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Classic of the Week

Harry Nilsson, "All Time Greatest Hits"; RCA

January 27, 1994|RANDY LEWIS

It's doubly sad that Harry Nilsson died last week, before he had a chance to reclaim the reputation he established two decades ago as one of the finest singer-songwriters of the pop-music era.

This compilation provides a generous overview of his career, from his first hit, 1969's "Everybody's Talkin' " (the Fred Neil theme song to "Midnight Cowboy"), through his early-'70s commercial peak with such albums as "Nilsson Schmilsson." There was a fetching naivete in early songs including "Good Old Desk" and "Daddy's Song," celebrations of childlike wonder that are still uncommonly endearing. And his silken voice was a marvel--when he won a 1972 Gram my for best male vocal for his recording of "Without You," it was one of the few times Grammy voters deserved cheers.

But Nilsson's star faded as he sank further into the bottle in the late '70s, and his albums became proportionately less and less rewarding--to wit, this compilation stops at 1973.

Latter-day redemption notwithstanding--he reportedly had just finished his first new album in 15 years before he died last week at 52 of a heart attack--Nilsson richly deserves a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Expect to see his name pop up on some ballots next year--now that he's gone.

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