Category: Randy Newman

Randy Newman – Sail Away

ARTIST: Randy Newman        Randy_Newman-Sail_Away_(album_cover)

TITLE:  Sail Away

YEAR RELEASED: 1972

CHART ACTION: #163

SINGLES: Sail Away

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Political Science, You Can Leave Your Hat On, God’s Son, Lonely at the Top, Burn On

LINEUP: Randy Newman, Ry Cooder, Russ Titelman, session bassists and drummers (the best LA had in 1971)

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A full album of Newman’s sardonic, wry observations about society past and present (for 1972). It sounds like his Pixar stuff, except its biting.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Songs about the slave trade, nuclear war, God’s reaction to the state of the world, that time a river caught on fire, love, family a song about celebrity written for Frank Sinatra, and sex. That’s a full plate for any songwriter in his career, and this is just one album from Newman.

He was really hitting his stride. Some of these songs had been recorded by others, but Newman’s own interpretations here give them more poignancy. You listen to this record, and you think, “I’ve heard this,” and you probably have. Even then, Newman’s songs were used for movies because they fit so well. The best known song, “You Can Leave Your Hat On” was kind of an afterthought until Joe Cocker recorded it in 1986. Then, it was put in 9 ½ weeks, and well, now everyone knows the darn thing!

The title cut is about a slave trader trying to attract Africans to come to America. The closer is God talking about how he loves us because he does all of these shitty things to us and we still love him back. In between, there’s a whole gamut of topics, all narrated by Newman in his nasal, breathy tone.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Frank Sinatra never recorded “Lonely at the Top”, unfortunately.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, some demos for the album.

GRADE: A+: I can’t speak ill of any track here. Not a one.

Randy Newman – 12 Songs

ARTIST: Randy Newman RandyNewman12Songs

TITLE:  12 Songs

YEAR RELEASED: 1970

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Yellow Man

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Mama Told Me Not to Come

LINEUP: Randy Newman, Clarence White, Ron Elliott, Ry Cooder, Lyle Ritz, Gene Parsons, Jim Gordon, Al McKibbon, Roy Harte, Milt Holland

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Newman, already known as a songwriter, records 12 of his songs (hence the title) in a more modern setting than his first album. It succeeds and gains him a smart new audience.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Now, you know Newman for his incessant Pixar and Disney movie themes that are easily parodied. However, this album made him quite the figure among smart in-the-know people who appreciated a good sardonic tune or dozen.

The backing lacks all of the strings and pomp that graced his work earlier. It’s arranged simply – some songs have a country feel (especially when White is on board with his great stringbender guitar), others just a simple piano. Yet it’s the songs that hit.

The targets may seem easy now, the reliance on oil, men who are nincompoops, rural America, racisim; then they were on the cutting edge. This is Newman on the cusp of being the 70’s most important satiric songwriter.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Three Dog Night made “Mama Told Me Not to Come” a hit, but Newman’s version has more bite.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A-: I found the arrangements good, but on some songs I wanted a fuller sound. Still, the songwriting is killer.

Randy Newman – Randy Newman

Randy-Newman-AlbumARTIST: Randy Newman
TITLE: Randy Newman
YEAR RELEASED: 1968
CHART ACTION: None
SINGLES: None
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Bet No One Ever Hurt This Bad, I Think It’s Going to Rain Today, Davy the Fat Boy
LINEUP: Randy Newman, the Wrecking Crew and strings; lots and lots of strings.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Quirky songwriter’s debut goes all baroque, drowning songs in strings and treacly arrangements that distract you from the songs themselves.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Arrangements matter – production matters. This is the lesson I took away from the first Randy Newman album. Randy_Newman-Randy_Newman

Here we have 11 of Newman’s early songs – songs that are much like his other work. Songs he has sold or will sell to other performers. Newman’s early works shine best with spare arrangements. That’s not the case here.

The cuts are drowned in strings and other baroque touches. To my ears, it doesn’t work. The songs, you can tell, are great. But the arrangements and production hinder the enjoyment of the songs.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Allegedly, this album sold so poorly that Warner’s had a promotion that they would exchange it for another Warner’s catalog product. However, since they didn’t drop him, you wonder if that was just hearsay or rumor.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: C+: A full letter grade down for the arrangements.