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Randy Newman

  • Randy Newman,
  • 12 Songs,
  • Sail Away,
  • Good Old Boys,

  • Randy Newman 9 ( 1968 )
    Love Story (You And Me) / Bet No One Ever Hurt This Bad / Living Without You / So Long Dad / I Think He's Hiding / Linda / Laughing Boy / Cowboy / The Beehive State / I Think It's Going To Rain Today / Davy The Fat Boy

    The Randy Newman debut, titled 'Randy Newman Creates Something New Under The Sun' sold an astonishing 4,700 copies upon release. This perilously low figure prompted his label to re-package the debut under the easier title of 'Randy Newman' and promote it with full page ad's in the press under the heading, "Once You Get Used To It, His Voice Is Really Something." So, Randy was no immediate success as a solo artist! He did come into music through a very musical family - his uncle scored films in Hollywood and this no doubt had a influence on a young Randy. Randy Newman later became a professional songwriter on a salary, turning out pop songs for others to sing. By the time of this, his solo debut proper, he'd been teamed up with Lenny Waronker and Van Dyke Parks ( who was fresh from his own interesting experiences working with Brian Wilson ) and 'set down' the twenty eight minutes, five seconds of music that make up this album. Is it any good? Well, you've seen the rating above, no doubt. Curious? My brother constantly gets Randy Newman confused with Randy Crawford, of 'One Day I'll Fly Away' fame. Which disturbs the hell out of me! They are not the same, suffice to say. You know, Randy Newman? No? The Toy Story Guy? Yeah. But, he did some good stuff too! Oh, let's talk about that voice, whilst we're here. Speaking for myself ( i can't speak for anyone else, obviously! ), I love singers who when they were in their twenties, early thirties - sounded like they were sixty. Like some old blues guy, or something. Not that Randy Newman sounds like an old blues guy. He doesn't at all, actually. Sorry, it just popped into my brain. You know early Dylan? Sounded old before his time? Randy Newman's voice doesn't sound like Dylan's either, but that's a closer call. It's a lazy sounding voice, a voice that seemingly shouldn't be having any business singing a song at all, but it's not the sound of his voice that actually impresses in any case, it's what Randy does with it. He can sound beautiful, so very affecting. It's an often beautiful and beautifully heartbreaking voice. Let's just say his voice is an acquired taste, but when you have acquired it, you won't want to let go of it too easy.

    Randy plays Piano, there is little other instrumentation bar little bits of drums and percussion. Randy didn't just write the songs, he arranged the strings. The opening 'Love Story' switching between noisier orchestral sections and very quiet Randy singing at his Piano sections is instantly startling. The lyrics are a glorious thing, and his voice sails and sweeps all over the place. And, oh those strings! These are perfectly arranged and picturesque strings that tug at your heart then alternately make you grin and burst out happy all over. 'Love Story' does this, switches your emotions all around. You end up being happy, that's the important thing. 'Bet No One Ever Hurt This Bad' features bass guitar and another lyric to build a house out of, and live in. It'd be an experience, if nothing else! 'Living Without You' is simply perfection. The Piano patterns are hypnotic, there is beautiful ( harpsichord? ) melodies everywhere, very light and pretty. The vocal comes in, "It's sooooo hard, LIVING WITHOUT YOU...... Nothings gonna happen, nothings gonna change" - a little brief Spanish thing, more beautifully hypnotic Piano, little child-like melodies. So many things are going on here, and the entire song is barely longer than two minutes. 'So Long Dad' has great sounding strings and a little bouncy, silly section of ragtime Piano. I find myself switching between grinning ecstatically and wondering where my next meal is coming from. And the song is enjoyable, ultimately, as all Randy Newman songs are. There is nothing else like this, and this debut album is just so perfect in its relative sparseness, so perfect in its short length. Really, nothing else is required. 'I Think He's Hiding' has an incredibly drawled and lazy sounding vocal, but actually just a vocal full of feeling, the words are obviously important to Randy in his writing. 'Linda' has a gloriously romantic ( yet bittersweet ) series of lines and a string arrangement that just gets me every time. When Randy sings "I love her" so tenderly and then this swirling 'wind' of a string section comes in, rising and rising, like some horrible circus music. When the trumpet comes in.... then everything goes soft, beautiful and tender to close. One song, two and a half minutes of music. It feels like you've just watched the greatest movie in the world, ever. 'Laughing Boy' and 'Davy The Fat Boy' are interesting lyrically to say the least, yet both also have many fine musical sections to entertain. 'Cowboy' and 'The Beehive State' are lesser songs here, although both are still entertaining songs, if that makes any sense at all. I'm starting to doubt that i'm making sense, to be truthful.

