Harry Nilsson is rediscoverd through reissues -- We give you the singer-songwriters' essential albums

By Will Hermes
Updated May 19, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

Harry Nilsson is rediscoverd through reissues

Subject of a spate of reissues this month, the late Harry Nilsson was a wildly gifted singer-songwriter whom John Lennon and Paul McCartney declared their ”favorite American group” in 1968. What distinguished him? ”Intelligence, basically,” says arranger Van Dyke Parks, a close friend. ”Incisive wit, and the ability to bring a wide spectrum of emotions into a single work.” Nilsson’s best work combined Brill Building pop instincts with Sgt. Pepper — style rock ambitiousness. But a stubborn eccentric streak (and his refusal to perform live) kept him from major stardom. Now, between reissues and the upcoming doc Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?), the hard-drinking artist is being rediscovered.

+ Nilsson Schmilsson (RCA/Legacy) This schizo 1971 ”rock” debut features his classic take on Badfinger’s ”Without You” and the howling ”Jump Into the Fire.” + Son of Schmilsson (RCA/Legacy) The newly reissued 1972 set includes ”You’re Breakin’ My Heart,” a top 10 ringer hinging on an expletive that chart-topping rappers now take for granted. + Greatest Hits (BMG/Heritage) A fuller best-of than the new Everybody’s Talkin’, with his ”One,” a hit for Three Dog Night.