Thursday, March 15, 2007

241. Randy Newman - Sail Away (1972)

Track Listing

1. Sail Away
2. Lonely At The Top
3. He Gives Us All His Love
4. Last Night I Had A Dream
5. Simon Smith And The Amazing Dancing Bear
6. Old Man
7. Political Science
8. Burn On
9. Memo To My Son
10. Dayton, Ohio - 1903
11. You Can Leave Your Hat On
12. God's Song (That's Why I Love Mankind)


Ok, I know a lot of people have problems with Randy's narrative style of songwriting and his slightly nasaly voice. But by golly this is a great album. No one was doing this at the time, taking very american sounds through the use of the piano and putting little stories in character to them. It ends up being a collection of tales more than anything, but not necessarily narrative tales, Sail Away for example if a song sung from the point of view of a slave trader as a plug to Africans about how great it is to be an American, it's almost a jingle.

Then you go on through the album and there are varying degrees of subtelty, Political Science for example has the most brilliant title when applied to the song, but it hits more like a sledgehammer, not much subtelty here, but that's what makes it great satire in this case. A lot of the tracks here are ambiguous in their meaning, but when it comes to really important themes like nuclear war Newman doesn't feel the need to be subtle.

Not all is funny here, Simon Smith is bitter sweet and Old Man is intensely depressive. There is an overall feeling of longing to the better days, the ragtime piano, the invocation of Dayton, Ohio in 1903 and circus performers like Simon Smith and The Amazing Dancing Bear, still this always done tongue-in-cheek, like Dolly parton said "The good old days, when times were bad". The title song doesn't let you forget how bad they were. So this is an album that is more than anything multi-layered. The compositions are amazingly simple and beautiful while the lyrics are some of the best and least pretentious in the history of music. Get it from Amazon UK or US.

Track Highlights

1. Political Science
2. Sail Away
3. Simon Smith And The Amazing Dancing Bear
4. God's Song (That's Why I Love Mankind)

Final Grade

10/10 (wow, three in a row!)


From Wikipedia:

Newman is noted for his practice of writing lyrics from the perspective of a "character" far removed from Newman's own biography, often utilizing the literary device of an unreliable narrator. For example, the 1972 song "Sail Away" is written as slave trader's sales pitch to attract slaves, while the narrator of "Political Science" is a U.S. nationalist who complains of worldwide ingratitude toward America and proposes a brutally ironic final solution ("Let's drop the big one").

We really need three videos here, so here we go.

Simon Smith by The Muppets! :

Political Science at the Whistle Test, brilliant:

Last but not least, Randy Newman parody on Family Guy!:

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