Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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  • Harry [RCA Victor, 1969] B+
  • Nilsson Sings Newman [RCA Victor, 1970] B+
  • A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night [RCA Victor, 1973] C-
  • Pussy Cats [RCA Victor, 1974] A-
  • Duit on Mon Dei [RCA Victor, 1975] B-
  • Sandman [RCA Victor, 1975] B-
  • Greatest Hits [RCA Victor, 1978] B+

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Harry [RCA Victor, 1969]
Nilsson is an acquired taste which I have just acquired. In integrity of conception and skill of execution, this is an A album, but I can't completely forgive the whimsy at the heart of it. B+

Nilsson Sings Newman [RCA Victor, 1970]
For those benighted who still believe the original can't sing, here's a sweeter version, including appropriately lovely versions of two rare urban celebrations--"Vine Street" (the one that led off Van Dyke Parks's Song Cycle) and "Dayton, Ohio 1903." Not so dynamic musically, though--just Nilsson singing, and Newman behind on piano. B+

A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night [RCA Victor, 1973]
The "Schm" is for schmaltz, to which this is a tribute--the selections, none of which were written after 1958, include "For Me and My Gal" and "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now." Theoretically, this is a charming idea--who among us is better equipped to bring such music back to life? Actually, it's soporific--devoid of humor or irony but without any rediscovery of the whole-hearted emotion on which the old songs are predicated. Nilsson doesn't sing with much power and Gordon Jenkins's charts don't even qualify as period pieces. I know, I'm just a dumb rock and roll fan, so go waste your money. I wouldn't give my extra copy to my mother. C-

Pussy Cats [RCA Victor, 1974]
Only the Umpteenth Beatle could juxtapose "Subterranean Homesick Blues" and "Loop de Loop" without giving off the sweet stink of a Bryan Ferry parody. With producer John Lennon keeping him honest, Harry goes raw, playing even the ballads for ugliness. But at the same time, no joke, he plays it all for laughs. A-

Duit on Mon Dei [RCA Victor, 1975]
I have a weakness for sardonic nonsense, but this man is definitely running out of ideas--even his haphazardness is getting predictable. Crazy like a fox I can sit still for, but not crazy like an audio salesman. B-

Sandman [RCA Victor, 1975]
Subtler than Dr. Hook, more soulful than 10cc, and sexier than Henny Youngman. Includes a new interpretation of "Jesus Christ You're Tall" and a new theme song: "Here's Why I Did Not Go to Work Today." B-

Greatest Hits [RCA Victor, 1978]
Those who are taken with Nilsson the sweet, slightly kooky popmeister will approve of this reliable compilation--probably even dig Gordon Jenkins on "As Time Goes By." Those who are attracted to the popmeister by his apparent insanity will play it only in their most conservative moments. B+