Randy Newman, Sail Away (1972)
I often think about how it’s sad that a bunch of people think that Randy Newman is just a Family Guy parody sequence and the composer of some animated movie soundtracks. That Family Guy parody was amusing at the time – and I bet no one laughed harder than Randy. Well, he would have raised a wry chuckle anyway. One of the bonuses of being almost constantly subversive is you’re always in on the joke. It’s the sort of one-dimensional, instantly amusing/instantly forgettable humour that Seth MacFarlane specialises in. It’s somewhat ironic he can have a go at Randy for milking a set of skills; Newman has actually diversified – concept albums, solo performances, movie soundtracks. New people keep discovering his oeuvre and how far, wide and deep it goes. MacFarlane keeps on chasing his own Simpsons dream and failing, the same stoners giving it a surface skim and finding it to be less than superficially deep. So, yeah, I now think about that almost every time I listen to Randy Newman’s music – which is a lot. I think about how Newman used to be his own worst enemy and how he was a viral hit waiting to happen from a time before there was any internet to provide said viral hit/s. He is technically a one-hit wonder and that one hit is both representative of some of his finest work and not a patch on his actual finest work. You want to get to Randy Newman’s finest work you take the title song from this album – or Political Science. The former is still being mistaken, 40 years on, as a beautiful ballad; the latter is still completely relevant. Scarily, eerily so. You want the best example of Newman’s sense of timing, his sense of humour, his level of schadenfraude, his understanding of satire, his commitment to thinking outside the square – the fact that Lonely At The Top was, as far as Randy will tell us, written for Frank Sinatra. It would have been perfect. Even just hearing Randy sing it and thinking of how Frank should have done it – it is Johnny Cash doing Hurt 30 years before Johnny Cash did Hurt.
Sample Track: Lonely At The Top
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