Review: “Harps And Angels,” Randy Newman

I have come to the realization that Billy Joel isn’t so bad after all.  And I must thank Randy Newman for helping me to realize that.  Newman’s latest CD, Harps And Angels, is so godawful that it actually made me reconsider the music of the Long Island Piano Man … and comparatively, Mr. Hollywood doesn’t stand a chance.  Now I used to like Randy Newman: loved his 12 Songs, thought “Short People” was amusing, chuckled briefly over “I Love L.A.” and have pretty much ignored everything he’s done since.  Maybe I’ve moved along – and Randy hasn’t.

Harps And Angels, his first album of new stuff in nine years, is a brief (35 minutes) set of show-tune music, Dixieland and soundtrack rejects that would have been pleasant had they been vocalized by anyone other than Newman, who can’t sing.  His trademark non-singing is actually hard to understand and will send you scrambling for the lyric sheet – where you will find some very mean, unfunny ideas.  Yes, I understand he’s trying to be “ironic,” and “satirical” and “funny,” I even used to think Newman was all of those things, but my sophomore year of college was a long time ago.  

And so was Newman’s peak.  The most melodic passages are when the string section swells, recalling his older, better music.  When Newman eases off the heavy-handed statements and gets emotional on “Losing You” and “Feels Like Home,” those are easily the best moments on this album.  One wonders why Newman even cut “Feels Like Home,” a 1994 song covered by Bonnie Raitt and others – unless he wanted to produce the World’s Worst Version of that otherwise decent ballad.  Congratulations, Randy.  This is nowhere near rock and roll, and not very good.

MP3: “Feels Like Home”

Randy Newman official website

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