[Review] Nilsson: Aerial Pandemonium Ballet (1971)

New vocals and a new mix for old songs from his first two RCA albums.

Kronomyth 6.5: Pas de doobie doo-da deux.

I thought Pandemonium Shadow Show and Aerial Ballet were just great. Apparently, Harry Nilsson didn’t, and elected to remix a selection of tracks from each album and re-record some of the vocals, releasing the result as Aerial Pandemonium Ballet. It’s an interesting idea, this revisiting of the recent past, and a few of the songs sound slightly better. Whether you want to pay money for slightly better versions of songs you may already own and be familiar with, well, that’s what free will is for.

Like Pandemonium Shadow Show, this album features an Introduction and Closing that are essentially edited versions of the intro/outro that appeared on the aforementioned album. What follows is a selection of the best songs from his first two RCA albums: Everybody’s Talkin’, One, Good Old Desk, Without Her, 1941, etc. Some of these versions are nearly identical to the originals, such as “1941” and “Good Old Desk.” Some sound the same but feature additional “scat” singing (Daddy’s Song, Mr. Richland’s Favorite Song), which I find distracting. I’d give the new versions of “Without Her” and Bath the nod as superior to the originals by a nose.

Most artists wouldn’t revisit their recent catalog and give it a new coat of paint. Nilsson, of course, was not like most artists. Maybe he was a perfectionist, an eccentric, or likely a bit of both. Whatever the reason, Aerial Pandemonium Ballet is a strange animal, a kind of golden hits with a platinum production finish. In the new millennium, the album was augmented with a handful of bonus tracks that sweetened the pot for fans who were on the fence, including a great version of John Lennon‘s Isolation.

Original elpee version

A1. Introduction (0:09)
A2. 1941 (slowed down track & remixed) (2:37)
A3. Daddy’s Song (new vocals, guitar/piano/out of sync) (2:07)
A4. Mr. Richland’s Favorite Song (new background vocals & remixed) (2:07)
A5. Good Old Desk (slowed down track & remixed) (2:30)
A6. Everybody’s Talkin’ (dumped second voice & remixed) (Fred Neil) (2:42)
A7. Bath (re EQ’d original tracks) (1:50)
B1. River Deep-Mountain High (new vocals & remixed) (Phil Spector/Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich) (3:57)
B2. Sleep Late, My Lady Friend (remixed) (2:37)
B3. Don’t Leave Me (remixed) (2:12)
B4. Without Her (new vocals & remixed) (2:08)
B5. Together (new vocals, edited out bridge & remixed) (1:37)
B6. One (remixed) (2:18)
B7. Closing (0:20)

All songs written by Nilsson unless noted.

CD reissue bonus tracks
15. You Can’t Do That (alternate version)
16. Isolation
17. Joy (alternate version)
18. Early in the Morning (alternate version)
19. Walk Right Back

Original 8-track version
A1. Introduction
A2. 1941
A3. Daddy’s Song
A4. Mr. Richland’s Favorite Song
A5. Without Her
B1. Introduction
B2. Good Old Desk
B3. Everybody’s Talkin’
B4. Bath
B5. Without Her
C1. River Deep-Mountain High
C2. Daddy’s Song
C3. Sleep Late, My Lady Friend
C4. Fill
D1. Everybody’s Talkin’
D2. Don’t Leave Me
D3. Together
D4. One
D5. Closing

The Players

George Tipton (original arrangements). A Nilsson House Production, all sessions originally produced by Rick Jarrard; engineered by Ritchie Schmitt; technician: Dennis Smith; originally engineered by Dick Bogart, Pat Ieraci.

The Pictures

Album design by Dean O. Torrence.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track in June 1971* in the US (RCA, LSP-4543/P8S-1756) and the UK (RCA, SF 8326). Reached #149 on the US charts. (*First appeared in 6/19/71 issue of Billboard.)

  1. Re-issued on compact disc on April 21, 1992 in Japan (RCA, BVCP-2071).
  2. Re-released on expanded compact disc in 2000 in the US (Buddha, 99704-2) with 5 bonus tracks.
  3. Re-released on expanded compact disc on August6 22, 2007 in Japan (BMG, BVCM-35119) with 6 bonus tracks.

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