Friday, October 22, 2010

Randy Newman's Little Criminals

Three years after a great success of the album Good Old Boys, in October 1977 Randy Newman decided to premiere his sixth album Little Criminals. Previous successes made him well known all over the word as a singing pianist, stage personality and eccentric songwriter. In new project he has continued with more courage the idea of concept album. And this time the whole issue was more a set of songs which are loosely bounded by the idea of general depravity, than a traditional cycle of songs. The leading idea is to expose the gallery of immoral characters – not the great malefactors, rather small crooks we meet in everyday life. And the Little Criminals became the highest-charting album by Randy Newman.
Despite this the conception of Little Criminals sometimes looks less clear than in previous recording. It may seem more hermetic because songs are changing it’s style and every next song differs not only in musical idea but also in style of lyrics and subject’s point of view. Perverse in sense of humor and in cultural context Little Criminals gave us a view to an American failures and mistakes but still made easy to identify with the heroes of the songs.

Randy Newman's Little Criminals

This time Randy Newman was set as a star of pop music, accompanied by very good sidemen and even by back vocals of musicians from the popular group Eagles. One song Baltimore was heavily quoted. Vision of dying city where “ain't nothin' for free”  and “ain't nowhere to run to” was in times of recession especially bearing. Covers of Baltimore have been recorded by Nina Simone, The Tamlins and Nils Lofgren. And more popularity means more unprepared listeners. In first song of the album Newman begun text with the phrase “short people got no reason to live” and it became immediately famous as an aim of many protests against alleged cruelty of song lyrics and its author. Of course such accusation can be only an effect of misunderstanding the idea of whole work. Anyway Little Criminals album close many sarcastic, than poetic moods. And even if from this perspective new songs sometimes are not enough clear or maybe sometimes contain some personal connotations, this album is still enough distanced and critical against social reality to be comprised in genre of satiric rock.

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