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  • The Randy Newman Songbook, Vol. 1
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The Randy Newman Songbook, Vol. 1

40 customer reviews

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Audio CD, September 30, 2003
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Although he's now best known as the curly haired Prince of Pixar (he's written hit songs for a number of animated blockbusters, including Toy Story 2 and A Bug's Life, Randy Newman began his career as a misanthropic satirist and thwarted romantic. It’s this version of Newman who shows up for Songbook Vol. 1, revisiting 18 of his compositions, most written in the '60s or '70s, and all stripped down to just voice and piano. The idea is borrowed from vintage tributes to the masters, the "songbooks" of Jerome Kern or Cole Porter, usually interpreted by a great vocalist such as Ella Fitzgerald. In Newman's case, it's hard to imagine anyone else singing a slave trader's smooth sales pitch ("Sail Away"), a deity's bemused take on mankind ("God's Song"), or a child murderer's creepy meditation ("In Germany Before the War"). Stripped of rock backbeats or orchestral sweetening, Newman's songs reveal their stark beauty and classic craftsmanship even more keenly. What may be most remarkable, however, is how prescient some of the songs seem now ("Lonely at the Top" predates the rise of People magazine and a revolving cast of whining superstars by half-a-decade) and how timely some of its humor is. "Political Science" may have been written during the Vietnam War, but its clueless narrator ("No one likes us I don't know why/We may not be perfect but heaven knows we try") sounds a lot like a Bush Jr. cabinet member or this season's hottest Fox News pundit. Since the early '80s, Newman has focused the lion's share of his attention on soundtrack scores and sly but cuddly buddy songs. Songbook Vol. 1 makes one wish Newman would devote more of his energies to writing new songs as topical, vibrant, and biting as his old ones. --Keith Moerer

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 30, 2003)
  • Original Release Date: 2003
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Nonesuch
  • ASIN: B0000AKNEM
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #50,445 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By William Merrill TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 8, 2003
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is the way things were the last time I saw Randy Newman in concert -- just the man and his piano, and it was fine. It's also the way these songs were written, on the piano. Randy is such a spellbinding songwriter that his songs have great power even without a band accompanying him. His craggy and clipped singing style is not the most beautiful around, but it's grown comfortable and familiar with the years. Many of the musical heroes of my youth have fallen away, but my affection for Mr. Newman's music just keeps getting stronger.
Hearing Randy's tunes in this solo setting is especially good for the slow, sad songs such as "Marie" and "Sail Away." If I had to list my favorite songs of all time, the lovely "Marie" would be in the top five. A romp like "You Can Leave Your Hat On" may sound better with a band -- it's hard to top those horns on the chorus (Joe Cocker style) -- but this solo version is good too. His rumbling, bouncing piano lines aren't a bad substitute.
The song selection on Songbook Vol. 1 is interesting. Some of the big songs are missing -- "Short People" and "I Love L.A." for two -- but this is not a "greatest hits" CD. That has already been done elsewhere. Besides, he has to save a few tunes for Vol. 2. There are several short instrumental versions of his movie themes that serve as wonderful interludes ("Avalon," "When She Loved Me," and "Ragtime"). In sum, Songbook Vol. 1 is a treat, an an excellent way to hear an American treasure in the raw. By the way, I do not usually hand out five-star ratings. I think a CD should earn a five-star. I'm not just going to give five stars to everything I like even a little. However, this CD deserves the highest rating.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By John Mullin on October 3, 2003
Format: Audio CD
I've seen Randy Newman in concert 4 or 5 times, and have wished for some time that he'd put out a second live album that included some of his later work. Well, it looks like that's not going to happen, but this CD (the first of three volumes, reportedly) is the next best thing.
I love hearing these "piano-and-vocal-only" versions of Newman classics. Although the orchestra is a little missed on favorites like "Sail Away" and "In Germany Before The War," other songs like "Living Without You" (from his first album) actually play much better this way. Newman's performances of technically difficult pieces like "Rednecks" and "It's Money That I Love" really make one appreciate Newman's skill as a performer. "Let Me Go" was previously only available on the 4 disc Newman anthology that came out in 1998.
Eerily, "Political Science" (from the "Sail Away" album originally) seems to have more relevance today than it did in the mid 70s! This album is nothing new, really, but it's a really smooth listen and includes some nice alternate takes on his songs and film themes.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By prisrob TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 14, 2006
Format: Audio CD
"Most of my songs aren't autobiographical, or I'd be in an institution," Mr. Newman said after he had played half a dozen of them, getting an appreciative laugh. The audience was fully aware that his music enacts a tug of war between honesty and fallacy, and that his tone can oscillate from steeply ironic to disarmingly sincere." New York Times

Every once in awhile, you come across an artist that speaks to you, personally, intellectually, intuitively and gracefully. Someone you think, "I would love to have a conversation with, and what a great friend he would be." That person for me is Randy Newman. My best friend re-introduced me to him. We had the pleasure of seeing him in concert at Carnegie Hall, recently. Randy Newman walked on stage and it was his; his and the piano. He sat down and the evening became him. The songs are his and he speaks to us, and he brings us into the music. The Randy Newman Songbook, Vol.1 has taken awhile and as he says "Interviewers will ask why it took me five years to make an album and I'll say, `It didn't take five years -- I didn't do anything for five years,I watched tv like you do."

"It's Lonely at the Top", starts the CD and he is more reflective and mature. On this evening, Barbra Streisand was playing at "The Garden", and Randy had played this song to her. "She may be singing it this evening he mused." We all recognize his satire in "God's Song" - in which the Gods has contempt for all faiths. "Political Science" is even more to the point as it was in the Vietnam era, with its US view of the rest of the world. He may still be playing a devil in "Sail Away", and "Rednecks" which speaks about Lester Maddock and the wonderful self deprecating" It's Money That I Love".
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 10, 2003
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This disc fits the genius of Randy Newman perfectly. An extremely well-recorded disc of just Randy and a good piano, playing and singing some of his best. "Political Science" and other songs on this disc ring true more now than they even did when they were written. Randy still has a great voice, and hearing him provide lush arrangements with just his piano gives you added respect for his abilities as a keyboardist. Highly recommended for long time fans as well as those looking for a sampler of Randy Newman's work.
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