Harry Nilsson’s last proper full-length album came out in 1981 when he composed the soundtrack to Robert Altman’s live-action adaptation of the A.A.P. cartoon classic Popeye.
But just prior to sadly succumbing to heart failure in January 1994 after surviving cardiac arrest the year prior, he had started recording music again for one final album with producer (and current VH-1 Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp lead coach) Mark Hudson, who still holds the session tapes close to this day with no word on whether or not he will be releasing them. The man literally recorded the final vocal tracks only a few short hours before he died Johnny Cash style.
The health scare of 1993 also inspired Nilsson to press his label RCA into putting out some kind of box set retrospective of his career, as if he knew he didn’t have long for this world and wanted to make sure he was properly remembered.
Twenty years later, Legacy Recordings makes good on the Sixth Beatle’s mortal wish with The Complete RCA Albums Collection, a generous cube filled with just about every note, hum and melody Harry recorded on the company dime. Each of his 14 studio LPs, from 1967’s Pandemonium Shadow Show to ‘77’s Knnillssonn is represented here in lovingly detailed mini-vinyl replicas along with any bonus material that might’ve been tacked on in the late 90s/early 00s when not only Legacy but the Buddha and Camden imprints as well offered their own expanded editions of such essential titles as Nilsson Sings Newman, The Point!, Nilsson Schmilsson, Son of Schmilsson, A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night and the beloved Pussy Cats, produced by and largely featuring John Lennon during his infamous “Lost Weekend” era. Deeper LPs in the catalog, meanwhile, are making their long-awaited stateside CD release, such as 1975’s Dut on Mon Dei and 1976’s Sandman (both of which deserve a second listen from any nitpickers of the man’s oeuvre).
Additionally, The Complete RCA Collection includes three discs of rarities totaling 123 bonus cuts (55 of which have never been released before this box) spanning the periods 1967-68, 1968-71 and 1971-74 respectively and loaded with such treats as Nilsson’s demo version of The Monkees’ “Cuddly Toy”, the only version of the song he co-wrote with Phil Spector “This Could Be The Night” and an even more out-there version of “The Flying Saucer Song” than previously witnessed.
Granted, there are some omissions that would have made this collection truly complete, including his soundtracks to 1968’s Skidoo, 1974’s cult classic Son of Dracula (the Apple Films comedy starring Harry and Ringo Starr) and the aforementioned Popeye, not to mention his proper final LP Flash Harry, which albeit was released on Mercury Records in 1980.
But on the overall, The Complete RCA Albums Collection is undoubtedly everything this late great could’ve possibly asked for in that career retrospective that eluded him in his living years.