    I've saved mentioning the impossibly affecting, beautifully lonesome sounding 'I Think It's Going To Rain Today' until last. Sad music, gorgeous Piano - those vocals tugging at your heart and emotions. This is a special album. It has it's flaws - a relative lack of variety and a relative lack of differing sounds. The music in it's sparseness, in it's Piano and strings form, may leave some yearning for something a little more full instrumentally. But, there is just something about this album, this one album here, this twenty eight minutes, five seconds of music. It almost leaves you feeling as if you've experienced an important part of life and living, for the first ever time.

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    top of page 12 Songs 8 ( 1970 )
    Have You Seen My Baby? / Let's Burn Down The Cornfield / Mama Told Me Not To Come / Suzanne / Lovers Prayer / Lucinda / Underneath The Harlem Moon / Yellow Man / Old Kentucky Home / Rosemary / If You Need Oil / Uncle Bob's Mignight Blues

    A complete change from his debut, '12 Songs' was a 'back to roots' album of sorts, following the mixed critical reception afforded his debut. Randy had worked with one of his heroes and influences, Fats Domino, in 1969 also contributing the arrangement to Peggy Lee's 'Is That All There Is' hit song. If 'Randy Newman Creates Something New Under The Sun' had featured literally dozens of music players, he chose a core group of musicians to assist him with his sophomore project. Ry Cooder contributes guitar, Clarence White and Gene Parsons of The Byrds add their talents. Session ace Jim Gordon assists on drums, Lyle Ritz plays bass. I can't help but get the feeling however that Randy simply didn't have an abundance of songs at this time. The material here isn't quite as strong or 'cover friendly' as the debut, although this still remains a strong album and selection of material. 'Have You Seen My Baby' is a nice shuffling horn led country rock thing, and very listenable. 'Let's Burn Down The Cornfield' makes good use of Ry Cooder and his bottleneck, very atmospheric stuff with Randy speaking/singing/whispering through the introduction. A lazy, laid back and most attractive feel permeates this. 'Mama Told Me Not To Come' is the most covered song of the set, 'Three Dog Night' being possibly the first to have a hit with the song. Tom Jones had a hit with 'Mama Told Me Not To Come' more recently. This is happy, Piano led stuff with Randy in fine voice - absolutely tons of catchy melody and well played guitar parts abound. 'Suzanne' sounds like the kind of song that might have appeared on his debut, only there is no orchestra here. It does sound pretty bare, but the Piano patterns are strangely hypnotic and Randy sings is his characteristic and distinctive way, wrapping himself around the words. 'Lovers Prayer' is a happy, bouncy little thing with great lyrics, 'Lucinda' a little blues thing.

    'Underneath The Harlem Moon' is quite gorgeous, I absolutely adore the simple yet beautiful Piano parts, and once more Randy caresses the words, sings with absolute feeling for the song, and this is a highlight of the set. 'Yellow Moon' is another bluesy piece with that voice, and the character of Randy absolutely everywhere in a little story-telling thing. 'Old Kentucky Home' has delightful country guitar picking. Randy goes country, and it's no problem at all. The man can do all things! Well, maybe not hard rock..... ooooh! I love the chorus of 'Old Kentucky Home' and this has to be Clarence White on guitar on this song. Clarence was a much underrated and now sadly missed, talent. 'Rosemary' has a little swing about it, a strong rhythm section, Piano, a few brass parts. Another happy, life-affirming piece. This is another excellent album, what was I saying earlier? Not as good as the debut? Well, no. For me, those orchestrations and the ballads on the Randy Newman debut, you know, something like 'I Think It's Going To Rain Today' are such special things, and there is nothing quite like that here. Pretty much everything that is here is good, even if a song like 'If You Need Oil' is a little weak by Randy Newman standards, and mere filler, even though it still works in the context of the album. 'Uncle Bob's Midnight Blues' is funny, very humorous. Randy once said in an interview that a song-writer should be able to write any kind of song to order. You can believe that he could do that, listening to this album here. I'm very tempted to give this a '9' but it falls just short. There are plenty of fun songs here, but not enough great, awe-inspiring songs for me, to tip this over the edge. Still damn fine, though.

