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Sail Away, Randy Newman, 1972
Randy Newman is perhaps best known these days as the guy who Disney turns to to write songs for Pixar animations like Monsters Inc and Toy Story. While those ballads are nice and chirpy and have helped the success of the Toy Story franchise, Newman's music is perhaps best heard on several albums he made back in the 1970's.
Newman has a very sardonic, but deeply American take on life, full of sarcasm and satire that is so different from any of his contemporaries. His songs usually are lyrically written from the viewpoint of someone else - either from history (such as the slave traders in the title songs from this album) or a particular set of people with certain ideas (Short People). Newman' songs always strike an emotional chord and always hit home lyrically and are much admired.
Sail Away was Randy Newman's breakthrough album which saw him emerge not just as an excellent songwriter, but also as a performer in his own right. Up until this point Newman's songs were being recorded by a vast number of disparate artists, here he presents an eclectic and satirical set of songs that are seen as his strongest ever.
One of my favourite albums is the fantastic 'Good Old Boys' a Randy Newman album from 1974. That album's predecessor is 1972's Sail Away which sees Newman develop his political and satirical voice. Its a slightly different album, being mainly a collection of songs - rather than around a certain theme - but is excellent nonetheless.
Sail Away itself is a beautiful song, but also when you look into it is quite an ugly lyric. Thats not a bad thing, but it is in fact a pitch by a slave trader to African's about the great life ahead for them in America. The orchestration is excellent giving the song a warm and inviting ambience.
America itself is also the focus for 'Political Science' which is a brutal attack on the US and its foreign policy at the time. In fact its so clever it works even today with the US's involvement in wars overseas. When you hear Newman sings about 'dropping the big one' and turning Australia into an American theme park - its funny - but also you could imagine them trying it! And that's what is so
Brilliant about Newman's lyrics, they are both amusing and thoughtful, without verging on 'comedy'.
Politics and satire to the side, the album also features some great (but bizarre!) themes - 'Simon Smith and the Amazing Dancing Bear' is a song that has been covered by a diverse range of different artists - everyone from Morrissey to Fozzie Bear! Newman's slight and evocative delivery is evident here as well.
Without a shadow of a doubt Sail Away is a genuine classic, but falls slightly short of my favourite Randy Newman album 'Good Old Boys.' Certainly its an album that everyone should hear and appreciate, due to its short running time (thirty minutes without the extra tracks) there really is no excuse for not!
1. "Sail Away" - 2:56
2. "Lonely at the Top" - 2:32
3. "He Gives Us All His Love" -1:53
4. "Last Night I Had a Dream" - 3:01
5. "Simon Smith and the Amazing Dancing Bear" - 2:00
6. "Old Man" - 2:42
7. "Political Science" -2:00
8. "Burn On" - 2:33
9. "Memo to My Son" - 1:56
10. "Dayton, Ohio - 1903" - 1:47
11. "You Can Leave Your Hat On" - 3:18
12. "God's Song (That's Why I Love Mankind)" - 3:36
13. "Let It Shine"
14. "Maybe I'm Doing It Wrong" (studio version)
15. "Dayton, Ohio - 1903" (early version)
16. "You Can Leave Your Hat On" (demo version)
17. "Sail Away" (early version)
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Sail Away
2 It's Lonely At The Top
3 He Gives Us All His Love
4 Last Night I Had A Dream
5 Simon Smith And The Amazing Dancing Bear
6 Old Man
7 Burn On Big River
8 Memo To My Son
9 Dayton Ohio 1903
10 You Can Leave Your Hat On
11 God's Song (That's Why I Love Mankind)
12 Political Science