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CD Review: This is the Town: A Tribute to Nilsson, Volume 1 

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Various Artists This is the Town: A Tribute to Nilsson, Volume 1
(2014, The Royal Potato Family Records)

Songwriter and powerhouse vocalist Harry Nilsson, one-time favorite artist of both Paul McCartney and John Lennon, died in 1994, leaving behind a catalog of chart-topping pop songs, acclaimed soundtrack work, and critically lauded, off-beat collaborations. The hits—"Without You," "Everybody's Talkin'," and "One" (famously covered by Three Dog Night)—remain perennials, but they only scratch the surface. This Is The Town, an immensely satisfying, 20-track Nilsson tribute, goes a long way toward broadening recognition of his lesser-known work, while also offering imaginative reinterpretations of the instantly recognizable material.

This collection is the brainchild of Catskill producer Kenny Siegal (front man of Johnny Society, here covering "Mr. Richland's Favorite Song"), and he's curated a fine, eclectic group for the task. Langhorne Slim's rollicking, boogie woogie "Early in the Morning" kicks things off in a primal vein, but when Jenny O performs her multi-layered rendition of the parlor-pop gem "1941," the sly, sophisticated Nilsson universe really begins to take shape. Nilsson's daughter Annie, who also provided the album's cover art, delivers the mini-masterpiece "Gotta Get Up," hewing close to her dad's original arrangement. Rasputina's hypnotic, fuzz-cello-heavy "Sweethaven" presents an otherworldly alternative to the original, while Tracy Bonham's sprightly, Broadway-bound "Everybody's Talkin'" features a surprise violin solo. Regardless of the instrumentation, everything on This is the Town, lovingly performed and produced, conveys Nilsson's uncommon talent, gone too soon.

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  • Robert Burke Warren reviews This is the Town: A Tribute to Nilsson, Volume 1 by various artists.


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