking at the liner notes carefully you notice that the first slew of RCA singles are listed under the ‘Mono’ entry for each album and ‘not’ the Stereo - because that’s how they were released back in the day – in Mono. Nice touch. In order to do this fab box set proper justice – I’ve provided a full discography. So let’s get to the (many) Nilsson Schmilsson details…

Released July 2013 – “The RCA Albums Collection” on RCA/Legacy 88697915502 (Barcode 886979155022) is a 17CD Box Set and breaks down as follows:

Disc 1 – “Pandemonium Shadow Show” – 66:33 minutes:
1. Ten Little Indians
2. 1941
3. Cuddly Toy
4. She Sang Hymns Out Of Tune
5. You Can’t Do That
6. Sleep Late, My Lady Friend
7. She’s Leaving Home [Side 2]
8. There Will Never Be
9. Without Her
10. Freckles
11. It’s Been So Long
12. River Deep - Mountain High
Tracks 1 to 12 are the STEREO version of his debut album - released October 1967 in the USA on RCA Victor LSP-3874 and March 1968 in the UK on RCA Victor SF 7928.
Tracks 13 to 24 are the MONO version – released October 1967 in the USA on RCA Victor LPM-3874 and March 1968 in the UK on RCA Victor RD 7928

Disc 2 – “Aerial Ballet” – 59:33 minutes:
1. Daddy’s Song
2. Good Old Desk
3. Don’t Leave Me
4. Mr. Richland’s Favorite Song
5. Little Cowboy (1:23 minutes)
6. Together
7. Everybody’s Talkin’ [Side 2]
8. I Said Goodbye To Me
9. Little Cowboy (00:51 minutes)
10. Mr. Tinker
11. One
12. The Wailing Of The Willow
13. Bath
Tracks 1 to 13 are the STEREO version of his 2nd album - released June 1968 in the USA on RCA Victor LSP-3956 and August 1968 in the UK on RCA Victor SF 7973
Tracks 14 to 26 are the MONO version – released July 1968 in the USA on RCA Victor LPM-3956 and August 1968 in the UK on RCA Victor RD 7973
Track 27 is a Bonus – “Aerial Ballet Radio Spot” from July 1968 and is Previously Unreleased

Disc 3 – “Harry” – 49:55 minutes:
1. The Puppy Song
2. Nobody Cares About The Railroads Anymore
3. Open Your Window
4. Mother Nature’s Son
5. Fairfax Rag
6. City Life
7. Mournin’ Glory Story [Side 2]
8. Maybe
9. Marchin’ Down Broadway
10. I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City
11. Rainmaker
12. Mr. Bojangles
13. Simon Smith And The Amazing Dancing Bear
Tracks 1 to 13 are his 3rd album (in Stereo)– released July 1969 in the USA on RCA Victor LSP-4197 and September 1969 in the UK on RCA Victor SF 8046
14. I Will Take You There (Single Mix) – (16 and 14 are the A&B-sides of a USA-only 7” single on RCA Victor 47-9675)
15. Waiting (From the Motion Picture “Jenny”, also a March 1970 USA 7” single on RCA Victor 74-0310, B-side of “I’ll Be Home”)
16. Rainmaker (Single Mix) – see 14
17. Mournin’ Glory Story (Single Mix) (credited as “Mourning Glory”, a November 1968 UK 7” single on RCA Victor RCA 1765, Previously Unreleased on CD)
18. Garbage Can Alley (Alternate Version) – Recorded July 1968, Previously Unreleased
19. Harry Radio Spot – Recorded 1969, Previously Unreleased
20. Voice Of Vista Radio Spots – Recorded June 1969, Previously Unreleased

Disc 4 – “Nilsson Sings Newman” – 60:23 minutes:
1. Vine St.
2. Love Story
3. Yellow Man
4. Caroline
5. Cowboy
6. The Beehive State [Side 2]
7. I’ll Be Home
8. Living Without You
9. Dayton, Ohio 1903
10. So Long Dad
Tracks 1 to 10 are his 4th album – released March 1970 in the USA on RCA Victor LSP-4289 and in the UK on RCA Victor SF 8166
11. Snow
12. Love Story (Alternate Version)
13. Cowboy (Alternate Version)
14. I’ll Be Home (Alternate Version)
15. Living Without You (Alternate Version)
Tracks 11 to 15 first issued on “Nilsson Sings Newman” CD reissue on Buddah 74465 99703 2 in 2000)

