Tuesday, November 30, 2010

354. 12 Songs- A dozen more Randy Newman tracks.

Album: 12 Songs
Artist: Randy Newman
Year: 1970
Genre: Pop


  1. Have You Seen My Baby?
  2. Let's Burn Down The Cornfield
  3. Mama Told Me Not To Come
  4. Suzanne
  5. Lover's Prayer
  6. Lucinda
  7. Underneath The Harlem Moon
  8. Yellow Man
  9. Old Kentucky Home
  10. Rosemary
  11. If You Need Oil
  12. Uncle Bob's Midnight Blues

I've written about Randy Newman before. You may recall him as the nice old man who records songs for pretty much every Pixar film out there. He's also the guy who recorded Short People a song that everyone seems to know but can never recall the origin of. 12 Songs is an album by that guy. There are 12 songs on it. One can only assume this somehow affected his choice of title.

Newman's musical style is best described as gentle. He sounds a lot like that guy playing piano in the corner of the bar. You enjoy the atmosphere he provides but at the end of the day you can't recall a single thing he played. He accompanies himself on piano without any kind of flourish or flamboyance. He's no Dr John. He's got an agreeable voice that soothes the ear but doesn't take you anyplace you haven't been before. He's not at all seductive unless you're the sort of person who thinks pleasant oil paintings of rustic scenes is the height of pornography. Nobody was ever incited to riot because of a Randy Newman song.

Lyrically he is prone to adopt characters, which is an interesting tactic but must have made him the ideal candidate to write for Pixar. He writes satire from a first person perspective. Which is all very well but since his voice always sounds like your favourite uncle it's a strange experience hearing him adopt different personna. Especially since he's happy to play various roles throughout the album. On 12 Songs he's a racist, a drunk, a lech and a terrified teenager- all while sounding like the nice man who plays on your kids favourite soundtrack albums. It's a weird experience.

Newman is one of those guys that I can appreciate the talents of but have no desire to hear very often. He's agreeable, clever, pleasant but not memorable at all. He deserves every bit of the fame he's acquired and every dollar in his bank account. But there is too much fantastic music out there for me to spend time listening to his albums.

Influenced by: The state of the world
Influenced: Musical satirists who wanted to blend comment with melody.

Highlight: Suzanne
Lowlight: If you need Oil

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "This CD secretly installs DRM (digital rights management) software on your PC without your permission. Not only does it do this, but the software then hides itself by installing as a "root kit."

-The review then goes on to give a detailed list of the problems of trying to rip certain Sony CD's onto a computer. It's long and comprehensive and outlines the CD's affected. Sadly Randy Newman's 12 songs isn't one of them. A Neil Diamond album which is also called 12 Songs is but Randy's album of the same name is not. The reviewer gave this album one star. So to summarize this album recieved a one star review from someone because an album with the same name doesn't play nicely with a computer.

So is 12 songs not enough or is it a dozen songs too many? Let me know below.

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