Harry Nilsson - Aerial Ballet
Harry Nilsson - vocal [click here to see more vinyl featuring Harry Nilsson]
Milt Holland - percussions
Plas Johnson (ww); Dennis Budimir, Al Casey (g); Michael Melvoin (hpd, org, p); Larry Knechtel (b,p); Jim Gordon (dr)
Writen by Harry Nilsson (A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, B2, B3, B4, B5, B6, B7), Fred Neil (B1), Ian Freebairn-Smith (B6)
1 LP, standard sleeve
Original analog Master tape : YES
Heavy Press : 180g
Record color : black
Speed : 33 RPM
Size : 12'’
Record Press : Pallas
Label : Speakers Corner
Original Label : RCA
Recording: 1967 and 1968 in RCA Victor's Music Center Of The World, Hollywood
Production: Rick Jarrad
Originally released in 1968
Reissued in 2017
1. Good Old Desk
2. Don't Leave Me
3. Mr. Richland's Favorite Song
4. Little Cowboy
1. Everybody's Talkin'
2. I Said Goodbye To Me
3. Little Cowboy
4. Mr. Tinker
6. The Wailing Of The Willow
« As "Good Old Desk" opens Aerial Ballet with a cheerful saunter, it's clear that Harry Nilsson decided to pick up where he left off with his debut, offering another round of effervescent, devilishly clever pop, equal parts lite psychedelia, pretty ballads, and music hall cabaret. It's not a carbon copy, however. In one sense, he entrenches himself a little bit, emphasizing his lighter edges and humor, writing songs so cheerfully lightweight -- a love song about his mom and dad, an ode to his favorite desk, an address or two to a "Little Cowboy" -- that it may be a little too cloying for some tastes, even for fans of Pandemonium Shadow Show. Those are balanced by a couple major steps forward, namely "Everybody's Talkin'" and "One." The former finds Nilsson adopting a rolling folk-pop backing for a Fred Neil song, making it into an instant, Grammy-winning classic. The latter was the greatest song he had written to date, a haunting tale of loneliness reminiscent of McCartney, yet with its own voice. These are the songs anchoring an album that may be a little lightweight, but it's engagingly, deliberately lightweight. If it's a bit dated, it wears its old charms well. » AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
« Prior to the advent of the early 1970’s singer/songwriter culture in Southern California, there was Harry Nilsson. The Brooklyn native moved to Los Angeles and balanced his job in a bank with a desire to sing and perform original compositions. After some early songwriting successes with Little Richard, Phil Spector, Glen Campbell, The Yardbirds and The Monkees, Nilsson was signed to RCA Victor as a solo artist. With a three-and-a half octave range as a tenor, he developed a musical style that synthesized baroque psychedelic pop with Caribbean tempos, utilizing vocal overdubs. In 1967, Pandemonium Shadow Show was released to critical acclaim, but disappointing sales. However musical peers like The Beatles were enthusiastic fans and this provided momentum to his career. In 1968, Aerial Ballet fared considerably better, yielding two “hits”. The first, Fred Neiil’s “Everybody’s Takin’” was a minor hit. A year later it would make its way into the iconic movie “Midnight Cowboy” and earn Nilsson a Grammy. The second, “One” has become a standard.
The 70’s was the zenith of Harry Nilsson’s musical legacy. Albums like Nilsson Sings Newman, A Touch Of Schmilson (“Without You”, Coconut”), and A Little Touch Of Schmilson In The Night. were relatively successful. He embraced the American Songbook and his unique weird pop constructs made his songs accessible. Additionally, there were music scores for the cult movie Skidoo, Robert Altman’s Popeye, and the children’s animated TV film, The Point. Television aficionados will remember his theme from The Courtship Of Eddie’s Father (“Best Friend”). In his later career, Nilsson was still recording, but was more renowned for his hard partying in Los Angeles and the infamous Troubadour incident with John Lennon. Sadly, he passed away in 1994 at 52.