Disc 5 – “The Point!” (Animated TV/Film Soundtrack) – 43:25 minutes:
1. Everything’s Got ‘Em
2. The Town
3. Me And My Arrow
4. The Game
5. Poli High
6. The Trial And Banishment
7. Think About Your Troubles
8. The Pointed man (Narration) [Side 2]
9. Life Line
10. The Birds (Narration)
11. P.O.V. Waltz
12. The Clearing In The Woods (Narration)
13. Are You Sleeping
14. Oblio’s Return (Narration)
Tracks 1 to 14 are his 5th album – released January 1971 in the USA on RCA Victor LSPX-1003 and April 1971 in the UK on RCA Victor SF 8166
15. Think About Your Troubles (Alternate Version)
16. Life Line (Alternate Version)
17. Down To The Valley (Alternate Mix)
18. I’ll Never Leave You
19. The Point! Travel Brochure Radio Spot With Bill Martin – recorded March 1971, Previously Unreleased
Tracks 15 to 18 first appeared on “The Point!” CD reissue on BMH Heritage in 2002

Disc 6 – “Aerial Pandemonium Ballet” – 54:23 minutes:
1. Introduction
2. 1941
3. Daddy’s Song
4. Mr. Richland’s Favorite Song
5. Good Old desk
6. Everybody’s Talkin’
7. Bath
8. River Deep – Mountain High [Side 2]
9. Sleep Late, My Lady Friend
10. Don’t Leave Me
11. Without Her
12. Together
13. One
14. Closing
Tracks 1 to 14 are his 6th album (remixes/new versions of tracks from the first two albums) – released June 1971 in the USA on RCA Victor LSP-4543 and in the UK on RCA SF 8326
15. You Can’t Do That (Remix) - first issued on the expanded CD “Aerial Pandemonium Ballet” on Buddah Records in 2000
16. It’s Been So Long (Italian Version) – Previously Unreleased
17. Sleep Late, My Lady Friend (Italian Version) - Previously Unreleased
18. Without Her (Italian Version) - Previously Unreleased
19. Cuddly Toy (Italian Version) (on Italian EP RCA Italiana 45UP 62)
20. You Can’t Do That (Italian Version) - Previously Unreleased
21. BBC Saturday Club Introduction by Brian Matthew - Previously Unreleased
22. 1941 (recorded live 5 Nov 1968 on BBC’s Saturday Club - Previously Unreleased)
23. Mr. Richland’s Favorite Song (recorded live 5 Nov 1968 on BBC’s Saturday Club - Previously Unreleased)
24. Nilsson Talks With Brian Matthews (recorded live 5 Nov 1968 on BBC’s Saturday Club - Previously Unreleased)
25. Together (recorded live 5 Nov 1968 on BBC’s Saturday Club - Previously Unreleased)
26. Good Old Desk (recorded live 5 Nov 1968 on BBC’s Saturday Club
27. Aerial Pandemonium Ballet Radio Spot (recorded July 1971, Previously Unreleased)

Disc 7 – “Nilsson Schmilsson” – 54:45 minutes:
1. Gotta Get Up
2. Driving Along
3. Early In The Morning
4. The Moonbeam Song
5. Down
6. Without You [Side 2]
7. Coconut
8. Let The Good Times Roll
9. Jump Into The Fire
10. I’ll Never Leave You
Tracks 1 to 10 are his 7th album – released November 1971 in the USA on RCA Victor LSP-4515 and January 1972 in the UK on RCA Victor SF 8242
11. Si No Estas Tu (Spanish Version of “Without You”) – 1971 Spanish 7” single on RCA Victor 3-10693
12. How can I Be Sure Of You
13. The Moonbeam Song (Demo)
14. Lamaze
15. Old Forgotten Soldier (Demo)
16. Gotta Get Up (Alternate Version)
17. Nilsson Schmilsson Radio Spots
Tracks 12 to 17 first issued on the “Nilsson Schmilsson” BMG Heritage CD Reissue in 2004

Disc 8 – “Son Of Schmilsson” – 57:32 minutes:
1. Take 54
2. Remember (Christmas)
3. Joy
4. Turn On Your Radio
5. You’re Breakin’ My Heart
6. Spaceman [Side 2]
7. The Lottery Song
8. At My Front Door
9. Ambush
10. I’d Rather Be Dead
11. The Most Beautiful World In The World
Tracks 1 to 11 are his 8th album – released July 1972 in the USA on RCA Victor LSP-4717 and in the UK on RCA Victor SF 8297
12. What’s Your Sign?
13. Take 54 (Alternate)
14. Campo De Encino
15. Daybreak (Single Version) – April 1974 USA 7” single on RCA Victor APBO-0246, A-side)
16. It Had To Be You/I’d Rather Be Dead
17. Son Of Schmilsson Radio Spot – Previously Unreleased
Tracks 12, 13, 14 and 16 first issued on the “Son Of Schmilsson” RCA Legacy CD reissue in 2006

