Friday, February 2, 2024

Nilsson 7: Aerial Pandemonium Ballet

Now that more people knew who Harry Nilsson was, the label wanted to reissue his first two albums. That was mostly fine with him, but being very much a restless who got bored with the same old, he countered with a different idea. Rather than straight reissues of Pandemonium Shadow Show and Aerial Ballet, he reworked selections of both into Aerial Pandemonium Ballet.

People like to say this was the first remix album, to illustrate how ahead of his time Harry was. The fact of the matter is that sweetening an already-released master had been happening for years, such as in the case of the “rock” version of “The Sound Of Silence”; also this wasn’t long after tracks that had only been released in mono had been given stereo mixes months or even years down the road to keep up with audiophile trends. The difference was that Harry was overt about it, to the point that the back cover even helpfully listed what was different about each track (e.g. “slowed down”, “new vocals”, etc.).

Even with all the moderations and modulations, it still runs just under a mere half-hour. Following the familiar intro from the first album, two father songs (“1941” and “Daddy’s Song”) appear back to back. “Mr. Richland’s Favorite Song” now sports a quote from “One” in the middle. “Good Old Desk” makes a nice transition to “Everybody’s Talkin’”, which even sets “Bath” up well.

Side two juxtaposes various love-type songs cleverly. “River Deep–Mountain High” gets a new vocal but keeps the castanets and bongos, the latter of which still feature on “Sleep Late, My Lady Friend”. Thankfully “Don’t Leave Me” and “Without Her” both a tad softer in comparison. “Together” sounds a little jerky, plus it loses a bridge, running even shorter than before and going sharply into “One”. This is also chopped down, and diluted by the tap dance that bookended Aerial Ballet.

Still, Aerial Pandemonium Ballet is a nice way to hear where he started. It can even be argued he selected the best, most enduring tracks from each, and in most cases improved them, so his instincts were spot on. (An expanded version of the album had only one “outtake”: a remix of “You Can’t Do That” that highlights the song’s actual lyrics. The other bonus tracks were from the same period, including early versions of songs that would appear on his next two albums, his party piece cover of “Walk Right Back” that weaves in lyrics from “Cathy’s Clown”, and a faithful cover of John Lennon’s “Isolation”.)

Nilsson Aerial Pandemonium Ballet (1971)—3
2000 CD reissue: same as 1971, plus 5 extra tracks

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