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Randy Newman's music is bleak and beautiful. And sometimes the bleakness overwhelms the beauty. Yet his last album, Bad Love was a brilliant black diamond of a record and his best for 30 years.
Harps And Angels finds him in a more mellow mood although mellow is a relative term. Harps And Angels is the first track and is about a man having a heart attack.
Newman's genius is to turn intelligent thought into simple words and complex, compelling, bitter-sweet American music. On A Few Words In Defence Of Our Country he's like a cross between Dr John and philosopher John Grey. A mid-tempo bluesy country shuffle is the platform for a look at humanity's inhumanity and the decline of the American empire. A Piece Of The Pie makes you chuckle with swearing and jokes about Jackson Brown. But the brilliantly sharp Weill-esque arrangement delivers a real sense of unease underneath all the knockabout. The world really is going to hell.
By Newman's standards this is a good rather than great album. Potholes is a ramble without a punch line. But Newman's standards are very high. After all he's written some of the greatest popular songs of the past forty years.
And there are two songs here which rank among his very best. Losing You and Feels Like Home are beautifully crafted, precise and moving. Losing You is two minutes and 16 seconds of wonder: a perfect gem shining in the darkness. Both had me in tears and both like all Newman's best songs are crying out to be covered.
This album will only take up 36 minutes of your time. It'll make you laugh and cry. After all, it's Randy Newman.