Randy Newman – “Sail Away”

randy newman sail awayRANDY NEWMAN – Sail Away (Reprise ’72): Ragtime rock and Dixie roll. Newman’s various personas operate on the levels of Aesopian folktale slinger, lullaby dispenser, sludgy blues schlockmeister, and good old boy philosophizer. A man and his piano, he muses on God and death (“You don’t need anybody, and nobody needs you”), fame and fortune (“Who needs money when you’re funny?”), and the fantasy of Norman Rockwell’s picturesque America (“Let’s sing a song of long ago/When things were green and movin’ slow”). To illustrate just how grim Newman’s sense of humor is, the opener and title track is a heartening sales pitch to future slaves about how America is better than their African plight: “Won’t have to run through the jungle/And scuff up your feet/You’ll just sing about Jesus and drink wine all day/It’s great to be an American.” (Add to it that the unsentimental strings give the song such a sense of hope and optimism on the level of his much later kiddy Pixar works that the entire enterprise nearly cracks the tragic irony meter.) But that’s Newman’s mission on his third album: discover what it means to be an American. For Newman, it means pretending to believe in God when your chips are down, telling the rest of the world to fuck off, pining for a magical nostalgic time that’s always just behind us and never really existed. A

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