Listen to Randy Newman’s Harps and Angels before it’s too late

I’ve been a rabid Randy Newman fan since I was in college. When I was a student producer in the mid-1970’s at WBUR, I tried desperately (and unsuccessfully) to get Newman to interview on a show I produced called Around the Hub. It wasn’t so much that I thought Newman was of interest to the audience, it was more an attempt to fulfill a personal obsession.

Newman is a musical genius the world seems to remember only for Short People, a song so unrepresentative of Newman’s work that its enduring popularity must be an unending annoyance for him. (Just today, the guys in the office were talking about loading up iPods…they talked about Led Zeppelin, Heart and Eric Clapton. Short People came up, too. What a shame.)

Anyway, Newman records albums so infrequently that it’s a major event in my life when a new one is released. If Newman is pissed off that the current justices on Supreme Court will outlive him (as he sings in the blistering A Few Words in Defense of Our Country), I am none too happy with Newman himself for not trying harder to satiate the few fans he has. He claims in a video documentary that he has 80,000 fans — down from 200,000 — and none of us are attractive looking.

I remain awestruck by Newman’s early work, especially 12 Songs, Sail Away and Good Old Boys. The recordings from the 80s and 90s, topped off by Bad Love didn’t seem as sharp or as even to me as the early albums. Now, the question I am thinking about is whether the new album finds Newman back in form. The short answer is, I don’t yet know.

But there’s no rush. Given that we might have as long as a decade to evaluate it, what’s the hurry? I mean, I’d love to have more Newman music to consider, so Randy, how about a new album in two or three years? After all, you said on your website that this only took eight to 10 weeks to write and another eight to 10 to record.

So, it’s not me I am worried about. It’s the rest of you who didn’t find Newman in your formative years. You guys, in your 30s and 40s, you’ve got several decades of savoring this music to catch up on. Unless you get started right away — savoring an album a decade — you’ll never get to Harps and Angels.

I’m more worried about your inability to catch up with the rest of us than about the fact that I’ll probably be dead before the next Newman album.





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