Disc 9 – “A Little Touch Of Schmilsson In The Night” – 54:29 minutes:
1. Lazy Moon
2. For Me And My Gal
3. It Had To Be You
4. Always
5. Makin’ Whoopee!
6. You Made Me Love You
7. Lullaby In Ragtime [Side 2]
8. I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now
9. What’ll I Do
10. Nevertheless (I’m In Love With You)
11. This Is All I Ask
12. As Time Goes By
Tracks 1 to 12 are his 9th album – released June 1973 in the USA on RCA Victor APL1-0097 and July 1973 in the UK on RCA Victor SF 8371
13. I’m Always Chasing Rainbows
14. Make Believe
15. Trust In Me
16. It’s Only A Paper Moon
17. Thanks For The Memory
18. Over The Rainbow
Tracks 13 to 18 first issued on the outtakes LP “A Touch More Schmilsson In The Night” on RCA in 1988

Disc 10 – “Pussy Cats” (with JOHN LENNON) – 62:42 minutes:
1. Many Rivers To Cross
2. Subterranean Homesick Blues
3. Don’t Forget Me
4. All My Life
5. Old Forgotten Soldier
6. Save The Last Dance For Me [Side 2]
7. Munch Mungo/Mt. Elga
8. Loop De Loop
9. Black Sails
10. Rock Around The Clock
Tracks 1 to 10 are his 11th album co-credited to NILSSON and JOHN LENNON – released August 1974 in the USA on RCA Victor CPL1-0570 and September 1974 in the UK on the same catalogue number. Note the album that preceded this was a compilation set called “Son Of Dracula” and was on Rapple Records – part of the Beatles Apple label – and isn’t included in this set
11. Down By The Sea
12. The Flying Saucer Song
13. Turn Out The Light
14. Save The Last Dance For Me (Alternate) – tracks 11 to 14 first issued on “Pussy Cats” CD on Buddah Records in 1999
15. Don’t Forget Me (Demo – Previously Unreleased
16. Black Sails (Demo – Previously Unreleased)
17. Pussy Cats Radio Spots with Eddie Lawrence – Previously Unreleased

Disc 11 – “Duit On Mon Dei” – 36:39 minutes:
1. Jesus Christ You’re Tall
2. It’s A Jungle Out There
3. Down By The Sea
4. Kojak Columbo
5. Easier For Me
6. Turn Out The Light
7. Salmon Falls [Side 2]
8. Puget Sound
9. What’s Your Sign?
10. Home
11. Good For God
Tracks 1 to 11 are his 12th album – released March 1975 in the USA on RCA Victor APL1-0817 and in the UK on RCA Victor RS 1008
12. Goin’ Down (Alternate) – Previously Unreleased

Disc 12 – “Sandman” – 39:47 minutes:
1. I’ll Take A Tango
2. Something True
3. Pretty Soon There’ll Be Nothing Left For Everybody
4. The Ivy Covered Walls
5. Here’s Why I Did Not Go To Work Today
6. The Flying Saucer Song [Side 2]
7. How To Write A Song
8. Jesus Christ You’re Tall
9. Will She Miss Me?
Tracks 1 to 9 are his 13th album – released January 1976 in the USA on RCA Victor APL1-1031; Tracks 1, 3, 5, 6, 7 and 8 arranged by THE BAND
10. A Tree Out In The Yard (Central Park) – Previously Unreleased

Disc 13 – “…That’s The Way It Is” – 33:41 minutes:
1. That is All
2. Just One Look/Baby I’m Yours
3. Moonshine Bandit
4. I Need You
5. A Thousand Miles Away
6. Sail Away [Side 2]
7. She Sits Down On Me
8. Daylight Has Caught Me
9. Zombie Jamboree (Back To Back)
10. That Is All
Tracks 1 to 10 are his 14th album – released July 1976 on RCA Victor APL1-1119 and in the UK on RCA Victor RS 1062
11. …That’s The Way It Is Radio Spot – Recorded 197, Previously Unreleased

