Randy Newman

Harps + Angels | Nonesuch
By ZETH LUNDY  |  August 12, 2008
3.5 3.5 Stars
0815_randyINRandy Newman could have titled his first new studio album in nine years More Songs About Politicians, Dubious Old Men, and Humanity's Ineptitude, but that would have been too obvious. Harps & Angels is a much better title, because, like Newman’s best work, it hides its darkness in phony sunshine — after all, this is the guy who wrote a song from the point of view of a God who gets his kicks watching people suffer. God doesn’t make an appearance here, though the narrator of the title track embellishes his near-death experience to make a good story. The music is vintage/predictable Newman, full of ’Nawlins boogies and understated ballads, and as on 1999’s Bad Love, lyrics are spoken as often as sung, so the songs have the air of a porch-side ramble. This works on “A Few Words in Defense of Our Country,” the not-so-subtle rip of the Bush administration that doubled as a New York Times op-ed piece last year. Funnier still are the elbows thrown at celebrity activism (“A Piece of the Pie”) and dumb American kids (“Korean Parents”). Yet as welcome as it is to have Newman’s acerbic wit back, it remains a singular pleasure to listen to a simple, devastating ballad like “Losing You,” which is wrapped up in sympathetic strings and absolutely devoid of irony. I think.
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  Topics: CD Reviews , Randy Newman, Randy Newman, Zeth Lundy
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