The copy we are selling here is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus
- A KILLER copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides for Harry Nilsson's indisputable Masterpiece of Bent Rock
- Both sides are exceptionally good sounding, and the recording is brilliant thanks to the skills of Phill (That's Two L's) Brown
- A Better Records favorite (we give it Five Stars) that really comes to life on an amazingly good pressing such as this one
- 4 1/2 stars: "...it's a near-perfect summary of everything Nilsson could do; he could be craftier and stranger, but never did he achieve the perfect balance as he did here."
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Big production pop like this is hard to pull off. Harry did an amazing job, but the recording is not perfect judging by the dozen or so copies I played this week and the scores I've suffered through before. Let's face it: Jump Into The Fire will never be smooth and sweet; neither will Down on side one. But other tracks on this album have DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND.
This RCA Victor pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn't showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to "see" the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the Harry Nilsson, this is the record for you. It's what vintage all analog recordings are known for -- this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it -- not often, and certainly not always -- but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What the best sides of Nilsson Schmilsson have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1971
- Natural tonality in the midrange -- with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio
Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
No doubt there's more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the above.
One of His Best
Son of Schmilsson and the album simply titled Harry are two other superb Nilsson records that both come highly recommended. Harry is my favorite of them all, perhaps because it was so different from anything that I'd ever heard up to that point (I was 15 at the time). A Little Touch... is also a personal favorite, with the great American songbook done in Nilsson's inimitable style.
By the way, if you get a chance to see the documentary Who Is Harry Nilsson (and Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him?), you should definitely check it out. Most of us here have seen it by now and it's a ton of fun.
What We're Listening For on Nilsson Schmilsson
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- The Big Sound comes next -- wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information -- fast, clear, sharp attacks for the guitars, horns and drums, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
- Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering -- which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency -- the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
- Then: presence and immediacy. The musicians aren't "back there" somewhere, way behind the speakers. They're front and center where any recording engineer worth their salt -- Robin Geoffrey Cable in this case and his brilliant assistant Phill Brown -- would have put them.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing -- an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Phill (That's Two L's) Brown
I recently looked up the engineer for the album and am rather shocked that I never paid much attention to his body of work before.
He assisted on some amazing sounding records, many that we've auditioned and some that we've done Hot Stamper shootouts for and know to be superb recordings:
Arthur Brown - Crazy World of Arthur Brown Joe Cocker - With a Little Help From My Friends (Superb) Small Faces - Ogden’s Nutgone Flake Traffic - Mr Fantasy (WOW! The Best of the Best) Jimi Hendrix - All Along The Watchtower Rolling Stones - Beggars Banquet Steve Miller Band - Sailor Spooky Tooth - Spooky Two (Superb)
And these are a sample of favorites he engineered:
Harry Nilsson - Nilsson Schmilsson Jeff Beck - Rough and Ready Robert Palmer - Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley Roxy Music - Manifesto
The first and third can be superb, the other two merely good in our experience.
Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of later pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don't have the vintage analog magic that is a key part of the appeal of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that's certainly your prerogative, but we can't imagine losing what's good about this music -- the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight -- just to hear it with less background noise.
Gotta Get Up
A tough one right off the bat. If you have an aggressive sounding copy, you'll know it pretty quick!
A lot like the first track. Love those strummed acoustic guitars -- so rich and full.
Early in the Morning
Pure audiophile magic! So spacious, open and sweet.
The Moonbeam Song
Tons of processing on his voice. The more natural it sounds without being dull, the better side one is going to be overall.
With Nilsson screaming at the top of his lungs you better have a good copy to get through this track.
The big hit from this album, and one of Harry's best performances. He's got the pipes that the writers (Badfinger) didn't, and his arrangement is perfection. The sound goes right up to the edge but never over it on the best copies. On bright copies watch out! (By the way, it's almost always a bit noisy.)
Again, sonic perfection. What a song -- pure Nilsson madness, the kind of pop genius that works on any level, even over the car radio. The percussion here can be wonderfully delicate when you get a good pressing.
Let the Good Times Roll
A tough one; only the best pressings get this one right.
Jump Into The Fire
Again, with Nilsson screaming at the top of his lungs you better have a good copy to get through this track, and even then it's a bit of a problem.
This is one of the best tests I used for side two. Copies that are too smooth make the "just bass and drums" intro sound thick and smeared. Too bright and the vocals will tear your head off. The "just right" copies rock from the start and never get too far out of control, even when Harry does. The best we can hope for is that the loudest vocal parts stay tolerable. Believe me, it is not that easy to find a copy that's listenable all the way through, not at the volumes I play at anyway (!).
A tough test for the old stereo, that's for sure. Make sure your equipment is tuned up and the electricity is good before you get anywhere near a pressing of this album.
I'll Never Leave You
A lovely arrangement with excellent sound.
Harry Nilsson had a hit, a Grammy, and critical success, yet he still didn't have a genuine blockbuster to his name when it came time to finally deliver a full-fledged follow-up to Nilsson Sings Newman, so he decided it was time to make that unabashed, mainstream pop/rock album.
Hiring Barbra Streisand producer Richard Perry as a collaborator, Nilsson made a streamlined, slightly domesticated, unashamed set of mature pop/rock, with a slight twist. This is an album, after all, that begins by pining for the reckless days of youth, then segues into a snapshot of suburban disconnectedness before winding through a salute to and covers of old R&B tunes ("Early in the Morning" and "Let the Good Times Roll," respectively), druggie humor ("Coconut"), and surging hard rock ("Jump Into the Fire").
There are certainly hints of the Nilsson of old, particularly in his fondness for Tin Pan Alley and McCartney melodicism -- as well as his impish wit -- yet he hadn't made a record as cohesive as this since his first time out, nor had he ever made something as shiny and appealing as this. It may be more accessible than before, yet it's anchored by his mischievous humor and wonderful idiosyncrasies.
Chances are that those lured in by the grandly melodramatic "Without You" will not be prepared for either the subtle charms of "The Moonbeam Song" or the off-kilter sensibility that makes even his breeziest pop slightly strange. In short, it's a near-perfect summary of everything Nilsson could do; he could be craftier and stranger, but never did he achieve the perfect balance as he did here.
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