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    Readers Comments

    Guy Peters emoebeffer@hotmail.com
    You're correct when you say that it's very different from the debut. It also points the way - in some ways - to the next few albums which are a bit more lushly arranged than this one. The biggest difference is in the lyrics (the not so common subject matter) I think, which became more and more transformations of general expectations/cliches. "Have You Seen My Baby?" is not just a song about a boy looking for his girl, but a guy whose 'love' went whoring... "Mama Told Me Not To Come" is about an introduction to drugs ("that cigarette you're smoking...") and - i guess - sex ("our hostess is not lasting - she's out on the floor"), while "Suzanne" seems at first a song about infatuation ("and i was hopin', that maybe you could love me too")but develops into a morbid tale of rape plans ("don't try and run away from me, little girl, wherever you go i'll find you"), not unlike husker du's "Diane" (also about a "little girl")... I'm also pretty convinced that it's a reference to Stephen Foster, the 19th century composer of pulp songs (and in some ways, the precursor of the ragtime-hype of the late 19th century/early 20th c). I think he was the first composer of popular songs who could make a living out of it (just like Newman started out - like Lou Reed and Carlo King, etc, as a Brill Building hack), plus he wrote songs with titles such as "Oh Susanna" and "My Old Kentucky Home". "Lucinda" (where do all these names come from, anyway?): is it about murder ("she was wrapped up in a blanket, (i could tell she knew her way around), and as i lay down beside her, you know she never made a sound") or suicide ("they sent her to high school, they sent her to low school, she just wouldnt go no further")? One of my all time faves is probably "Old Kentucky Home", a very harsh mockery of "southern" life ("brother gene is big and mean, and he dont have much to say, he had a little woman who he whupped each day (...)"), which would be the most important theme (target) on the brilliant "Good Old Boys".

    P. Rieth, pr3po3@aol.com
    I read your review of this album, and have to disagree. "12 songs" is by far the strongest album Newman has ever put out. You discount the cut "Suzanne" as sounding "a little bare"--I beg to differ. There's a lot going on in that song--the lyrics, Ry Cooder's smokin', yet subtle guitar licks, and the erie feel to it all. I feel the same way about "Lucinda"--you discount this song as being a "blues thing". These 2 songs alone are so very different than most Newman songs, and he is at his very best. The blend of Newmman and Cooder make this album, for me at least, very listenable. These 2 songs are my favorite of Newman, period; and I've heard all of his work. Granted there are a couple weak cuts on the album; I'll give you that. I compare the "electricity" between Newman and Cooder similar to Newman and Knopfler on "Land of Dreams" CD--another great album. Well, given that it's art, I guess everyone is entitled to their opinion. Good Day.

    Oscar miscreanty@yahoo.com
    I have to admit to being a 12 songs convert. The lack of orchestration which you don't seem to respond to, to me gives this album a huge groove (along with the ace musician grouping!) and makes it just so much more listenable than most of the later newman catalogue, despite the lack of real musical depth. Theres also a real subtlety to newmans lyrics at this stage - his characters are endearing, despite all containing huge character flaws, as brought out in the lyrics. You seem to skip over alot of high points here too, like 'suzanne' (the subtlety of this love-song-gone-wrong is something newman seems to have lost in his later career). You even refer to 'yellow man' (to me, perhaps the most concise high point of racist humour in newmans whole career) as 'yellow moon'. Other high points are the opening two songs, the closing one, and the cover of 'underneath the harlem moon' (which may as well have been a newman song anyway it fits in so seemlessly.). Overall - the lyrics ar! e the high point (light years ahead of his debut), and although the music itself isnt the greatest, the album has a damn fine sound and 'listenability' that elevates it to something special. 9/10. As a side point, you should put some thought into buying/reviewing some later newman albums too. 1999's 'bad love' is an overlooked late high point for me.

    top of page Sail Away 10 ( 1972 )
    Sail Away / Lonely At The Top / He Gives Us All His Love / Last Night I Had A Dream / Simon Smith And The Amazing Dancing Bear / Old Man / Political Science / Burn On / Memo To My Son / Dayton Ohio 1903 / You Can Leave Your Hat On / God's Song (That's Why I Love Mankind)

