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"CAPTAIN BILLY’S MAGIC 8 BALL" - EPISODE # 29 - "BEAUTY AND THE BEAST" - FEATURING THE ALBUM "NILSSON SINGS NEWMAN" By HARRY NILSSON IN HIGH DEFINITION WITH NARRATIVE

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“CAPTAIN BILLY’S MAGIC 8 BALLTHE CAPTAIN DIVES INTO HIS EXTENSIVE 8 TRACK COLLECTION SURFACING WITH TREASURES GALORE!!

“BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

EPISODE #29- NILSSON SINGS NEWMAN by Harry Nilsson (RCA, 1970)

Everything about this album is slightly off, starting with the cover art, drawn by Dean Torrance of Jan and Dean, depicting childlike figures riding in a banana colored antique car, circa late 40s. Then you have the angelic voice of Harry Nilsson crooning the slyly mocking and cynically curdled tunes of Randy Newman.

It was a bomb commercially, but Stereo Review voted it the best record of the year. It’s basically just the two of them – Harry vocalizing with Randy playing keyboards, but, apparently, Harry overdubbed his voice as many as 118 times in a single song, which results in a unique combination of bare bones and baroque, served up masterfully on every level.

Musically, it’s a spectral creampuff of nostalgia surrounding a tart center, a combination of flavors that I can always savor. Randy’s voice is so uniquely his own – one that always sounds like some sort of joke (a stance that he often supported with provocative lyrics like “short people got no reason to live.” ) But, Harry imbues even the most racist, sexist, and socially ignorant of Randy’s characters with an irresistible sweetness. You might find yourself singing along with “got to have a yellow woman when you’re a yellow man”). An interesting side-note: Those RCA carts are an impregnable fortress of protection, secured with a rivet in the back, which has to be melted with a soldering iron in order to get the tape open if it needs repair. When I acquired my cart on Ebay, it arrived needing to have its sensing foil replaced, and in order to hear the damn thing, I sweated to learn the technique for opening its fortified clam shell, but it was worth it. When I played the album for the first time I fell into a sweet and sour dream which has lasted decades.

Side one No. 1. “Vine St.” 2. “Love Story” 3. “Yellow Man” 4. “Caroline” 5. “Cowboy” Side two No. Title Length 1. “The Beehive State” 2. “I’ll Be Home” 3. “Living Without You” 4. “Dayton, Ohio 1903” 5. “So Long Dad”


By Rich Buckland 10/03/2021 07:19 PM

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