Tag Archives: Nilsson

Rocks In The Attic #682: Fleetwood Mac – ‘Alternate Mirage’ (1982)

RITA#682It’s Record Store Day tomorrow. Independent record stores around the world get to increase their coffers as thousands of casual music fans race in for an extremely limited picture-disc of Dire Straits’ Money For Nothing in the shape of Mark Knopfler’s sweaty headband.

Among the many reasons to visit participating stores on RSD – giveaways, food and drink, in-house performances by local bands – are the exclusive releases themselves. These range from the unbelievably awesome (such as the rare Foo Fighters’ Laundry Room EP from a few years ago, featuring demos from their great first record) to the unbelievably gimmicky (such as last year’s reissue of Nilsson Schmilsson, pressed on split yellow / white vinyl – yours for only $80).

I’ve learnt over the last 10 years or so to steer away from the gimmicky cash-in releases (I had my eyes on that Nilsson Schmilsson record last year, as I didn’t have the album in my collection at the time, but found a nice second-hand copy in the wild just a few weeks later for $2). These days, I look at the list, spot one or two releases and look for them online. Yes, it defeats the purpose of the day – getting people in-store – but it’s not really a day for diehard record collectors, who prop up these shops the other 51 weekends of the year.

Some of my favourite releases over the last couple of years have been the alternate Fleetwood Mac records. Lifted from the material previously available on the Super Deluxe box sets, these exclusive RSD releases present demos and alternate takes for each album, with the songs presented in the same running order.

Record Store Day in 2016 gave us The Alternate Tusk, 2017 gave us this, Alternate Mirage (strangely without the definite article), and this year the release is The Alternate Tango In The Night. I’m really looking forward to hearing alternate takes of what is probably their polished, over-produced album.

With Lindsey Buckingham (reportedly) fired from the band, and replaced by Crowded House’s Neil Finn, and the Heartbreakers’ Mike Campbell, the alternate Fleetwood Mac will be touring the world later this year.

Hit: Gypsy

Hidden Gem: Can’t Go Back

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Rocks In The Attic #673: The Beach Boys – ‘Holland’ (1973)

RITA#673If there was ever a band that was stuck in time, like an insect trapped in the sap of a tree, it’s the Beach Boys. They were the hippest American band between 1962’s Surfin’ Safari and 1966’s Pet Sounds – or more specifically between 1962’s Surfin’ Safari single and 1966’s Good Vibrations. Then Brian stepped back and things changed.

Don’t get me wrong, I love records like Surf’s Up and this, their 1973 album, Holland – but it’s not California Girls, is it? Without Brian Wilson’s input on this record – aside from a couple of token writing credits including a 7” fairytale EP in the vein of Nilsson’s The Point! (although nowhere near as charming) – the Beach Boys seem lost at sea. If you close your eyes, you can almost imagine them being a band on their own merits, without the genius of Brian, but then you hear those harmonies and you’re instantly reminded of Help Me Rhonda or I Get Around.

The band even looks out of place when you see them in colour around this period – on stage in multi-coloured satin shirts or in white suits. They seem forever to be locked into the antiseptic cleanliness of mid-‘60s teen television, grooving against white infinity screens alongside bikini-clad dancing girls.

Hit: Sail On, Sailor

Hidden Gem: The Trader

Rocks In The Attic #657: Nilsson – ‘Son Of Schmilsson’ (1972)

RITA#657What do you do after you release a mainstream breakthrough like Nilsson Schmilsson? Do you repeat the formula and give the record company the same again – propping up their stakeholders and ultimately creating an even bigger expectation for a more difficult next album? Or do you just do whatever you want, and concentrate on the weirder brand of material such as Coconut from Nilsson Schmilsson?

History tells us that Nilsson took the latter route, using sound effects to comedic effect and burping between takes. Son Of Schmilsson might not have the same hit singles as Nilsson Schmilsson, or even the same boundless energy that that evergreen record does, but it’s still an enjoyable listen. I guess making a few bucks for RCA gives you the power to concentrate on your own path – and you can almost hear the anguish from their frustration at Nilsson not playing ball.

A song as delicate and pure as Turn On Your Radio is as timeless as anything on the record’s more well-known predecessor, something that Brian Wilson would have been more than proud to write.

RITA#657aI recently watched the documentary Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talking About Him)? It’s a sad film to watch as you see an artist slowly give his life (and talent) over to drink, but nice to see so many well-respected musicians talk about him positively.

As well as his talent, Nilsson’s death in 1994 also robbed the world of a prominent and dedicated advocate for gun control (initially sparked by John Lennon’s assassination) – something the United States needs so badly at the moment.

Hit: Remember (Christmas)

Hidden Gem: Turn On Your Radio

Rocks In The Attic #584: Nilsson – ‘The Point!’ (1971)

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Charity shop finds can be a wonderful thing. To see an album from somebody’s name you recognise alongside a heap of junk records is more than enough motivation to get your wallet out. In a record store, even priced at $4 or $5, I would probably leave this in the racks. Sat alongside a James Last LP though, it suddenly becomes very attractive.

I’m so glad I took the punt and handed over my dollar. My knowledge of Harry Nilsson is very limited outside of Everybody’s Talkin’ and his drunken shenanigans as a key player in John Lennon’s Lost Weekend. I’m aware of Nilsson Schmilsson – a great album title for sure – but haven’t heard much of it save for the ubiquitous Coconut and the much covered Without You (or is that one called Ken Lee?).

So, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from The Point! Was this to be more introspective material, like his early hits, or just some average singer-songwriter fluff? Neither, I tell you. It’s a bonkers record through and through.

The album starts off with a poppy number, in the vein of post-Pet Sounds Beach Boys, entitled Everything’s Got ‘Em. It’s lovely – something you might hear on Holland – but then Nilsson’s spoken-word narration takes over and takes the record somewhere expected. A concept album, the narration and songs tell the fable of Oblio, the only round-headed boy in a village full of pointed-headed people. An animated film accompanies the album, and early pressings of the record were packaged with an illustrated booklet of the story inside (which my dollar copy still had). Although I’d never heard of it before, it was received well enough to be turned into a 1977 stage play featuring Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones from the Monkees.

Nilsson excuses the story as being conceived while on acid – and this isn’t hard to imagine given how fully engaged with the subject material the songs are. Nilsson isn’t dipping his toe in the water here; he’s fully immersed in this world he’s made up. This sort of thing would usually be a turn-off for me, but the songs are so great, and his narration is really nice to listen to.

Hit: Me And My Arrow

Hidden Gem: Everything’s Got ‘Em