    The compositions for this album were taken from a period ranging from 1966 through to 1972, which means despite a unified sound, that the album lacks the cohesion of his debut, or even perhaps the flow of '12 Songs'. Having said that, the songs that make up this album are all uniformly excellent, and it's very easy to overlook any lack of a single unifying concept. The lyrics here take a leap forwards, with Newman commenting on the arms race with 'Political Science', on the slave trade with the albums title song and more straightforward, if still lyrically masterful songs to decipher with 'Old Man' and 'Memo To My Son'. God is the subject of 'He Gives Us All His Love' and narrates through the voice of Randy the reportedly blasphemous 'God's Song'. God also gets a mention in the lyric of 'Old Man' with the following cheerful selection of lyrics, "Won't be no God to comfort you/You taught me not to believe that lie/You don't need anybody/Nobody needs you/Don't cry old man, don't cry/Everybody dies". Randy enthusiastically takes on the role a perverted character in 'You Can Leave Your Hat On', a song recently, and quite alarmingly made famous by the odious Tom Jones. Still, any money that goes to Randy Newman is fine with me. 'Sail Away' initially peaked at number 163 on Billboard. It's now seen as his crowning acheivment, and who am I to disagree? This is glorious stuff, a perfect marriage of music and lyrics. I'm not normally as concerned with discovering the intention of meaning behind lyrics in songs as I am in getting a general feeling about them, maybe picking out individual lines and drawing my own meaning. 'Dayton Ohio' contains a line that's glorious for me personally, "Let's sing a song of long ago/When things were green and moving slow". Other listeners will be able to pick out similarly affecting lines for them personally, on this lyrically rich album.

    'Sail Away' opens proceedings, a return to a string orchestrated sound. Very pretty sounding vocals and Piano patterns work with and against the lyrical matter, this tale of recruiting for slave trade simply heartbreaking, especially sang the way it's sang, especially played so beautifully and orchestrated so wonderfully. It's truly a thing to behold writing as masterful as this. 'Lonely At The Top' was reportedly written for Frank Sinatra, but according to Randy, he didn't have the sense of humour to sing it looking forlorn and leaning against a lampost, so that never happened. The strings beautifully orchestrate 'He Gives Us All His Love', which comes across almost as a hymn, a very gorgeous and beautifully sang 'hymn' at that. 'Last Night I Had A Dream' doesn't seem to be clearly ABOUT anything as such, but the lyrics are poetic and the song just so damn wonderful, that it brings tears to my eyes. The opening is doomy, sinister and scary and then things break into this happy bouncy Piano section, so effortlessly - and, well. I don't know what to say at all. Rock instrumentation comes through, in fact 'Sail Away' mixes Rock instrumentation with Orchestrated elements very well indeed. Tears of joy continue as the so happy and child pleasing, it beggars belief, melody of 'Simon Smith And His Dancing Bear' arrives. I first heard this song as a child on a 'Muppets' related album. It was good then, and it's good now! 'Old Man' is so heartbreakingly sad and lovely, and followed by 'Political Science' just tears you up all over the place. This is such an emotional and perfectly written set of songs. 'Burn On' and 'Memo To My Son' are both good songs, they allow me time to recover and just admire them. 'You Can Leave Your Hat On' as sang by Randy is very very funny, not at all like the Tom Jones version, so don't let that put you off. The funk and groove of the music perfectly compliments the seedy and perverted lyrical matter. The closing 'God's Song' comes across very seriously, very masterfully, and with or without conceptual flaws ( Randy himself said of 'Sail Away' that "there was no thought that it would cohere into a whole, and it doesn't" ) - wraps up an album that's just so damn good, i'd say that it's flawless anyhow. A desert island disc type of an album you'll want to cherish for the rest of your life.

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    Readers Comments

    matt byrd matthewbyrd@hotmail.com
    This is really a fine record...... yet, I can't seem to enjoy a good portion of it. The title track is glorious, and so are some of the other songs.... but much of the album just grates on me, many of the melodies just annoy me. I can really appreciate Good Old Boys.... but, unfortunetly, for now, Sail Away is what Blonde On Blonde used to be for me..... I give it an undeserved 6.

