[Full disclosure: I am Randy Newman's web guy. But I swear he isn't paying me to write reviews for the Information Superhighway.]
Harps and Angels is one of Randy's best song collections. No matter how you feel about his soundtrack work, the hours and hours of "practice" he's put in while assembling those scores pays off in the complexity and elegance of H&A's arrangements. He's also got a few more miles on the odometer, so he has things to say that less-well-seasoned musical travelers might not yet be interested in verbalizing.
The title track (Harps and Angels) is about facing your idea of Death (if not Death itself) when you're down but not quite out. And maybe you've seen a few too many cheesy Christmas specials on TV? And maybe after a lifetime of drinking just a bit too much?
Losing You is sung from the perspective of a parent who has endured and recovered from much in his or her lifetime, but who won't have time to recover from the loss of a child.
Laugh And Be Happy is an ode to the good old American Dream with a twist. The song is narrated by a "mainstream" American who realizes the immigrant population will eventually push the existing status quo aside and establish a new social order.
A Few Words is Randy's famous, not-so-fictionalized take on the G.W. Bush presidency.
A Piece Of The Pie -- an angry song about in increasing gap between the American rich and poor -- has come true with a vengeance since H & A was released. This is one of my favorites.
Easy Street, another of my favorites, is a deceptively easy-going ditty in which an evil-but-affable agent provides a young starlet with extremely bad advice. Lindsay Lohan, take note.
Korean Parents is a spectacularly over-the-top observation concerning what it takes to get a good education in American schools these days.
Only a Girl returns to a recurring Newman theme: May-December romances. The question is does she really "love" the troubled narrator or doesn't she? Yet another favorite!
Potholes is a jaunty ode to losing one's memory. Maybe fewer memories are for the best?
Feels Like Home is Randy's own fully-orchestrated take on a song that has been performed by others, most notably Bonnie Raitt. In it's original context -- Randy's musical "Faust" -- the song could have been described as bitterly ironic. But taken on its own, it comes across as a nice love song.
Whatever you may think of Randy Newman, any artist who can link Clarence Thomas with the sudden downgrade in Pluto's planetary status and somehow have it make sense deserves more than a cursory listen. With the release of Harps & Angels, his first new record in nearly a decade, Randy remains in character as the crankiest bastard at the 4th of July picnic. I'm glad he came. Even by his own high threshold for cynicism, Harps & Angels is exponentially so. If … more
Randy Newman's first studio album of all new material in nearly a decade is, by turns, hilarious, poignant and scathingly satirical. Harps and Angels often has an easy going Crescent City feel, with Newman on piano fronting a small combo and revealing, as Rolling Stone put it after the Carnegie Hall show, his serious love and study of the New Orleans piano tradition.