Music is the soundtrack to our lives. And on Christmas Day 2012, four days after the world was supposed to end, GuysNation columnist Bryan Lienesch was given the book ‘1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die’. As he flipped through it, an idea dawned on him right then and there: he would attempt to knock all 1,001 albums off his list. Not just before he dies, but as fast as life would allow.
This is the Bucket Beats List.
Randy Newman might have the most easily identifiable voice in the history of music. It’s so “his own” people who have never heard it before probably never forget it.
I sure never did.
A part of that comes from his extensive work with movies. I guarantee you’ve seen a movie with a Randy Newman song in it. ‘Monk’, ‘Toy Story’, ‘Meet The Parents’, ‘Forrest Gump’, the list goes on and on. If you haven’t seen a movie with a song he’s either written or performed, you’re probably still perplexed as to what that red monstrosity is outside your local 7-Eleven.
So it’s only fitting that so much of Newman’s 1972 ‘Sail Away’ has been sliced and diced and inserted into movies. The song ‘Burn On’ is the opening tune for ‘Major League’. ‘Sail Away’, the record’s titular track, was in 1999’s ‘Beautiful People’ and ‘Political Science’ was used in ‘Blast From The Past’ that same year. ‘Lonely At The Top’ was in ‘You’ve Got Mail’, ‘You Can Leave Your Hat On’ was in ‘The Full Monty’ and ‘He Gives Us All His Love’ was a part of ‘Cold Turkey’, a film that was actually released BEFORE the album.
You see, Newman’s lyrics aren’t profound, provocative, or really even that brilliant. He just assumes a character and lets the story unfurl. There’s so much context in his songs, especially those on ‘Sail Away’ that it’s very clear that the hard part was actually giving these short poems/stories a musical background.
That, unfortunately, is what makes Newman’s work better-suited for the big screen. ‘Sail Away’ isn’t an album, it’s just a period-localized excerpt from his life’s work. The songs themselves go together about as well as ice cream and sauerkraut.
‘Political Science’, for instance, is a smirk-inducing, uber-sarcastic commentary on U.S. Foreign Policy. Some six minutes in track time later, you’re in the middle of ‘You Can Leave Your Hat On’, a set-the-mood jam that is akin to dulcet foreplay. That, in and of itself, is more than a little strange, because I don’t know how many women get turned on by the singing bush from the ‘¡Three Amigos!’ (look it up it’s a very smart reference).
Randy Newman’s inspiration has always seem to come from everywhere. It’s almost as if he ran his finger through a dictionary and found a word to write a song about. The all-over-the-place subject load is the kind of thing I couldn’t ever stand about Todd Rundgren’s work and it’s equally-frustrating here.
And that’s where I’m torn. I love Randy Newman. I love so much of his work. But this? This thing he calls an album? This is not one of the things I love.
You play this thirty-minute record and all it makes me want to do is go watch a movie. I think I’ll do just that. ‘Volcano’, anyone? Yeah, he wrote ‘I Love L.A.’, too.
3. Burn On
2. Last Night I Had A Dream
1. Political Science
Least Favorite Tracks?
3. God’s Song (That’s Why I Love Mankind)
2. Dayton, Ohio – 1903
1. Simon Smith And The Amazing Dancing Bear
Do you really need to listen to this album before you die?
Nope, just get a Netflix account.
When Bryan isn’t writing, he is on Twitter! Make sure to give him a follow @bclienesch for social media shenanigans!