Newman: Sail Away (Reprise 9272032)
...and, I damn well dont wanna hear any Short
People jokes around here...
Because...in the horribly earnest - and artistically
benighted - early seventies of my childhood, Randy Newman
was (undoubtedly) the most important mainstream
songwriter we had. And yet, a freak one-dimensional hit,
from one atypically substandard album, was
enough to derail the career of the very best songwriter/arranger
of the era...so that his reputation since
has been tarred & feathered by it.
But...you should definitely hear to what came before...
Since this album is a goddamn masterpiece. From the overwhelming
Hollywood dreaming of Sail Away - the most
purely seductive imagery ever linked to slavery (not to
mention America itself) - to the awesomely bleak anti-illusionism
of Gods Song, this album offers perhaps
the broadest single-author song-cycle that American music
has yet offered.
And the music itself is strangely unified...and, yet
wildly diverse. Still, there are three crucial ingredients:
the lushly string-laden romanticism of his uncle (one
of the key soundtrack composers of classic Hollywood),
the New Orleans R&B of his childhood, and the delta
blues-take of his guitarist, the inimitable Ry Cooder.
The combined result is a seamlessly variegated synthesis
of three of the greatest genres American music has yet
produced...in support of the greatest singer-songwriter
of the early seventies...
But, unfortunately, Randy Newman is rarely acknowledged
as such, because - and, again, unfairly - the measure
of this genre during that benighted period was autobiographical
sincerity. And, in dramatic contrast to this, Randy Newman
was the Californian equivalent of Lou Reed
at his (Velvet Underground) peak as a songwriter: delivering
the true diversity of the American dream...without the
judgemental distortions that so typically disfigured the
output of his so-called peers. And he far
exceeded Reed in scope...
Because...America - irrespective of age or politics -
has never had a more honest, or lyrical, intermediary
than Randy Newman. And, at his peak - which this album
exemplifies - he literally voiced such a vast
variety of American worldviews that there has never been
any other, before or since, who has even come close.
And, remarkably, the backing band itself rose to the
Discover it for yourself, because I suspect that it will
be a long time before this achievement will be matched,
let alone surpassed.
John Henry Calvinist