The words have all been written about him, and the story has pretty much been told. Randy Newman is pretty much one of the best songwriters we have in music. He does not merely sit behind an instrument and churn out songs, although he can and has, it something much more than that. He writes soundtracks to movies, and offers songs to movies, and on his latest album uses a symphony to his advantage. One man and one piano however is where it all starts.
With roots in New Orleans as a small child and then moving to Los Angeles the music he creates is an amalgam of many different places from the Midwest and coast to coast. There truly is no stone left unturned, and no subject that hasn’t found its way into a Newman song. His latest release Dark Matter being released today is Newman’s first studio album since Harps and Angels in 2008.
The album itself is 39 minutes of a more modern times Randy Newman. The first track he welcomes you with a theatrical version of a debate between two characters about science and creation. But, with Randy’s wit steering the ship for the characters he creates. The album is an extension of this for this self-proclaimed atheist. Randy’s wit doesn’t just steer the ship for a few songs, nope, it drives it for the whole album. Stick with the album after the first track, get through it, and this record you have to listen. Some albums you can plow through and the subject matter can be simple along with the melodies “don’t bore us get to the chorus” in a sense, but sure this one can do that however listen to the lyrics and what he is singing about and there is Randy and his piano, and that New Orleans-ish drawl weaving through the songs.
The album doesn’t harken back to yesteryear, nor is it the culmination of everything he has done. This is simply an album for all of us to enjoy however we may enjoy it. This is a master class in songwriting, as so many Randy Newman records can be. The characters he creates and has conversations with, and not to mention his piano changing the melody from something simple to then a Caribbean melody in a split second. That’s Randy, and that is Randy Newman at his best. The album can be a little theatrical at times, and sometimes too much, because for me personally Randy Newman is at his best when it is just him and his piano. If that is the only critique, well, that’s fine by me. Because it isn’t pretentious, it isn’t something it isn’t, it is Mr. Randy Newman and his humor shining like a diamond especially on two songs “Putin” and “Wandering Boy” and the songs in between those as well.
In the Moose’s Michelin rating for albums this is definitely a three out of three. Because Randy along with a few others can do no wrong, and maybe one day I will expose my list but until then give Randy Newman’s new record Dark Matter a listen, and then go back and start at his first release in 1968 aptly titled Randy Newman. The man can sure write a song.