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Sail Away

4.6 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Sail Away (US Release)
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Audio CD, May 21, 2002
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Editorial Reviews

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Odd man out in California's early-'70s panoply of singer-songwriters, Randy Newman didn't play guitar, refused to confess specific personal dreams and sins, and sidestepped the countercultural trinity of sex, rebellion, and self. Newman dared to be a neoclassical pop survivor, narrative guerilla, and prankster, and no album summarizes these gifts better than this 1973 classic, which found the singer, songwriter, pianist, and arranger spreading his wings to fuse the economy of his songwriting with his lush talents as a composer. The classic title song mingles its elegiac orchestral bloom with the devastating, deadpanned sales pitch of its slave trader protagonist, while elsewhere Newman wraps his whiskey drawl and laconic piano around acerbic meditations on God ("He Gives Us All His Love," "God's Song"), celebrity ("Lonely at the Top"), nuclear Armageddon ("Political Science"), and sex ("You Can Leave Your Hat On"). Sail Away captures funny, tragic, moving American pop at its zenith. Rhino's 2002 remixed, expanded reissue is fleshed out with early versions of "Dayton, Ohio 1903" and "Sail Away," the rarities "Let It Shine and "Maybe I'm Doing It Wrong," and a demo take of "You Can Leave Your Hat On." --Sam Sutherland
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (May 21, 2002)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Rhino
  • ASIN: B000065DVA
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #64,301 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Randy Newman is in a class all his own. That's not to say he's the BEST of the best, but he certainly is a raging iconoclast. I mean, a portly, curly-headed, Jewish-raised Californian who arranges for orchestra, writes for children's films, and sings songs about short people, L.A., good old boys, God, and dancing bears... what? Despite its unconventional exterior the music of Randy Newman is some of the funniest, most intelligent in the pantheon of rock/pop/whatever you want to call it.

Although not his earliest, Sail Away was Randy Newman's first album to generate a deal of noise - it remains a favourite of fan and critic alike and to this day his most consistent seller. There's probably a reason for that: namely the quality of this record. Newman has never given in to songwriting formulas or "conventions", staking out territory where his contemporaries seldom tread. So you don't get the archetypical "silly love songs" or teenage angst so common in rock & roll - you get self-deprecating ironies, tales of African slave recruiters, and Simon Smith and his Amazing Dancing Bear, among others.

This idiosyncrasy ranges from the dismal to the ribald and hilarious, and everywhere in-between. For instance, God's Song (That's Why I Love Mankind) is a bleakly insightful take on religion; the equally incisive Political Science a side-splittingly funny slice of "foreign policy" courtesy one of Newman's trademark wackos. From a technical standpoint all the performances are outstanding, including the virtuosity of Ry Cooder and Randy Newman's own skills as a pianist among others. His voice may be limited, but he makes the best of it in his deadpan delivery.
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Format: Audio CD
After a few albums of searching for a sound, Newman experimented and finally found his sound on "Sail Away". He experimented so much, in fact, that "Randy Newman Live" was released as a stopgap in 1971;it also previewed 2 songs from this album in stripped-down piano-only versions. The "alternate" take of the title track on this reissue shows just how much Newman experimented. Pounding anthemic rhythyms gave way to more lush but not overstated arrangements. The final release was very much worth the wait. Newman brings orchestra back into the fray after completely abandoning it on "12 Songs" (most likely the abandonment came as a result of the use - and sometimes abuse - of orchestra on his debut album). Newman's piano and the orchestra meld wonderfully in the mix. Some of the arrangements are downright amazing (especially on the title track and "He Gives Us All His Love"). Thematically the album could not be more diverse: God, death, politics, satire at a Swiftian level, sex, and success. Newman's ability to communicate cynical satire in a way that takes itself seriously without seeming self-righteous is displayed all over this album. When he's funny he's also profound. "God's Song" is hilarious while at the same time chilling. The same could be said for the sadly still all too relevant "Political Science". In the midst of these songs, the serious numbers are almost shocking. There probably hasn't been a more candid song about death and belief than "Old Man". Newman claims that audiences have walked out on this one, so he's stopped playing it. It's a great song, but yes, an absolute downer. "Dayton, Ohio - 1903" evokes the era the song is set in complete with breeze and front porch swing.Read more ›
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Format: Audio CD
Hats off to Rhino, for reissuing this masterpiece in such marvelous fashion. Regarded as one of Newman's most perfect efforts, it's now better than ever, with a stunning remastering job, way-improved packaging and five bonus tracks. A humorous forward from the man himself is the icing on the cake, but if I ever meet him in person I'm going to say, "Hey Randy! Great art is not always immediate and hugely successful. In fact, it pretty rarely is. You're make a great living. Artists from Harpers Bizarre to Etta James and many more have covered songs from this record. Bask in the glory of your artistic success and be happy!" Much has been written of the content of the lyrics and "messages" contained on this album; suffice to say, it's a thought-provoking album. Even a song that seemed as lyrically minor as "Simon Smith" was recently revealed to me as a parable concerning the doors that open to a good gimmick. The bonus tracks do add something - two previously unreleased studio tracks plus three earlier versions of tracks from the album, including "You Can Leave Your Hat On" and "Sail Away". The demo tracks appear to give some indication of Newman's manner of writing and recording; I've always considered Newman's self-deprecation to be kind of a dodge (can't blame him for being sick of answering the same questions over and over), so it's nice to see at least this much of his methodology exposed. "Let In Shine", the first bonus track, functions as a sort of an alternate upbeat coda to the album. It's all fine . . . buy and enjoy!
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