eMusic Review 0
Some people don't like Randy Newman's voice, but it's this rubbery, lighthearted, comedic instrument that allows him to sound simultaneously sarcastic and sincere. So when he writes songs about abhorrent characters doing abhorrent things, he inhabits them as seamlessly as Robert DeNiro transforming into a terrible mobster or an abusive boxer. It's the humanity that makes the ugliness palpable.
The Los Angeles singer-songwriter uses this device especially effectively on 1972's "Sail Away," the title track to his third studio album. The song is delivered in the first-person voice of a slave trader who travels to Africa to "sell" natives on the advantages of jumping onto a boat and accompanying him to America. Newman's inimitable deadpan shimmers (as does his beautifully timed foil, his own happy ragtime piano accompaniment) as he snarls: "Ain't no lions or tigers/ain't no mamba snake/just the sweet watermelon and the buckwheat cake." More famously, "Political Science" contains the immortal line "Let's drop the Big One and see what happens."
The songs are so breezy and poignant it's occasionally easy to miss the depravity in the lyrics. "Lonely at the Top" is about a megalomaniac, but it's just as much about a swinging New… read more »