Feature

Randy Newman

In <em>Harps and Angels</em> Randy Newman is still the sharp-tongued songwriter who hides biting satire under an inviting melody.

Randy NewmanHarps and Angels(Nonesuch)

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Randy Newman “came across as an old crank even when he was an angry young man,” said Stephen Thomas Erlewine in All Music Guide. Now 64, and enjoying a lucrative career in Hollywood, you’d think he’d be more content. But he’s still the sharp-tongued songwriter who hides biting satire under an inviting melody. Newman’s discontent with America’s current state led him to record his first studio album in nearly a decade. Besides being a “viciously funny collection,” Harps and Angels is “explicitly an album of its time.” Newman typically has thrived “when society is at its most depraved,” said Rob Tannenbaum in Blender. Now he insults Supreme Court justices on “A Few Words in Defense of Our Country,” his own take on a State of the Union address. In “A Piece of the Pie,” the economy is his target: “Living in the richest country in the world / Wouldn’t you think you’d have a better life?” It all plays like a “sardonic campaign speech,” said Greg Kot in the Chicago Tribune. But Newman wraps his outrage in easy-breezy country and Dixieland to create pop that’s “crushingly poignant” but never overly ponderous.

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