Born Again by Randy Newman

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Born Again by Randy Newman
Born Again by Randy Newman

Album Released: 1979

Born Again ::: Artwork

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1.It's Money That I Love3:38
2.The Story Of A Rock & Roll Band2:53
3.Pretty Boy4:00
4.Mr. Sheep3:53
6.They Just Got Married2:51
8.The Girls In My Life Pt. 12:36
9.Half A Man3:38
10.William Brown1:50


As I was driving from Seattle to Pullman the other day, I happened to pass a herd of sheep.

I thought 'that's weird', because I've gone back and forth between Seattle and Pullman at least a dozen times by now, and I don't remember ever seeing sheep. But as sheep are cute, I took my eyes off the road briefly to see what shenanigans they were up to - I noticed that a sheep nearby was black, and that immediately made me think of this Randy Newman album.

Not only is the album cover extremely *black*, but the music within is unlike any other Randy Newman recording. In fact, Born Again is so uncharacteristic of Newman that if he didn't have such a distinctive singing voice, you might question whether he was behind this album at all ... and judging by the face paint, Newman himself might not have believed he was behind it (I guess Kiss didn't need a piano player).

I wonder if he'd realised that Little Criminals was a bit pale, and he decided to use Born Again as a chance to explore new musical horizons. Probably. What's more, I'm usually thrilled to hear what an artist sounds like trying to step out of their comfort zone. And since Randy Newman is such a talented singer/songwriter, it's especially interesting to hear what odd things he would come up with in this 'experiment'. Not everything on here is a success, but let me tell you right now that there are some very enjoyable moments!

The greatest song in the history of the planet is called “The Story of a Rock and Roll Band”, and you'll find it right here on this album! (OK, it might not actually be the greatest song on the planet, but I like it lots). It's an ELO parody of all things, and he uses their trademark heavy-orchestral arrangements but in a comical fashion. Every little thing he adds to the mix, from those off-kilter strings to that goofy operatic passage, is pure gold.

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by Reviewer: Don Ignacio (blogging at Don Ignacio's Album Reviews)

Whilst Newman had been like a badly-kept secret ever since his first album (a sugar-coated affirmation of work he’d already done as a songwriter, collaborator, and scorer for TV shows), it took till the release of 1977’s Little Criminals and more specifically its hit single “Short People”, for him to get noticed by the wider public.

And the public was offended by the cruel depiction of the height-challenged among us, not only by lines such as [Short People] got grubby little fingers and dirty little minds, even more outrageous was its recurring dead-pan catchphrase short people got no reason to live.

Those familiar with Newman’s earlier albums and their brilliantly-executed miniatures probably understood "Short People" as just his way of tackling a subject (discrimination, narrow-mindedness, cultural xenophobia). Newman wasn’t a confessional singer/songwriter who bared his emotions or tried to spread his ideals - instead he offered snapshots of other people and their opinions, exaggerated them a bit here and there, turning them into little 'Feasts of Fools'. It was up to the listener to go along and draw their conclusions.

However, Newman forgot (or ignored) that the wider public saw things differently, being oblivious to the earlier instances of his sardonic craftsmanship, and so they now criticised him for it. And surprisingly, Newman retaliated with even the harsher and more explicit Born Again.

Criticisms of this album are usually directed at the lyrical matter, and with good reason. Seeing as Newman the ever-refined balladeer used to base his songs on beautifully simple yet effective wordplay, his new condescending / ridiculing attitude here is made all the more surprising. His disdain (or, the scorn he puts into his protagonist’s mouth) for people in “Pretty Boy” (how about it you little prick?) and “Half a Man” (a truck-driver wanting to beat up a big old queen) is startlingly crass.

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by Reviewer: Guy Peters (blogging at Guy's Music Review Site)