Randy Newman – The Randy Newman Songbook, Vol. 1

Randy NewmanRandy Newman
The Randy Newman Songbook, Vol. 1
(Nonesuch – 2004)
by Matthew Robinson

Having been covered by the likes of Bette Midler, Joe Cocker, Mandy Patinkin, and Peter Mulvey, award-winning iconoclast Randy Newman has finally gathered the guts to perform his own music with nothing to hide behind but his faithful piano. In dealing with his own demons, Newman raises issues that continue to haunt us all. From racist ribbings (“Louisiana”) and Communist sympathies (“Karl Marx”) to anti-civilization marches (“Great Nations of Europe”) and capitalist commentaries (“It’s Money That I Love”) to pro- and anti-American anthems (“Sail Away,” “Let’s Drop the Big One”), Newman is unafraid to point fingers, even when three point back at him.

Amidst all this scolding, however, are moments of true beauty. Through such sparkling gems as the spare instrumental theme “Avalon,” the perfect love song “Marie,” the uplifting “I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today” and the dark “In Germany Before the War,” Newman reveals the sensitivity and sense of irony that underlies even his sharpest barbs. And when not waxing political or poetical, Newman also knows how to get down and dirty, as demonstrated in the raunchy classic “You Can leave Your Hat On.” With his broad and deep body of work, it is small wonder that Newman is one of the most beloved, acclaimed, and copied songwriters of our age. And though the staturely-challenged may be spared this time, remember – this is only Volume I.

© 2004, M. S. Robinson, ARR