uReview: “Nilsson Sings Newman”

12345678910 (35 votes, average: 8.60 out of 10)

Today is a day to remember John Lennon, but I just finished the watching the 2006 biopic on his good pal, Harry Schmilsson. Maybe I’m just a big Nilsson fan, but I thought Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?) was moving, revealing, an excellent film; every great artist deserves a tribute this devoted. But when they got to Nilsson Sings Newman I remembered that I never really fell for this record, for whatever reason.

Q. Am I missing out on a knockout LP? Does Harry really improve on Newman’s tunes? Why wouldn’t I just listen to Randy sing em? Have you seen the doc and what’d you think?

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“Livin’ Without You”

:D Deluxe CD Reissue | 2008 | buy here ]
:) Original Vinyl | RCA | 1970  | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

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  • Greg

    I love this album! I remember how it received several awards but was never played on the radio. Wanting to hear what all of the positive reviews were about, I went out and bought it sight unheard. Nilsson’s voice sounds so pure and confident. This is not a cover album. Yes, Randy wrote all of the songs, but he wrote them for Harry Nilsson. The songwriting is great as one would expect. About 3 months ago I was thinking about this album, so I downloaded it from Amazon (My copy is vinyl and a bit scratchy), It has been a treat to listen to it again. I think you should give it another chance. It really is a masterpiece.

  • I’m not very familiar with the “Newman” album, but the documentary was beautiful. I loved the involvement from his family, and was particularly moved by the scene in which he shows his best bud his life’s work while that sit in the car a month before his death. Powerful, thanks for featuring the man.


  • Norman

    I’m soo glad you posted this. I’m a huge Nilsson fanatic, but I’ve also loved Newman for ages as well.I first got into Randy’s debut when I heard “Vine Street” on Van Dyke Park’s song cycle. Even with Van Dyke’s voice, it’s safe to say Newman’s music is best heard sung by other, more expressive vocalists. That’s why this pairing is so phenomenal, because Nilsson had that voice that could sing anything. This is not nearly Nilsson’s best, but even as a weak link in his amazing catalog, it still sounds wonderful.

  • Matt B

    I’m a big Nilsson fan, but to me, this is about the least of his records. If you want to understand Harry, grab some of his mid-late 70s stuff (the records that get slagged off as past his prime) from the bargain bin at your local. There are misfires on each of them, but moments of brilliance. I think the reason I don’t like Nilsson Sings Newman is that this is really the only record where he plays it totally straight.

  • Anonymous

    Great documentary. GREAT record. Vine St alone justifies it’s existence. Also, sorry Greg, but Newman did NOT write these songs FOR Nilsson. Most had been around for several years & had already been recorded by other artists.

  • ogie

    Watched the documentary on NETFLIX streaming, and was in awe. I’ve loved Nilsson since I first heard of him in the 60’s but the interviews and background were more than I could have ever expected. Quite honest and heart wrenching. Thanks for the memories….

  • Chris

    I like this album a bunch. Living Without You, Beehive State, Caroline are favorites. But kind of like The Point! or Pussy Cats, it just kind of sheds light on a rather narrow aspect of his personality–in this case, his appreciation of Randy Newman. Maybe not the one to start with, though.

  • old NY hippie

    Haven’t hear the album, but after reading your review,I had to download the film from Netflix. What a great history of Nilssons life. To see pics and film that he had to have shot or thought to film of the days he went thru were amazing. Great insight to record his own thoughts while the years went by. Excellent tribute, is right on.

  • jraoul

    I think this is one of the /prettiest/ albums ever recorded. Nilsson used most of these tricks elsewhere, but here he really is at his most experimental, and also dares to leave tracks bare and sparse, sometimes with only Newman’s piano and his voice. Frankly, I think Newman’s a better songwriter than Nilsson, and Nilsson’s a far better singer, so this is the best kind of collaboration. Definitely not as commercially accessible as the hits, but one of my favorite Nilsson albums.

  • Dan

    I’ve been waiting to see the Nilsson doc, I’m sure it won’t disappoint. One of my favorite performances on N sings N is “Snow” – as he so often did, Harry makes it entirely his own.

  • jimeddy

    I’m a HarryHead from way, way back…so consider the source. Every night I sing my daughter to sleep; here are the evening selections, in order:

    Nilsson, “Puget Sound” (from Duit On Mon Dei)
    Smothers Brothers, “Anne Marie”
    Nilsson, “Living Without You” (Randy Newman) (Nilsson Sings Newman)
    Nilsson, “Dayton, Ohio, 1903” (Randy Newman) (Nilsson Sings Newman)
    Nilsoon, “A Thousand Miles Away,” (The Heartbeats) (Nilsson, That’s The Way It Is)


  • nillson

    its my favourite album by him, i jsut cannot get tired of it. so many intricate beautiful details, i love his other stuff but this album is just perfection- 10/10

  • Van Dyke Parks just put on a great concert at the South Pasadena Public Library and with his band and guest artist Inara George (Little Feat Lowell’s daughter) performed a wonderful rendition of “He Needs Me” from the POPEYE soundtrack. During the intro VDP declared that Harry Nilsson was the only genius he’d met in the music business. That’s quite a compliment coming from a guy who’s worked with Phil Ochs, Brian Wilson, Ringo Starr, Arlo Guthrie, Tim Buckley, The Byrds, Ry Cooder, Bonnie Raitt, and so many more. It’s also especially meaningful coming from a guy widely considered a genius–and I wouldn’t dispute that assessment one iota. NILSSON SINGS NEWMAN is in my personal Top 5 Nilsson album list and Iconsider it my favorites Randy Newman album hands down. At the time Harry could still sing rings around anyone else, and while I love Randy’s songwriting, a great singer he ain’t. I’ve seen John Scheinfeld’s biopic WHO IS HARRY NILSSON twice, the first time on Sunset Blvd. and the second time at the South Pasadena Library and it was even better the second time because the film is so jam-packed with the richness of Harry’s brilliance, and because the audience was so much more engaged and enthusiastic. I recommend it to anyone who loves Nilsson’s music. I also recommend NILSSON SINGS NEWMAN to the same audience, but admittedly it may take repeated listenings to fully appreciate it. Newman’s songs are nothing if not understated. But the NILSSON SINGS NEWMAN album is not Harry’s most straightforward album. That honor goes to A LITTLE TOUCH OF SCHMILSSON IN THE NIGHT, which tops my BIg 5 Harry list. But NILSSON SINGS NEWMAN is Harry’s most subtle effort, and for someone who was often so over-the-top, that’s a virtue in this case.

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