Harry Nilsson – A’s and B’s

BGO Records have compiled an album which brings together all of Nillson’s singles, and B Sides, released by RCA Records between 1967 and 1978. An alternative to a traditional greatest hits compilation, this album showcases every single piece of commercial Nilsson regardless of their success; an intriguing prospect for someone who may only know the overplayed sides of Without You or Everybody’s Talkin’.

In truth, I started writing this review over a year ago. I played the whole album from front to back and was blown away by it. So much so, that I was daunted by the prospect of putting my thoughts down into a review. Nilsson’s name pops up in several corners of Pop music history including as a songwriter for The Monkees, or as a production credit for The Beatles’ John Lennon. However, I’m not certain his status as a recording artist is as celebrated as it needs to be.

When I first put on the album, I wasn’t expecting to know many of the songs. As the songs rolled by, many composed by Nillson himself, I realised how much of his music had been scattered across the media through usage in films and television. I found myself saying “Wait a second, that was Harry?” on more than one occasion. The likes of Me and My Arrow and Coconut are old friends I wasn’t aware would visit. Even the songs I didn’t know, such as Down To The Valley, Gotta Get Up and more felt like nostalgic gems that somehow punched their way through the space-time continuum.

Nilsson never performed his material in a live audience setting, instead focusing on composition in the studio. Techniques, such as double tracking of vocals, are prominent in many of these recordings; Nilsson’s inventiveness shines into surprisingly contemporary territory. An example of this is the beat on Me and My Arrow, an ahead-of-its-time rhythm that wouldn’t feel out of place on most RnB records of the last thirty years. The song Buy My Album is nothing more than a promotional tool for his long player, but the tune he sings in it will linger just as much as the segments of actual songs used.

The album is presented in chronological order, and it is clear to see the progression. In this writer’s opinion, disc two will probably be the disc you’ll play most often out of the three, as it has the most consistent sound. It’s fascinating to hear the experimental nature of Harry’s sound grow and never diminish. Who ever thought a laid back low key Beatles mashup would work? I wouldn’t have thought so before hearing this album. In fact, I think my entire perception of possibility was altered!

A Little Something Extra…

Alongside the three discs of music, presented in a nicely presented digipak is an 18-page booklet; It features a biography of the artist and a few images. The liner notes, written by Charles Waring, help to contextualise the music contained within.

Sound Quality

It is clear these recordings have been taken from the original master tapes. They are as clean and crisp as the day they were recorded. I’ve tried them through several setups, and they all sounded great.


Before hearing this album, I hadn’t known just how ahead of his time Harry Nilsson was. His creative take on many genres deserves multiple listens. His Bs are just as good as his As! For those who only know the handful of songs that have stood the test of time in the public consciousness, they are missing out to a great extent. BGO was very wise to compile this, for including b-sides makes this more expensive than a greatest hits. Highly recommended. A’s and B’s by Harry Nilsson is available from BGO Records.

Disc One:

  1. Without Her
  2. Freckles
  3. You Can’t Do That
  4. Ten Little Indians
  5. River Deep, Mountain High
  6. She Sang Hymns Out Of Tune
  7. One
  8. Sister Marie
  9. Everybody’s Talkin’
  10. Don’t Leave Me
  11. Rainmaker
  12. I Will Take You There
  13. Morning Glory (aka Mournin’ Glory Story)
  14. Maybe
  15. Marhin’ Down Broadway
  16. I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York
  17. The Puppy Song
  18. I’ll Be Home
  19. Waiting
  20. Caroline
  21. Yellow Man

Disc Two:

  1. Down To The Valley
  2. Buy My Album
  3. Me And My Arrow
  4. Are You Sleeping?
  5. Good Old Desk
  6. Without You
  7. Gotta Get Up
  8. Jump into The Fire
  9. The Moonbeam Song
  10. Coconut
  11. Down
  12. Joy
  13. Spaceman
  14. Turn On Your Radio
  15. You’re Breakin’ My Heart
  16. Remember (Christmas)
  17. The Lottery Song
  18. As Time Goes By
  19. Lullaby In Ragtime
  20. Makin’ Whoopee!
  21. Daybreak
  22. Bonus Track: Down (Demo)

Disc Three

  1. Many Rivers To Cross
  2. Don’t Forget Me
  3. Subterranean Homesick Blues
  4. Mucho Mungo/Mt. Elga
  5. Loop De Loop
  6. Save The Last Dance For Me
  7. All My Life
  8. Kojak Columbo
  9. Turn Out The Light
  10. Something True
  11. Pretty Soon There’ll Be Nothing Left For Everybody
  12. Sail Away
  13. Moonshine Bandit
  14. Just One Look/Baby I’m Yours
  15. That Is All
  16. Who Done It?
  17. Perfect Day
  18. All I Think About Is You
  19. I Never Thought I’d Get This Lonely
  20. Ain’t It Kinda Wonderful

Jamie Dyer

Jamie Dyer is an experienced writer, broadcaster, musician and social media marketer. He enjoys Old Time Radio, vintage TV, collecting vinyl and supporting the New York Knicks.

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