Record of the Day: Randy Newman, "Sail Away"

Record of the Day: Randy Newman, “Sail Away”

Randy Newman
Sail Away (Cd Reprise 7599-27203-2)

Unmistakable and inimitable, Randy Newman is among the greatest contemporary American songwriters and for over thirty years has slowly been building a repertoire of songs that are among the most intelligent in the entire music scene.
Equipped with a piano style where echoes of Gershwin, Porter and the New Orleans style can be found, owner of a non-voice that interprets his own pieces better than anyone else, Newman has seen his compositions taken up by dozens of performers, he has written many soundtracks (he descends from a lineage of great cinema authors) and occasionally sits at the piano to perform in concert.

His vitriolic humor has often caused him trouble with right-thinking people and the most conservative public, but this has not stopped him from continuing to represent his personal, very comical and desperate vision of the world where the most diverse characters interact, from the dirty tycoon to “It's Money That I Love” to the young loser singer of “The Blues”, to the fascist cowboy of “Rednecks”.
Grotesque and monstrous, his characters nevertheless do not lack humanity; when the prostitute pimp from “Same Girl”
he sings a love song to his victim he is sincere like the idiot who drives a supersonic car speeds along Santa Monica Boulevard shouting I Love LA. In Newman's catalog there is no shortage of songs that have become very famous such as “You Can Leave Your Hat On” (taken to the stars by Joe Cocker in an arrangement that is incredibly doped compared to the original), “Guilty” and “Mama Told Me Not to Come”; this artist's entire discography uniquely paints the portrait of an America in disarray, proud of its past and at the same time terrified of its own future.

“Sail Away” (1972) appears as one of Newman's masterpieces right from the title track, apparently gentle but in reality equipped with double-bottomed lyrics about racism. Nothing is spared by our Author's sarcasm, not even the Eternal Father (who in “God's Song” marvels at how much men continue to love him despite the catastrophes hurled upon the earth), while “Political Science” anticipated the delusions of omnipotence by thirty years by George W. Bush making us laugh with a shiver down our spines.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.