Harry Nilsson,s debut album "Pandemonium Shadow Show" was released in 1967 on RCA ,the same year as The Beatles "Sgt Pepper" - a great album though a tad over rated( "Pandemonium Shadow Show " even includes a cover of "She's Leaving Home", recorded only ten days after The Beatles album was released )As if to prove that studio sorcery wasn't just the province of the fab four and their producer, RCA engineer Dick Bogert was able to assist Nilsson,s more creative ideas by syncing two four track machines together to in effect create an eight track recording system.
That's the thing about "Pandemonium", it's so chock full of all the ideas and musical influences that Nilsson had assimilated over the years that's it's some what daunting to listen to at first so eclectic are it's multi faceted surfaces. This may explain why it was somewhat over looked at the time, but there is no doubt that while it lacks the sheer song writing brio of The Beatles, or indeed The Beach Boys it's pushing the boundaries of pop every bit as far as those two leading lights. Having said that I personally find some of the album a little too florid, decorous and twee. It's saved by some cracking songs-"Cuddly Toy" , "You Can't Do That" "Sleep Late My Lady Friend ", Without Her","It,s Been So Long" and Nilsson's fantastic vocals .
"Aerial Ballet" is more reflective and restrained and is the better of the two albums for me. It contains the massive hit "Everybody's Talkin" made famous by the movie "Midnight Cowboy" but there are other excellent songs of enshrined pop magnificence. After the jaunty and rather annoying openers Daddys Song" and "Good Old Desk" the string led "Don, t Leave Me" ushers in a surge of quality. Other tracks like "Together", "I Said Goodbye To Me" , "Mr Tinker"( which sounds like it could have come off a Luke Haines album) and "One" showcase an artist engaging the audience with more subtlety and poise.
In 1971 after winning a Grammy with "Everybody, s Talkin" Nilsson, now unhappy with the first two albums, returned to the studio to rework many of the tracks, thus creating "Aerial Pandemonium Ballet". Some of the tracks were slowed down to match his increasingly deeper vocal timbre and he culled others of their excessive horn arrangements. Some of the songs definitely benefit from this approach "1941" is richer, less aggravating, and the same is true for "Good Old Desk" which is given added poignancy by a flattering string arrangement.
There are four bonus tracks. "As I Wander Lonely" is cello accompanied but prosaically morbid while "Miss Butters Lament" is another perversely vaudeville pop confection. "Sister Marie" originally a B-side to "One" has a psychedelic ambience and "Wasting My Time" is gentle piano led amble .This album outsold the previous two, the showcase for an ever evolving , under rated musician and singer who even now does,nt receive the plaudits he deserves.