MONM 2011 weekend quickies: Harry Nilsson, Sons and Daughters of Lite
Harry Nilsson – Pussy Cats (1974, RCA Victor)
The sound of talented people having way too much fun in the studio, laying down raucous covers and blackly funny ballads with little regard for coherence or flow. Nilsson was sick, so his usual honey voice is barely even a rasp by the time he’s rockin’ round the clock at the end. Production by John Lennon is as raw as Nilsson’s voice, and a backing band that includes Keith Moon and Ringo Starr (at the same time!) gets plenty splenetic when it’s called for. Of the originals, “All My Life” is tops, an upbeat downer that sums up the spirit of the sessions pretty well, and if the ballads aren’t Nilsson’s best, they’re still better than most. But it’s the covers (“Many Rivers to Cross,” “Loop de Loop”, “Rock Around the Clock”), ramshackle as they are, that really sell the experience.
Sons and Daughters of Lite – Let the Sun Shine In (Reissued 1999, Luv N’ Haight)
Mellow Afro-soul from the early ’70s San Francisco scene – apparently these guys opened for Fela and Sun Ra during their run. Given that, you might not expect the grooves to be as mellow as they are, but the funk and Afro-beat influences are softened by a fondness for blissful grooves and vibraphone melodies. That sometimes means that you’re left waiting for a track to kick in when it’s never gonna, but once you accept it for what it is, the stew of influences is pretty impressive. Bouts of over-singing occasionally shift things from hypnotic to piercing, but the opening twosome (the title track and “Fly Away”) are good enough that they could’ve been followed by a half hour of silence and the album still would’ve been worthwhile.