Harry Nilsson's second RCA album turned out to be yet another stunning collection of innovative tracks. Named in honour of his Great Grandparent's circus troupe, "Nilsson's Aerial Ballet", it featured a fine blend of ballads, cool pop, folk and of course, humour.
Opening with a skit on a dance school, we hear the sound of dancing shoes on a hard wood floor accompanied by honky tonk piano. Without pause - we are segued into "Good Old Desk". This song has a nice easy listening tune and intriguing lyrics, all seemingly aimed at a day at the office - if taken literally. During his appearance on "Playboy After Dark" later in the year, Harry told Hugh Hefner that the songs initials spell out God, and that the songs hidden meaning is about man's modern concept of God. Years later, he revealed this was just a joke - it was about a desk after all!
What follows is a marvellous laid back track called "Don't Leave Me". One of his finest ever recordings, Harry focuses on his lovely, steady lower vocal range as the backing track captivates us. A superb ballad.
In "Mr. Richland's Favorite Song", we are told the continuing story of a pop star and the changing attitude of his fans. It's startlingly Beatle-esque (although the Monkees actually cut a version which never came out) and leaves no wonder as to why it was John Lennon's favourite track from the album. Hell ... it even mentions "the Walrus!".
"Little Cowboy" heralds sleepy time for the kiddies. In his sweetest lullaby voice, Harry manages to settle the children down for the night, while simultaneously relaxing us adults with a very nice little ditty.
"Together" on the other hand is pure pop class. Again, Nilsson leans on his Beatles influence (which is undoubted throughout this album) but puts his own tag all over it too. It's another of those "should-have-been-massive" 60s tracks. Alas, it never was the hit it deserved.
"Everybody's Talkin'" actually WAS a hit. A huge hit as it happens. But not until 1969 when a different version was used on the soundtrack to Midnight Cowboy. It's arguably Harry's most well known track (bar 1971's "Without You") - which is a shame, as he didn't write it. It's a cover of a Fred Neil track, but of course, Harry's interpretation knocks spots off of the original and anyone who fails to sing along loudly whenever they hear it needs their head tested!
The oddball subject of contemplated suicide is the rather macarbre theme of "I Said Goodbye To Me". A well crafted tune featuring some delicious organ work, we get the full effect of Harry's tremendous vibrato. He also adds a gloriously tongue in cheek deadpan spoken verse which never fails to raise a well intended smile.
A short whistled reprise of "Little Cowboy" takes us into "Mr. Tinker" which has a very menacing tune. It's the type of tune that would sit well in a spooky animated film, such as, say, "The Nightmare Before Christmas". A great vocal and a most enjoyable song.
The recording of "One" that's up next is much better than the hit cover version by Three Dog Night. Every second counts in this excellent cut, from its mesmerising single note piano intro, right through to it's final moments. The idea that "one is the loneliest number that you'll ever know" is very telling.
The lush middle-of-the-road feel of "Wailing Of The Willow" makes you want to lay out in the sun with a pair of shades on, sipping icy cold lemonade!! Harry transports you to a cotton wool cloud where you have nothing to do but wallow in beautiful music.
In complete contrast, the album closer "Bath" is a fabulous rave up, with lyrics all about a visit to a whore-house!!! Not one for choosing "safe" topics in his compositions, Harry bounces along in a delightful manner with plenty of his trademark scatting and a fair share of yodelling to boot! All this leads up to one of his finest fade-outs ever!
From the opening groove, right through to the final click of the stylus, this is one classy album. It established Nilsson as The Beatles' favourite. It proved his competence as a songwriter, and his unique abilty to make a fine job of covering other peoples material. It showcased a brilliant voice.
Aerial Ballet is a wonderful album, and one that no "Harry-Head" could possibily live without!