Speakers Corner has released a re-mastered 180-gram vinyl of Aerial Ballet. This was Nilsson’s third album, and represented a cohesive set of original compositions. The title was a reference to the singer’s circus grandparents and their high wire act. The quirky appeal of Harry is evident from the opening track, “My Old Desk”. With a “peppy” piano and tracked vocals, Nilsson elevates the mundane (“…My old desk does an arabesque…”) with eclectic imagery. There is a nuanced horn counterpoint and violins for texture. “Don’t Leave Me” is a winsome love song with a 60’s uptempo jazzy/Latin chorus. Nilsson’s vocal flexibility shines on a well-placed falsetto. The non-verbal phrasing is uncanny. On “Mr. Richland’s Favorite Song” he uses a subtle vibrato as he tells a self-parody in 20’s/30’s stylings. A trombone and “mouth trumpet” add just the right touch of weirdness.In a mere 1:22, “Little Cowboy” becomes an unforgettable lullaby, framed by a lovely vocal tenor. One could imagine Roy Rogers or Gene Autry humming this (excluding the unconventional overdubbed singing). At the other end of the spectrum, “Together” is arranged with pop and classical influences. The string accompaniment and trumpet approximate the George Martin Beatles era (like “Penny Lane”).
Side Two begins with a pop masterpiece, Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin’”. The aching melancholy of this ode to loneliness is rendered perfectly by Nilsson’s lyrical voice. His Country & Western sensibility is countered by a sophisticated violin section. What cannot be understated is the vocal gymnastics with tricky falsetto and a “wa-wah” voiced run that is spine-tingling. It easily stands the test of time. “I Said Goodbye To Me” is a template for future pop music. The waltz-time tune has hushed lower-register vocals and another slight vibrato. There is a 52 second reprise of “Little Cowboy with whistling. On “Mr. Tinker”, the anecdotal everyman is explored with sensitivity. You can understand Nilsson’s rapport with Randy Newman. The loping descant melody line and tenuous halting singing is unique.
Many people are familiar with “One”. The opening phrase “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do…” remains timeless. This version is superior to all others. starting with electric piano and voice, a cello is precisely added to the arrangement. Then woodwinds, harpsichord and flute expand the aural landscape. What feels like a pared down song is full and rich. The purity of the emotional singing is resonant and the return to electric piano and voice at the conclusion is beautiful. “The Wailing Of The Willow is a definite change of pace. The bossa nova rhythm and surprising chord changes lend a cinematic ambiance. Harry cuts loose on the finale (“Bath”) with big band, New Orleans-style doo-wah humor and impertinence.
Speakers Corner has done their customary stellar job at re-mastering Aerial Ballet to 180-gram vinyl. Nilsson’s signature tenor voice is captured with finesse and crispness. All of the instrumentation, including horns, woodwinds and strings are blended in without upstaging the vocals. Incredibly, the album barely covers 25 minutes (one track got pulled!). This album is pop history! » Robbie Gerson, Audiophile Audition, Jun 27, 2018
To define in a nutshell the music of Harry Nilsson in accordance with his personality can easily become a fiasco. The American singer-songwriter might well share his reputation as a multi-talented eccentric with a number of other musicians. However, his highly unusual style and his »satirical catchy pop songs [composed] with the sparkling eye of a cynic and the tearful eye of a nostalgic« (rororo Rock Lexicon) cannot be pigeonholed. Nilsson packaged derisive lines, spiced with a pinch of self-irony, in suspiciously pleasing yet carefully selected tunes.
His cultivated and astonishingly supple voice basked to the full in bittersweet phrases, aided by elaborate, melting, slushy arrangements with strings and winds. Several of the wonderfully fresh numbers from "Aerial Ballet" reached top places in the charts. "Everybody’s Talkin’" became world-famous through its use in the film "Midnight Cowboy" and brought Nilsson his first Grammy award. The song "One" soared to the top ten of the charts. The other light and airy songs now invite you to create your very own hit list. Every single number makes great listening!
AllMusic : 4.5 / 5 , Discogs : Rate Your Music :