Having bought "Guilty" -the definitive Randy Newman collection -I didn't think I'd be interested in further recordings of already familiar songs. But I was happy to be proved wrong with this CD. If anything, Newman's earthy growl of a voice seems even more suited to his songs with age; and the new recordings of these wonderful songs with just him playing piano are excellent. In the pared down atmosphere of just piano and voice, you can appreciate the talent of the man - superb songwriter and pianist, some of these songs could only be sung by him. Enjoy also some of his film music - "When She Loved Me" from Toy Story 2 is simply a lovely song -the only fault here is the shortness of the track. Newman fans will already know and love this material, for new listeners, a treat lies in store. One of America's finest craftsmen of pithy, biting songs displayed here on top form.
He's back....stripped down to piano and voice...as trenchant,poignant,mordantly funny,relevant and bitingly intelligent as ever. Without the use of a superfluous word or note, he paints in perfect little miniatures a portrait of a land peopled by its quota of misfits, bigots and damaged goods. The sheer power of his intellect strips away the veneer and probes his country's psyche with a surgeon's skill. He has prowled his constituency for nigh on 40 years and this album (the first of 3 promised songbooks) reflects Newman at his best, beautifully played and performed. A treasure chest of his finest work. In this world of banal junk pop, it is wonderful to see an artist with something to say, saying it at the height of his powers. Roll on Volumes 2 and 3.
If You LIke Wry On The Rocks, Randy's Your Man, October 14, 2006
"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". "Living Without You" and "I Think It's Going To Rain Today" shows us his poignant and tender songs. As with his would-be ladies man "You Can Leave Your Hat On" he makes these characters sound so human and we recognize them as us. It was Joe Cocker, he says, that put the beat and rhythm to the song that made it so popular. "Lousiana Rain" is as poignant and meaningful now as it was in the 1920's.
The intelligence, grace, and craft of Newman's songs are shown here at his peak. And while there's a little flash in his piano playing, a little boogie, alot of blues, he is recognized by me and others as a down to earth man, one we would like to know. This CD starts to summon his songs written over the years, and this is the first of three. It appears that Randy is not in any hurry to finish these songbooks, but we do know the best is yet to come.
The Guardian sums up Randy Newman; "He may well be the greatest contemporary American songwriter; he's easily the cleverest. And, by a long shot, the funniest. If you like wry on the rocks, Randy's your man."
Intelligently, Gracefully, Heartily, and Wryly Recommended. prisrob 10-15-06
I misunderstood what this album was for a few years. As a Randy Newman fan I already have most of the songs on this album so I didn't buy it, but one day I accidentally discovered that it was basically an 'unplugged' album with just Randy and a Piano.
It's brilliant. The songs are given a new dimension and when they are stripped of studio production and supporting instrumentation they sound wonderful. For purists of the art of songwriting and for anyone who has seen/ would like to see Randy's live stage-show where he's on his own. Thoroughly recommended
Randy Newman of course never really had any hits in the UK. However this album from one of the best songwriters of the last 50 years really is something special. Not a compilation at all in fact, but complete re-recordings of some of his finest songs.
Recorded with vocal and grand Piano only this is exactly how you should hear any great songwriter, whether they are playing the Piano or not. The combination of voice and Piano is unbeatable for letting you hear the beauty of the music. Now of course Randy Newman is a very good pianist, but he's an even better songwriter who manages by some quirk of fate to be blessed with the ability to write tender love songs, as well as satirical and ironic tales on American society and the world in general.
This is a magnificent album by one of the most underrated musicians and songwriters out there.
I treasure my copy of Jimmy Webb's "Ten Easy Pieces," because the album showcases the songwriter delivering the songs as they should be both in tone and emotion. Step forward Randy Newman, with "Songbook Vol I." The format is the same, a brilliant wordsmith visiting his back catalogue with breathtaking performances. Anyone who has heard or owned the original album versions will be totally blown away with this older and wiser collection. New listeners will be able to bask in poetry and music from a great talent. Mr Newman has indeed done the inpossible by surpassing his own benchmarks for the art of the singer-songwriter. Buy this album without hesitation and you will be entertained by a genius.