Sunday, March 01, 2009

Album of the Day #140: PANDEMONIUM SHADOW SHOW - Harry Nilsson

Title: Pandemonium Shadow Show
Artist: Harry Nilsson
Label: RCA
Year: 1967
Songs: Ten Little Indians/1941/Cuddly Toy/She Sang Hymns Out Of Tune [Jesse Lee Kincaid]/You Can’t Do That [John Lennon & Paul McCartney]/Sleep Late, My Lady Friend/She’s Leaving Home [John Lennon & Paul McCartney]/There Will Never Be [Perry Botkin, Jr. & Garfield]/Without Her/Freckles [Hess, Johnson & Milton Ager]/It’s Been so Long/River Deep – Mountain High [Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwhich & Phil Spector]
Written by: Harry Nilsson, except where noted
Produced by: Rick Jarrard
Thoughts: It’s amazing how such a truly magnificent album can be so forgotten about, but that is the sad truth for Harry Nilsson’s debut album Pandemonium Shadow Show. Coming out in 1967, the album has pieces of pure psychedelic nature, sure, but it makes up for it with the unique sound of Harry’s voice. It’s very hard to come to grips with the fact that there is only one man singing on this entire record: Harry.
The material itself is unique, in that not only is it all pop, but it’s very sophisticated pop. “Ten Little Indians” is the most unconventional opening for an album, let alone a debut album. Harry sings what happens to these Indians as they, one by one, break one of the Ten Commandments. “1941” is a biographical song that RCA chose as the lead single. “She Sang Hymns Out Of Tune” is the first cover, with a carnival-like backing track. In a prelude to “Back Off Boogaloo”, Harry’s tribute that landed on Ringo’s Stop And Smell The Roses in 1981, Harry does “You Can’t Do That”. It, like the other Beatle cover, “She’s Leaving Home”, is unique and different, not just a straight-up cover as he gives shout-outs to several other of his favorite Beatle tunes. Then, there’s “Sleep Late, My Lady Friend”, which is just so wonderful…I love the bridge: “We had the time/The time of our lives!”
Side two opens with the beautiful, understated take on “She’s Leaving Home”. John and Paul should have just skipped their recording and gave this to Harry. He takes the song and surprisingly one-ups the Beatles. “There Will Never Be” and “Freckles” are two more covers sandwiched between the amazing “Without Her” and “It’s Been So Long”. The album ends with an intense, full-on “Wall Of Sound” cover of “River Deep – Mountain High”, which is a perfect closer to a great mid-sixties LP.

No comments: