Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Harry Nilsson: Personal Best: The Harry Nilsson Anthology [RCA, 1995]
Nilsson didn't just share an aesthetic with the Apple-era Beatles who loved him so much--he embodied that aesthetic. Utterly studio-bound, conceiving rock as a facet of pop, proud to be fey yet also proud to pound out the unprecedented lines "You're breakin' my heart/You're tearin' it apart/So fuck you," he was as fluent as songwriting got in the '60s, turning out White Album outtakes like "Salmon Falls" and "All I Think About Is You" well after his doppelganger Paul had died of whimsy and his soulmate John had discovered his roots. This double-CD is mercifully short on such marginalia; the soundtrack one-offs and previously unreleaseds that make the cut are top-drawer. Except for the three Gordon Jenkins schmaltzfests, the covers are gorgeous. And from the autobiographical "1941" to the superschlock "Without Her" to such trademark eccentricities-not-novelties as "Coconut" and "Joy" and "The Most Beautiful World in the World," the high points are ephemeral and transcendent. A