Monday, September 13, 2010

Randy Newman's Good Old Boys

   Randy Newman is a composer of many soundtracks for Hollywood movies. He is skilled piano player and brilliant stage personality. But popular culture do not recognize the polymathic artist. For years he was seen only as an author of songs. And as in creative output of some romantic era composers the songs Randy Newman composed for his own lyrics are best known part of his work. His songs can be not only the great narrative medium, but also effective discourse area. To see, let's just try some of these songs on a Redneck living in Birmingham with wife Marie who is desperately trying not to loose his dignity.
   The Good Old Boys is fifth album by Randy Newman. Twelve songs in straight sleeve with stylized for amateur and out of focus photo of somebody who can be the title Good Old Boy has been published by Reprise Records in September 1974. From the beginning it was concept album. Projected song about main character was withdrawn and hero of the whole cycle became more general personification of Deep South inhabitants. It is sure this group portrait could be easier to accept if there were less racism and drinking references. But this would make the picture complete unreal.

Randy Newman's Good Old Boys (1974)

   Maybe it was the spine of American consciousness in early seventies, to articulate the true emotions about something everyone knows and not to loose positive attitude. Maybe it was the question of respecting their nobility and dignity. Randy Newman’s songs never before was so straightforward and probably never again touched the point of American self-confidence so directly. And all songs create this multidimensional picture: Rednecks, Birmingham, Marie, Mr President, Guilty, Louisiana 1927, Every Man a King, Kingfish, Naked Man, Wedding in Cherokee County, Back on My Feet Again and Rollin. One of them is artistic document of South past - Every Man  a King is original song by Governor of Louisiana in the years of Great Crisis Huey P. Long and Castro Carazo.
   As the poet Randy Newman is as wise as lyric and so serious as satirical. The great musician who has the gift to translate his vision into simple melodic structures. And he did this in his songs with perfection and class. Even if some of them are something man have to „think twice about playing in civilized company”. While it’s still hard to classify it into existing genres, in its time this record established quite new perspective of song – somewhere between Leonard Cohen and Frank Zappa. In subsequent records – especially in  Little Criminals and Born Again – Randy Newman continued this idea with even greater effect.

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