From the Vault...


Randy Newman
"Born Again"

© Warner Bros. Records
Year of Release: 1979

track listing
  • It's Money That I Love
  • The Story Of A
    Rock And Roll Band
  • Pretty Boy
  • Mr. Sheep
  • Ghosts
  • They Just Got Married
  • Spies
  • The Girls In My Life
    (Part 1)
  • Half A Man
  • William Brown
  • Pants

  • WSVNRadio Archives
    A B C D E F G H I J K L M
    N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

    Randy Newman related sites:
    Randy Newman Website
    Previous Review: #1593
    The Corrs--Live In Dublin
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    Various Artists--Just Can't Get Enough: New Wave Hits Of The '80s Volume 2
    Randy Newman
    "Born Again"

    Randy Newman returns this week with his 1979 release, Born Again. His Little Criminals release (1977) had a major hit from that album, "Short People." Call it an anti-song against the people of being short, Newman's outlook on life has been unusual. His lyrics and musical style has those determing what exact kind of "Rock & Roll" music to classify him as.

    ANd with the album title of Born Again -- was it a "born again Christian" themed album? Not so, as the album cover shows him in Kiss-like makeup, showing off dollar signs. Whatever made your decision on the type of musician Randy Newman was back then, was tested from his musical appearance on Saturday Night Live. As for Newman, he, as well as David Bowie's appearance on SNL, just made you say to yourself, "Who the heck are these guys?" Bowie's Ziggy Stardust phase had you wondering if he was a man or a woman. (That is how I felt back then, watching him on SNL, and not really knowing who Bowie really was.) Then there was Randy Newman, performing the song from Born Again, "Pants." The way he appeared, and performed the song, and the lyrics of this particular song, was just... plain... WEIRD.

    And this pretty much sums it up for the Born Again album, in listening to this album. Although it has its typical Newman styled songs at the time, and most importantly, it's strangeness, and weirdness.

    "It's Money That I Love" is your typical Randy Newman. It's lyrcis are dark: I don't love the mountains / And I don't love the sea / And I don't love Jesus / He never done a thing for me / I ain't pretty like my sister / Or smart like my dad / Or good like my mama / It's Money That I Love it's obvious that everyone loves money. "The Story Of A Rock And Roll Band" is based on the band Electric Light Orchestra. It's a different kind of Rock & Roll, just as Newman's own style of this has been throughout the 1970s. Warren Zevon'ish? Maybe. Then there's "Pretty Boy" -- strange, eerie, moodish, lyrics as well.

    "Mr. Sheep" is another typical Newman'er. It's bouncy-styled Newman style and lyrics gets him in a particular style of sound and style of his own. The same with "Ghosts", another Newman with his piano only mood, and it is jazzlike. It can be compared to Tom Waits. "They Just Got Married" continues the Newman weirdness. And "Spies" is another track in its Newman-styled form.

    Yet the weirdness of Newman's own take on jazz seems to work for the best on this album. "The Girls In My Life (Part 1)" may have the listener lost in Newman's lyrics and singing style, yet his take on the jazz piano makes the song work better. Just as in "Ghosts," in comparing the two, "The Girls In My Life" is better.

    Then we return to the Newman-strangeness on "Half A Man." The off-jazz returns again on "William Brown," having only Newman's voice and piano.

    Then there's the stranger-than-ever "Pants" -- It's dark lyrics, like many other songs on this album -- Gonna take off my pants / And your mama can't stop me / And your papa can't stop me / And the police can't stop me / No one can stop me Nope... not even the teachers... and the priests... the firemen, and the President... Yes, it's the stranger-than-ever... Randy Newman.

    By 1979, Randy Newman's most popular hits were from previous albums, such as "Sail Away" (title track) and "Short People" from Little Criminals. He was more of a songwriter, as his songs "Mama Told Me Not To Come" was a huge hit for Three Dog Night. (Newman recorded his own version of it on his 1970 album 12 Songs. Another song that was written by Newman, and he had recorded his own version of it on his 1972 album Sail Away -- "You Can Leave Your Hat On"; this song would become a huge hit later in 1986, by Joe Cocker. As for Born Again fans were expecting another out-of-the-ordinary hit, like "Short People." Despite the novelty of "Short People" and it's success being a hit, there were no hits from Born Again, as Newman himself stated that he was looking for the album to continue his success. Yet It obviously didn't, with the lyrics and dark content of the songs on the album. He would work next into scoring and composing music for movies. Ragtime would be his next score in filmmaking in 1981, as the movie starred James Cagney. Newman would accomplish even more successes in scoring music for future films.

    Expecting Born Again to be a success, the outcome was waiting for another hit, like "Sail Away" and/or "Short People." This was not the case. Even throughout his career in recording his own albums, Newman was primiarly better at songwriting, rather than his recording songs of his own. This is also with his own recordings of his own musical style, and his singing voice. It is quite different, with his mix of his own recorded songs, and singing voice. It may or may not have appealed to some. Yet he would record another future hit, "I Love L.A." from his 1983 release, Trouble In Paradise.

    The albums of Randy Newman have always been unique and different. As mentioned, he is more of a songwriter, penning songs recording by the likes of Three Dog Night, Joe Cocker, Eric Burdon & The Animals ("I Think It's Going To Rain Today), Blues Brothers ("Guilty"). His uniqueness of singing and music may not appeal for many, yet his most remembered songs recorded by himself are about a handful: "Sail Away," "Short People," "I Love L.A." His songwriting for other artists, and soundtracks he composed became more popular. He has been nominated and won awards for his films scores and soundtracks since 1981.

    So far, Randy Newman has had two other albums selected as the Album Pick of the Week on our website: Little Criminals and Good Old Boys. There will be more to come.

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    Previous Review: #1593
    The Corrs--Live In Dublin
    Next Review: #1595
    Various Artists--Just Can't Get Enough: New Wave Hits Of The '80s Volume 2