In 1971, Randy Newman released his one and only live album, appropriately called Live
, which featured stripped-down versions of some of his old songs. In 2003, he released an album with exactly the same idea, except it wasn't done live.
Since you have a photographic memory and you've read every single word that I've ever written, you probably remember that I said Live
gave his audience the valuable opportunity of hearing him perform his songs more intimately. That still holds true - he seems a little more like a real person when he's singing these songs without the distracting orchestration. But I also mentioned that Newman was always so good at his arrangements that the songs tend to feel slightly empty without them. And that's still true as well.
The other main difference between the two albums is Randy Newman's voice, which is decidedly huskier and more lethargic than it used to be. In a way, his aged chops make him sound more world-worn - a little more like he had actually *lived* enough to earn the right to sing these touching songs about love and disappointment.
On the other hand, when I compare these vocal performances to the originals, it's clear that he tried much harder with the originals. Songbook Vol. 1
is what Newman probably sounds like on any average day where he sits at his piano to brush up on old material. It's professional but not very polished, and maybe he's just a *little bit* bored with it. That sort of limits Songbook Vol. 1
to strictly die-hard Randy Newman fans who would like to hear what Newman sounds like 'unplugged'.
It should be mentioned that “Short People” isn't on this album! It was the man's biggest hit by far, and he didn't bring it out for this 'Songbook'! His second-most famous song is probably the Toy Story
theme, and that's not here either. However, he does give us a brief piano rendition of “When She Loved Me”, that sentimental montage music from Toy Story 2
. In fact, there's not much here in terms of his lighthearted songs, he seems to concentrate mostly on his sentimental piano ballads (well, he does pull out his striptease song “You Can Leave Your Hat On”, delivering a much seedier vocal performance than when he was younger, so for that reason, it's the only song that I think displayed a significant improvement over the original).
by Reviewer: Don Ignacio
(blogging at Don Ignacio's Album Reviews