For several reasons, Land of Dreams
deserved extra attention when it was released. Not only was it Newman's first album in nearly six years (disregarding soundtracks), it was also produced by a varied bunch of producers, ranging from Mark Knopfler, composer James Newton-Howard and ... of all people, Jeff Lynne (remember “The Story of a Rock & Roll Band”?)!
That doesn’t look very promising on paper and granted, Land of Dreams
ain’t no Sail Away
or Good Old Boys
, but it’s another satisfying album, to a large extent because of the opening tracks.
Whereas Newman had always been one of the few non-confessional Californian songwriters, one that preferred offering enchanting snapshots of days gone by, or a gallery of emotionally-bankrupt misfits and morally-bereft victims, “Dixie Flyer” and “New Orleans Wins the War” are obviously autobiographical songs. The first describes how an infant Newman and his mother moved from Los Angeles to New Orleans (the 'land of dreams'), while his father was fighting in WWII. The music that accompanies this hopeful tale is an appropriately good-spirited slice of country/pop, while the Bayou gem of “New Orleans” continues the chronological storyline with a sweet‘n’sour taste, as his father returns from the war (but for They started to party and partied some more, ‘cause New Orleans had won the war, we knew we’d do it, we done whipped the Yankees
The miniature synth-opera of “Four Eyes” is a huge hyperbole to accompany a tale of being ridiculed as a glasses-wearing toddler (Four Eyes! Look like you’re dead!
), and it’s impossible not to see this as a childhood trauma translated into a nearly grotesque piece of abrasive theatre. However, after this seemingly out-of-place song, Newman treads on more familiar ground again - sometimes with average results - but a few of these cuts are unjustly neglected.
by Reviewer: Guy Peters
(blogging at Guy's Music Review Site