Disc 14 – “Knnillssonn” – 60:03 minutes:
1. All I Think About Is You
2. I Never Thought I’d Get This Lonely
3. Who Done It?
4. Lean On Me
5. Goin’ Down
6. Old Bones [Side 2]
7. Sweet Surrender
8. Blanket For A Sail
9. Laughin’ Man
10. Perfect Day
Tracks 1 to 10 are his 15th album – released July 1977 in the USA on RCA Victor AFL1-2276 and in the UK on RCA PL 12276
11. Ain’t It Kinda Wonderful (first issued on “The World’s Greatest Love – Original Soundtrack” LP in 1978 on RCA Red Seal ABL1-2709)
12. Sweet Lorraine (with DR. JOHN, Previously Unreleased)
13. Shuffle Off The Buffalo – Previously Unreleased
14. Ballin’ The Jack (with DR. JOHN, Previously Unreleased)
15. All I Think About Is You (Demo) – Previously Unreleased
16. Knnillssonn Radio Spot – Previously Unreleased

Disc 15 – “Nilsson Sessions 1967-1968” – 45:50 minutes:
1. 1941 (Demo – Previously Unreleased)
2. World (Demo – Previously Unreleased)
3. Signs (Demo – Previously Unreleased)
4. Cuddly Toy (Demo – Previously Unreleased)
5. This Could Be The Might (Demo – first issued on “Perfect Day” Promo CD compilation in 2006)
6. As I Wander Lonely (first issued on “Personal Best” CD anthology in 1995)
7. The Family – Previously Unreleased
8. Miss Butter’s Lament (as per 6)
9. Mr. Tinker (Alternate Version – Previously Unreleased)
10. Leggenda (1968 Italian RCA single on N 1658)
11. Sister Marie (Previously Unreleased Stereo Mix)
12. She Wandered Through The Garden Fence – Previously Unreleased
13. One (Alternate Version – Previously Unreleased)
14. I Said Goodbye To Me (Alternate Version – Previously Unreleased)
15. Searchin’ (Lieber/Stoller cover – Previously Unreleased)
16. She’s Just Laughing At Me – Previously Unreleased
17. Together (Alternate Version – Previously Unreleased)
18. Bath (Alternate Version – Previously Unreleased)

Disc 16 – “Nilsson Sessions 1968-1971” – 57:27 minutes:
1. You Are Here – Previously Unreleased
2. The Cast And Crew
3. Garbage Can Ballet
4. I Will Take You There (tracks 2, 3 and 4 from the album “Skidoo – Original Soundtrack”, 1968 LP on RCA LSO-1152)
5. Girlfriend (first issued on “Personal Best” CD anthology in 1995)
6. Wasting My Time (Alternate Mix – Previously Unreleased)
7. Rainmaker (Alternate Version – Previously Unreleased)
8. Open Your Window (Alternate Take – Previously Unreleased)
9. Postcard – Previously Unreleased
10. Think About Your Troubles (Alternate Version – Previously Unreleased)
11. Marry Me A Little – Previously Unreleased
12. Ballin' The Jack – Previously Unreleased
13. Gotta Get Up (Demo – Previously Unreleased)
14. Down To The Valley (Single Mix) – non-album version released May 1970 in the USA on RCA Victor 74-0362, A
15. Buy My Album – B-side to 14
16. Joy (Alternate Version) – first issued on the expanded CD to “Aerial Pandemonium Ballet” on RCA in 2000
17. Blackbird (Beatles cover version – Previously Unreleased)
18. Paradise – Previously Unreleased
19. Lucille (Little Richard cover version – Previously Unreleased)
20. Early In The Morning (Alternate Version) (as per 16)

Disc 17 – “Nilsson Sessions 1971-1974” – 53:05 minutes:
1. Walk Right Back - first issued on the expanded CD “Aerial Pandemonium Ballet” on Buddah Records in 2000
2. Jump Into The Fire (Alternate Version – Previously Unreleased)
3. Isolation – (John Lennon song - first issued on the expanded CD “Aerial Pandemonium Ballet” on Buddah Records in 2000)
4. Without You (Demo)
5. Driving Along (Demo)
6. Gotta Get Up (Demo)
7. Coconut (Demo)
8. Old Forgotten Soldier (Alternate Demo)
9. Down (Demo)
10. The Moonbeam Song (Alternate Demo) – tracks 4 to 10 first issued on the expanded “Nilsson Schmilsson” CD on RCA Camden in 2000
11. Jump Into The Fire (Single version) – released March 1972 in the USA on RCA Victor 74-0673, A-side
12. Per Chi (Italian Version of “Without You”) – Italian single on RCA Victor 74-0673
13. Joy (Guitar Demo)
14. Joy (Piano Demo)  - tracks 13 and 14 first issued on “Son Of Schmilsson” RCA Camden CD reissue in 2000
15. You Made Me Love You (I Didn’t Want To Do It) (Alternate Version)
16. Lullaby In Ragtime (Alternate Version)
17. Always (Alternate Version)
18. It Had To Be You (Alternate Version) – tracks 15 to 18 were first issued on “A Touch More Schmilsson In The Night” RCA LP in 1988
19. I Want You To Sit On My Face – Previously Unreleased
20. A Souvenir – Also Sprach Schmilsson Schmixon – Previously Unreleased

