Randy Newman: Bad Love

Bad Love (DreamWorks)

Record Reviews

Randy Newman

Bad Love (DreamWorks)

Randy Newman's sidecar success as a film composer reflects his unerring sense of arrangement and orchestration, which when paired with his satirically bent protagonists has proven a one-of-a-kind sweet & sour combination. Having spent the better part of a decade immersed in film scores and his criminally ignored musical treatment of Faust, Newman seems liberated to be back at his song craft on Bad Love. The album's showpiece, an open letter to Karl Marx titled "The World Isn't Fair," operates -- as with all his best material -- simultaneously on many different levels; at once sad, irreverent, funny, insightful, beautiful ... and all too true. Such depth is a rarity in a three-minute song; so much goes into a single track that you're almost amazed when it's followed by another. The 12 tales of Bad Love would mark a career milestone for most anyone, yet it's all in a day's work for Newman. The aberrant affections implied by the title are everywhere; the pleading letch of "Shame," shedding every shred of dignity; the unrequited ("Better Off Dead"), perplexed ("The One You Love"), and wistful ("Every Time It Rains"); the paean to the ex, "I Miss You," and of course, self-love ("I Want Everyone to Like Me"). This cast joins the patriarch of "My Country," whose grown-up kids "have TVs of their own, but they keep coming over anyway," the career liar of "Big Hat, No Cattle," and the socio-political histories of "Great Nations of Europe" (imperialists spreading their diseases). "I'm Dead (But I Don't Know It)" finds the songwriter pondering his relevance in an accelerated age where subtlety and wit seem to be elusive luxuries. Still, Newman reigns in his cynicism on Bad Love, his most consistent work since 1974's Good Old Boys. If the world was fair, Newman, who has never sold huge numbers of albums, would be widely acknowledged for his genius. In the meantime, nothing's stopping you.

***** 

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