The Randy Newman Songbook Vol. 3
For longevity alone it’s funny to think of Randy Newman as any sort of One Hit Wonder. Add in the success of his “sideline” career as a soundtrack composer and it seems even more absurd. But – technically – he is a one hit wonder. And he kicks off this, the third volume of his songbook recordings with that wondrous hit; that one hit. Short People. He’s all but punching the keys here, the “Songbook” albums feature just Newman’s voice and accompanying piano. The song shines – still – as he bangs it out. No hint of millstone. Just a milestone in slipping irony and anger and inside a bouncy, happy melody and sending it into the charts.
Newman has been parodied (Family Guy) and parodied (Mad TV) and yet he has always been best at parodying himself – his brand of satire-in-song not only stands the test of time but if anyone wants to mock Randy he’s usually the best person for the job.
The Songbook series isn’t about self-parody though; it’s about stripping the songs down to the elements. And it’s about owning them. And though there was Volume 1 (in 2003) and Volume 2 (in 2011) he’s left it until now, Vol. 3, to dish out the biggest hit and the following “hits”; the most recognisable/successful material is here. From Mama Told Me Not To Come to You’ve Got A Friend In Me. From the songs covered by Alan Price and The Muppets and Harry Nilsson (Simon Smith And The Amazing Dancing Bear, Love Story) through to songs that really only (and always) belong to Randy – Real Emotional Girl, I Love L.A…
In fact, so many of these songs suit being stripped back from the 1980s synth sounds and near over-production. The seventies songs stand up without any Eagles harmonies and brittle, perfect drumbeats. Just Randy at the keys and his voice belting it out. That’s how these songs started. That’s how they’ll end. That’s where they’re (back) at now. It’s a magical line-up. Yet another.
If you’ve always been sure of his genius, or never