Put together by reissue champs ROB SANTOS and ANDREW SANDOVAL (have handled The Band and The Kinks to name but a few) - the chunky 48-page booklet is a bit of an informational brute – jammed full of endless details, photos, rare picture sleeves and a brief album-by-album breakdown of Nilsson on RCA by Sandoval. Whenever an album was a gatefold sleeve in the USA – the 5” card Repro Sleeves ape that and are very clearly rendered (they don’t have inners or posters – but most of that info is in the booklet anyway). But the best news is most definitely the SOUND – properly fab remasters by VIC ANESINI who has received unanimous praise for his handling of many prestigious catalogues. When you hear for instance the Stereo take of “One”, “Maybe” or “Coconut” – the audio is beautiful. Move onto the smoochy early Seventies LPs with full orchestras and your HI Fi room is full of warmth and musical quality.

Nilsson’s career feels like a tale of two halves – up to “A Little Touch Of Schmilsson In The Night” in 1973 – the albums are solidly entertaining – even brilliant. But the second half of the Seventies is hard to stomach – patchy tunes, too many ill-fitting cover versions and whimsy that stopped being fun years back (drugs and parties).
The audio punch of “Pandemonium Shadow Show” and “Aerial Ballet” is shocking – even now. Stuff like “Without Her” and “1941” are both lyrically and musically brilliant. Again that lovely delicacy comes into play with “Don’t Leave Me” and the truly classis “Midnight Cowboy” finisher “Everybody’s Talkin”’. I still can’t hear it without thinking about Rizzo on the bus into Miami at the end of “Midnight Cowboy” – a cover of a Fred Neil gem – it’s probably my all time favourite song (lyrics above).

“Harry” feels like the album he was trying to get on Disc 1 and 2. And even though “I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City” is a near identikit of “Everybody’s Talkin’” style – its still very much Nilsson song. And while he’d dabbled with Beatles covers “You Don’t Have To” and “She’s Leaving Home” on those records – his cover of “Mother’s Natures Son” on “Harry” is truly gorgeous – one of the great unsung heroes of his albums. His interest in Randy Newman’s already brilliant songwriting surfaced on “Harry” when he covered “Simon Smith And The Amazing Dancing Bear” (the last track) - so the whole album “Nilsson Sings Newman” doesn’t come as a surprise - but it is a joy. Because most of Newman’s songs were virtual unknowns at the time – the whole record feels like a really great ‘Nilsson’ album rather than the other way round. Badfinger’s “Without You” made him a superstar and to this day – the song has a power not to be messed with. I love everything about the standards album too – genius choices – and if you’ve not heard it in remastered CD form – then you’re in for a treat.

The three compilations of Rarities use outtake Artwork photos from three key albums – Disc 1 “1967-1968” from the “Pandemonium Shadow Show” – Disc 2 “1968-1971” from “Harry” while Disc 3 “1971-1974” has “A Little Touch Of Schmilsson In The Night”. I’d half expected the “Sessions” disc to be padded out filler (and some it is) – but there’s amazing stuff on here too. Most of the Alternate Takes find him looser – more natural – and their audio quality is top notch too (“Wasting My Time”). Whether you ever want to hear him singing the cast of “Skidoo” again is debatable (mentions Robert Downey’s dad?) but his brill previously unreleased cover of the White Album’s “Blackbird” is great and I wish the tapes ran longer than its two and a half minutes. “Paradise” was recorded January 1971 and is genuinely moving with a cleverly staged muscle-up-the-emotion double vocal. “Marry Me A Little” is a typically tasty Nilsson slant on a Stephen Sondheim classic but the solo “Ballin’ The Jack” is even better. His Italian version of “Without You” called “Per Chi” still has the same tortured passion of the English language version.

Presently reduced to below forty quid – this beautifully presented box set is a winner on all fronts. Invest a few bob in this flawed but lovely romantic troubadour…

This review is part of my SOUNDS GOOD Music Book Series. One of those titles is CLASSIC 1970s ROCK - an E-Book with over 260 entries and 2450 e-Pages - purchase on Amazon and search any artist or song (click the link below). Huge amounts of info taken directly from the discs (no cut and paste crap). 

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