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Little Criminals, Randy Newman, 1977
Most people probably know Randy Newman from his bittersweet songs on recent Disney films like Toy Story and Monsters Inc. However, Newman had quite a run of decent albums during the 1970's and wrote some classic songs that were covered by other artists, such as 'Mamma Told Me Not to Come' and 'Sail Away'.
If you've read my recent reviews you may well have seen I gave Newman's 1974 album 'Good Old Boys' five dooyoo stars. I was interested to see what his follow up album was like and whether it could deliver the same quality of songs and lyrical cleverness.
The album kicks off with the controversial 'Short People' which caused some issues when first released. But like most of Newman's songs he contradicts his initial statements with another viewpoint. So when he says 'They got little noses / And tiny little teeth / They wear platform shoes / On their nasty little feet' he also says 'Short People are just the same / As you and I / (A Fool Such As I)'. It's annoying when you hear about controversies such as this, usually stoked by people who haven't listened to the song properly. It's a good song, and probably the best track on the album.
'You Can't Fool the Fatman' also sounds like a leftover from 'Good Old Boys', but while lyrically interesting, the melody isn't quite there. That's probably true for the majority of the album. Where you think a song is going somewhere, it stops suddenly or goes off in a discordant direction. This is a little frustrating after such a great previous album.
There a quite a number of songs that sound like they should come from a musical production, but are brief snippets of a larger picture. For example 'In Germany Before the War' gives us a glimpse of an interesting story, but goes nowhere. 'Texas Girl at the Funeral of Her Father' does more or less the same.
The sound quality though is superb, with some fantastic instrumentations throughout. It's just a shame the songs aren't quite up to par. If I had to choose a favourite then it would probably be 'Sigmund Freud's Impersonation of Albert Einstein in America' which is pretty funny.
The album also features a considerable amount of input from The Eagles and songs like 'Rider In the Rain' sound almost as though they could have come off Hotel California - which isn't a bad thing.
To be honest I was expecting more from Little Criminals after the magnificent 'Good Old Boys. I know that Newman eventually found his mojo again for 1983's 'Trouble In Paradise', but here he sounds a little lost.
1. "Short People" - 2:54
2. "You Can't Fool The Fatman" - 2:44
3. "Little Criminals" - 3:04
4. "Texas Girl at the Funeral of Her Father" - 2:40
5. "Jolly Coppers on Parade" - 3:46
6. "In Germany Before the War" - 3:39
7. "Sigmund Freud's Impersonation of Albert Einstein in America" - 3:02
8. "Baltimore" - 4:02
9. "I'll Be Home" - 2:47
10. "Rider in the Rain" - 3:54
11. "Kathleen (Catholicism Made Easier)" - 3:35
12. "Old Man on the Farm" - 2:14
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 I'll Be Home
3 In Germany Before The War
4 Jolly Coppers On Parade
6 Old Man On The Farm
7 Rider In The Rain
8 Short People
9 Sigmund Freud's Impersonation Of Albert Einstein In America
10 Texas Girl At The Funeral Of Her Father
11 You Can't Fool The Fat Man