Some say heaven is a place on earth, but I say it's a piano bar in the sky—specifically, a dim, dank dive with brown cracked-leather chairs and oil paintings of naked women and a bearded Harry Nilsson holding court onstage, swigging from a bottle of Jameson and chain-smoking Benson & Hedges while plowing—all plowed-like—through "Without You," "Coconut" and the rest of Nilsson Schmilsson. Don't know Nilsson apart from his songs on the Forrest Gump and You've Got Mail soundtracks? Pity—dude had scores of better soundtrack-ready songs in his repertoire, piano- and strings-heavy songs like "Old Forgotten Soldier" and "I'll Never Leave You," that—given the right sunset, or early morning rain, or gusty winter night—can make anybody feel like Tom Hanks. Or, well, you know. Whatever. Point is, Nilsson's been singing in that great piano bar in the sky for more than a decade now, and we here on earth have been the sadder for it—until now. With "Pattern," a track from Madman Moon's excellent upcoming 11-song full-length LP, singer Jacob Sahagen and the rest of the madmen play a sonic game of Ouija with Nilsson, channeling his light, poppy piano melodies, layered string arrangements and faux-British falsetto, even nailing Nilsson's mundane-but-beautiful (see "Driving Along") lyrics style: "Every day about six o'clock/I wake myself to a radio clock/That keeps spinning around inside of my head/And I'm feelin' half dead/I don't know what I'm doing." Just as other songs on the album are undeniably Springsteen (the E-Street sax intro on "Destination"), Queen (the "Killer Queen" riffage on "Rainbow Meltdown") or Pink Floyd (the keyboard-and-guitar freakout on "An Ending"), "Pattern" is undeniably Nilsson—a little slice of heaven, if you will. Harry, can you hear us?
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MADMAN MOON CD-RELEASE PARTY WITH MADMAN MOON, THE 88 AND HELEN STELLAR AT DETROIT BAR, 843 W. 19TH ST., COSTA MESA, (949) 642-0600. THURS., DEC. 22, 8 P.M. $6.