Randy Newman - vocals, piano
"Lover's Prayer," sums it all up when you attend a Randy Newman show. In this lament, the voice in the song is an obvious loser in love and needs some divine intervention when it comes to his sex life: "Don't send me no one with glasses / I don't want no one above me / Don't send me no one taking night classes… / Just send me someone to love / Please answer my prayer."
The song, which Newman often would open his shows with, is a pean to the average working man, a character that grinds out each day to little fanfare or success and in the end, just survive his gray existence. And that is what many of the songs of Randy Newman deal with. But, instead of seeming repetitive, Newman continually conjures up a new bevy of characters and situations that seem fresh to the listener.
An accomplished singer, songwriter, and film score composer, has found an innovative way to essentially write the same song over and over again. He's kind of the Woody Allen of rock 'n' roll, where the same character essentially appears in just about every film he stars in. For Newman, it seems as though he is always singing the praises of the underdog, the downtrodden, and the faceless American hero.
Recorded at Camden County College between the release of 1974's brilliant Good Old Boysalbum, and 1977's hit-bound Little Criminals, which scored the controversial statement on bigotry, "Short People," this performance offers up a healthy selection of some of Newman's best material, including: "You Can Leave Your Hat On," "Old Kentucky Home," "Old Man," "Political Science," and "Sigmund Freud's Impersonation of Albert Einstein in America," which he was preparing to record for Little Criminals when he tested it out on this audience.
The show also features a big chunk from Good Old Boys, Newman's concept album about life in the American South. He gives emotional performances of that record's best songs, including: "Birmingham," "Marie," "Kingfish," "Guilty," and the song, "Rednecks," which Newman introduces as a song that is "equally offensive to blacks, whites, Jews, and anyone who has taste."
Having written dozens of successful pop songs and film soundtracks dating back to 1961, Newman is arguably the most prolific and important modern day composer since Bob Dylan. In his career, which has lasted nearly five decades, he has seen and done it all. He wrote a bevy of pop hits for other stars, including Three Dog Night, Joe Cocker, Judy Collins, Harry Nilsson, Dusty Springfield, Linda Ronstadt, Manfred Mann's Earth Band, Peggy Lee and others; had several hits of his own (the most famous and controversial being a ditty called "Short People," in 1977); and has won both Oscars and Grammys for the dozens of film soundtracks he has recorded, including that of Monsters Inc..
Although Newman has performed occasionally with a full band, this is Newman as most of us have always seen him in concert: alone with only his piano. Certainly not one of the most energetic performers on the scene, the magic of Randy Newman in concert comes strictly from his brilliant songs and his own quirky way of presenting them in their most naked form.