Newman’s debut album basically contains all the elements that would become distinguishing features of his entire output: short and (apparently) simple songs, a highly original (at the time) blending of Gershwin, Copeland, 1960’s pop, and ragtime, and prominent lyrical concerns (love, the cruelty people inflict upon each other, history and politics).
Indeed, Newman’s universe isn’t as rosy-colored as his oft-sweet (nearly corny) arrangements might suggest. He'd been around since the early 1960’s, when - as a teenager - he wrote songs for such people as Pat Boone, and The Fleetwoods, so it's no surprise this debut already sounds very accomplished.
Newman doesn't only take care of the songs, but also the baroque orchestral arrangements. And those arrangements are exactly what regularly spoil the fun for me ... there’s nothing wrong with them as such I guess, they're often a tasteful combination of Copeland-inspired 'lush' and movie scores (not surprising given Newman’s dad was a famous composer himself), nor is there anything particularly wrong with the production, handled by Brian Wilson’s former collaborator Van Dyke Parks, along with Newman’s childhood friend Lenny Waronker.
However, maybe the producers should be blamed, since there’s definitely something off in the balance between orchestral and non-orchestral parts and instrumentation. Newman’s songs are often very muted quiet affairs, and when that silence is suddenly disrupted by overwhelming strings, horns, and kettledrums, it’s quite unsettling.
“Love Story (You and Me)” for instance, a ‘life-in-200-seconds’ song, starts with a minimal piano melody and Newman’s half-croaking voice, then some strings come in. After that there's the chorus, then suddenly the entire orchestra jumps in. It’s a great song though, and quite compelling.
by Reviewer: Guy Peters
(blogging at Guy's Music Review Site