Monday, September 1, 2008

Harps and Angels

Randy Newman might love LA, but his verbal delivery always puts me in smack dab in the middle of New Orleans, which somehow seems appropriate today. That sense is magnified by many of the tunes having a NOLA jazz feel to the arrangements, although some sound more like something from a musical. But if you like Newman's style of telling you a story more than singing you one, and the synthesis of stage and jazz is something you appreciate, you are going to really love this album.

Of course, on any Newman album, lyrics are key--I mean how many people can work "arrhythmic" into a song. That would be part of his heart attack/near death title track in which God and his angels provide the following advice:
When they lay you on the table
Better keep your business ("bid-ness") clean
'Fore they lay you on the table
Better keep you business clean
Don't want no back stabbing, ass grabbing
You know exactly what I mean
Alright girls -- we're outta here
Is it inappropriate of me to laugh at the idea of God calling his angels girls? Speaking of girls, how about these heartfelt lines for his daughter in "Potholes":
I even love my teenage daughter
There's no accounting for it
Apparently I don't care how I'm treated
My love is unconditional or something
Of course, all of these edgier observations that make the soft songs all the more sincere.

But ultimately, much of this album is political commenatry on the state of our country, particularly the direction we have been heading as of late. There is this from "A Piece of the Pie":
Jesus Christ it stinks in here high and low
The rich are getting richer
I should know
While we're going up
You're going down
And no one gives a shit but Jackson Browne
And then there is the most direct criticism of the album offered up in "A Few Words in Defense of Our Country"--here are a few choice verses.
I'd like to say a few words
In defense of our country
Whose people aren't bad
Nor are they mean
How the leaders we have
While they're the worst that we've had
Are hardly the worst
This poor world has seen

Take the Ceasars for example
Within the first few of them
They were sleeping with their sister,
Stashing little boys in swimming pools
And burning down the city
And one of 'em, on of 'em
Appointed his own horse to be Consul of the Empire
That's like vice president or something
Wait a minute, that not a very good example is it?


A President once said,
"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself"
Now we're supposed to be afraid
It's patriotic and color-coded
And what are we supposed to be afraid of?
Why being afraid
That's what terror means, doesn't it?
That's what it used to mean

You know it kind of pisses me off
That this Supreme Court is going to outlive me
A couple of young Italian fellas and a brother on the Court now, too
But I defy you, anywhere in the world,
to find me two Italians as tight-assed as the two Italians we got
And as for the brother, well
Pluto's not a planet anymore either.

The end of an Empire is messy at best
And this Empire is ending
Like all the rest
Like the Spanish Armada adrift on the sea
We're adrift in the land of the brave and the home of the free
Somehow, Newman's concerns about this country's leadership seem appropriate given the news from both ends of the Mississippi today. Let us sincerely hope the the focus today and this week is on the natural event as opposed to the political one.


dave3544 said...

I was wondering why the Dems didn't get Newman to write up a ditty for the convention. I mean I was wondering it at the time. I think I was hearing more John Cougar (don't get me wrong) and wondering why the heck they didn't get Newman.

CPS said...

Well, you know I have been liking the Cougar a lot lately, but Newman would have been fun. I should have included all the lyrics from "Piece of the Pie" -- then your Cougar comment would have been all the more apt. Here they are:

"There's a famous saying someone famous said
As General Motors goes so go we all
Johnny Cougar's singing it's their country now
He'll be singing for Toyota by the fall

That's not true
John's a patriot
He's not like you
He's a......

Jesus Christ it stinks here low and high
Some get rich
And others just get by
Bono's off in Africa - he's never around
The country turns its lonely eyes to who?
Jackson Browne
Jackson Browne
Jackson Browne

A piece of the pie
That's all we're asking for
A piece of the pie"