Randy Newman, The Randy Newman Songbook, Vol. 2

Nick Marino

By Nick Marino

on 07.01.11 in Reviews

The Randy Newman Songbook Vol. 2

Randy Newman
Conjuring a litany of memorable narrators

Casual fans rely upon Randy Newman for little more than Pixar soundtracks and quip-laden Oscar speeches. That’s too bad. In a career dating back to 1968, Newman has written some of the smartest, funniest songs in pop history, jaunty one-act plays about American life, sung by deranged characters to the melody of a showtune. In Songbook, Vol. 2, a companion to his 2003 voice-and-piano retrospective, Newman conjures a litany of memorable narrators: For starters, there’s the smarmy cad (“The Girls In My Life”), the regretful lover (“Losing You”), the Alabama millworker (“Birmingham”), the deluded optimist (“Laugh And Be Happy”) and the governor of Louisiana (“Kingfish”). Whereas Vol. 1 drew heavily from Newman’s 1970s cult-classic Good Old Boys and Sail Away albums, Vol. 2 revisits even-lesser-known records like 1983′s Trouble In Paradise and 1988′s Land of Dreams. The former LP gave us “My Life Is Good,” this collection’s most ironic moment, in which Newman imagines a version of himself in conversation with Bruce Springsteen, who says, “Rand, I’m tired. How would you like to be the boss for awhile?” In a typical Newman flourish, “Short People” — his only actual hit — is missing from either Songbook. It’s also never missed.