    Ned Australia
    Definitely a perfect 10 album. Not a dud song on it. However, Joe Cocker's 'You Can Leave Your Hat On' was THE version that truly captured the sensual nature of the song. A perfect 10 as well. : )

    top of page Good Old Boys( 1974 )
    Rednecks / Birmingham / Marie / Mr President / Guilty / Louisiana 1927 / Every Man A King / Kingfish / Naked Man / A Wedding In Cherokee County / Back On My Feet Again / Rollin'

    'Good Old Boys' evolved from a Randy & Piano demo tape that traced through song the story and ideas behind his first conceptually themed album length project. At a time when Randy Newman couldn't have been more acclaimed by critics whilst simultaneously being ignored by the public - he chose to bring attention to Amercian racial issues past and present. The opening 'Rednecks' is no easy start - the liberal use of the n-word throughout the song attracting much controversy. The songs ( deliberately catchy ) chorus, "We're rednecks, we're rednecks / We don't know our ass from a hole in the ground" placed Randy firmly in the character of a stereotypical American Southerner offended at the moral superiority displayed by Northeners. As the song progresses, the character draws indignant attention to the supposedly more enlightened Northern attitudes on Racism thus, "Down here we're too ignorant to realize / That the North has set the nigger free.... / Yes he's free to be put in a cage / In Harlem in New York City / And he's free to be put in a cage in the South-Side of Chicago / And the West-Side...".

    As the album progresses all sorts of interesting and dubious characters are met through song and their stories told. And really that's exactly what 'Good Old Boys' is, a collection of short stories set to music. It's challenging, it's provacative. It was part social and political commentary, part observeration and it's part history lesson - 'Louisiana 1927' tells the story of a great pre-depression flood that washed away an entire way of life. So, whilst Randy Newman was putting all this thought, intelligence and passion into telling a series of linked stories, how exactly was the music coming along? Well, 'Good Old Boys' is glossier than 'Sail Away', it sounds more polished and less natural. That's not to say that there aren't musical delights to be had of course, but they are a little harder to come by. My main point of complaint is with 'Louisiana 1927' which given its lyric deserved better than a blantant musical copy of Randys own 'Sail Away'. 'Rednecks' is the highlight here for me, from start to finish. It reaches me, opens my eyes, challenging lyrics and catchiness abounds and your brain conflicts with everything going on. Still, a touch of genius, whatever it is. 'Marie' is so sweet and lovely sounding, so sad and full of love as the drunken man is open and honest with his beloved. But, check these strings! Check this vocal right here, it truly is gorgeous and able to bring a tear to anyones eye. "With your hair piled up high, i'll never forget.... i'm drunk right now baby....." - this is beautiful, wonderful stuff. "I loved you the first time I saw you" sings Randy and "I'll always love you Marie". I'd change the name, then everything is correct. People will associate with the song.

    We've got the political and country tinged 'Mr President', we've got the one minute long Randy Newman all over sing-a-long of 'Every Man A King', very patriotic, tongue in cheek, very American. 'Kingfish' is a stone cold great song, no question. 'A Wedding In Cherokee County' is delightful in its story-telling, 'Back On My Feet Again' a potential hit according to Randy, but with these kind of lyrics, maybe not. And surprise, it wasn't! 'Good Old Boys' was his best selling album at the time, though. I prefer 'Sail Away' myself, but what can you do?<

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    george skatepunk73@hotmail.com
    my first impresion when i first heard the "redneck" song was ...wow! this man its a very racist man. shame on you... but then a got into the net and get different thoughts about his controvesial lyric. then i got even more confused beacause some people said.. yeah!!! white supremacy!!! and others said like: are you a bounch of ignorants??? hes pretending to draw an image of the southern rednecks of how stupid and ignorants they are... so.. i got more confused... . my english its very bad too.and it doesnt help too much..im not from usa..i red your sit comments about him and his music. but I would like to know what randy newman really thought about all this racist songs, and what he expected about them. the real intentions about his songs. thank you for your attention... bye... and sorry again for my english.

    David Grant davelaronge@yahoo.com
    I find that this is his best CD that he has created in his career. While I have just purchased "Randy Newman Live" and "Randy Newman", I have heard "12 Songs and "Sail Away" and as good as they are, they don't quite measure to "Good Old Boys". I think I find these songs are more unified and work to tell a story of a particular region of the South--in particular Louisiana and New Orleans. The songs are funny, sad, and rather moving. He also manages to strike a balance between the use of orchestration(which very few artists use to the powerful effect)and the blues and rock and roll feel. This music has been particularly powerful as everyone in the world(I am a Canadian observer here)and the themes of race and class that are tackled with here in this album. This is truly the one CD I would recommend to somone completely unfamiliar with popular music and music in general.

    top of page this page last updated 14/10/08

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