Randy Newman, Randy Newman

Nick Marino

By Nick Marino

on 08.16.11 in Reviews

Randy Newman

Randy Newman
A singer-songwriter doing something very different from his contemporaries

Released in 1968 (the same year as debut albums from James Taylor and Leonard Cohen), Newman’s first LP set the tone for the next 40-plus years of his career, and established him as a singer-songwriter doing something very different from his contemporaries. The record brims with charming little melodies that startle the listener who happens to catch the wicked lyrics – it’s funnier than Cohen, more ironic than Taylor and more steeped in Tin Pan Alley pop than Bob Dylan. The songs tell exquisite little stories. “Love Story,” for instance, takes just over three minutes to follow a couple from the time they met to the time they die, but what you remember is the addictive “you and me, babe” refrain. The jaunty “Beehive State” is sung as a conversation between pork-barreling political delegates. “Davy the Fat Boy” witnesses a man turning his tubby friend into a sideshow act, inviting passersby to guess poor Davy’s weight: “You’ve got to let this fat boy in your life!” Newman cries, singing in character, and seducing the listener into a guilty laugh. Cruel? Maybe. But it’s such a catchy tune.