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Sail Away: Randy Newman “Live in London” CD+DVD Coming From Nonesuch

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By the numbers, Randy Newman is the recipient of six Grammys, three Emmys and two Oscars (the latter out of a stunning 20 nominations).  Mr. Newman created “something new under the sun” with the 1968 release of his self-titled Reprise debut, after years honing his craft on staff at Metric Music.  At Metric, he wrote with Jackie DeShannon and in this early period provided songs for Dusty Springfield, Cilla Black, Nina Simone, Alan Price, Peggy Lee and so many others.  Ambitious concept albums and tight collections of witheringly witty pop songs marked his seventies output, with 1977’s “Short People” a misunderstood surprise hit.  Not content to rest on his considerable laurels, Newman took up the family business, devoting more time to the composition of film scores.  In perhaps his most surprising career move, the man behind such potent attacks on racism, greed, imperialism and hypocrisy became a family-friendly icon with his contributions to Pixar films such as Toy Story, with its now-standard “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.”  (You can revisit Newman’s entire catalogue to date in our Back Tracks feature!)

One thing Randy Newman hasn’t done in 40 years, however, is release a live album.  Randy Newman Live, issued in June 1971, captured just under half an hour of highlights from his solo stand at New York’s Bitter End in September 1970.  But now, Newman’s hiatus from live recording has come to a bitter end itself.  On November 8, Nonesuch will release the deluxe CD/DVD set, Live in London, featuring Newman accompanied by the BBC Concert Orchestra.  The June 22, 2008 concert features Newman on piano and vocals, and Robert Ziegler conducting the orchestra.  It was recorded at LSO St. Luke’s, an 18th-century Anglican church that has been restored by the orchestra for use in its community and music education programs.  The concert was originally televised by the BBC.

Just two songs are reprised from that 1971 album, “Mama Told Me Not to Come” (a hit for Three Dog Night) and “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today,” one of Newman’s most perennial classics.  The other 20 tracks run the gamut through an impressive career.  From that 1968 debut, you’ll hear (and see) “Love Story,” with Newman’s classic musing, “We’ll have a kid/Or maybe we’ll rent one, He’s got to be straight/We don’t want a bent one.”  A quintet of songs comes from 1972’s Sail Away.  There’s the stirring title track in which a slave trader admonishes his human quarry to “sail away” to America, land of the “sweet watermelon and the buckwheat cake,” where they’ll find themselves as happy as a “monkey in a monkey tree.”  Just as pointed are foreign policy credo “Political Science” (“They all hate us anyhow/Let’s drop the big one now!”) and “God’s Song (That’s Why I Love Mankind),” sung by a not-so-benevolent god.  “You Can Leave Your Hat On” took on a completely new dimension when covered by Tom Jones and Joe Cocker, but is another raised-eyebrow character study as sung by its writer.  The charming “Simon Smith and the Amazing Dancing Bear” addresses prejudice in its own way: “Oh, who would think a boy and a bear could be well accepted everywhere?  It’s just amazing how fair people can be!”

What else will you find on Live in London?  Just hit the jump!

“Short People” gets an airing, and a number of late works that prove Newman’s mordant wit hasn’t diminished any with time.  From 1999’s Bad Love, on the short-lived Dreamworks label, Newman delivers the touching “I Miss You,” the irreverent history lesson “The Great Nations of Europe,” the side-splitting jab at aging rock stars “I’m Dead (But I Don’t Know It)” and the chat with Karl Marx, “The World Isn’t Fair.”  Newman isn’t prolific; his next studio album didn’t come until 2008’s Harps and Angels, from which he performs “Losing You,” “Laugh and Be Happy,” “A Few Words in Defense of My Country” and “Feels Like Home,” introduced in his musical Faust.

In addition to the 22-song set, the DVD also includes an interview with Newman from the BBC broadcast.  As Newman so frequently performs in a solo setting, this CD/DVD set will likely be a special treat for those who have only seen him in that format.  We’ve linked to Newman’s official site below for -pre-orders.  The track listing for the CD and DVD follows.  Live in London hits stores from Nonesuch Records on November 8.

Randy Newman with the BBC Concert Orchestra, Live in London (Nonesuch, 2011)

  1. The Great Nations of Europe
  2. Marie
  3. It’s Money That I Love
  4. Mama Told Me Not to Come
  5. Rollin’
  6. Losing You
  7. Simon Smith and the Amazing Dancing Bear
  8. Short People
  9. God’s Song (That’s Why I Love Mankind)
  10. The World Isn’t Fair
  11. Louisiana 1927
  12. You Can Leave Your Hat On
  13. I’m Dead (But I Don’t Know It)
  14. Real Emotional Girl
  15. I Miss You
  16. Laugh and Be Happy
  17. Political Science
  18. Love Story
  19. Feels Like Home
  20. A Few Words in Defense of My Country
  21. Sail Away
  22. I Think It’s Going to Rain Today

Written by Joe Marchese

October 10, 2011 at 13:19

Posted in DVD, News, Randy Newman, Reissues

5 Responses

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  1. Tired as I am of Randy dusting off his catalog for “new” releases, I’m definitely ordering this. In fact, I’d have pre-ordered it already if Amazon had it listed.

    Jeff Giles

    October 10, 2011 at 13:52

  2. I can understand the previous comment, but it must be said that the two (so far…) “songbook” collection are absolutely great…
    Besides being one of the greatest wits ever applied to a piano keyboard, Newman is a wonderful performer, so this live recording is great news.
    Actually, it’s not entirely accurate to say that 1971’s ‘live’ has been is only live rec. so far, as a couple of years ago he released a digital-only live in Soho iTunes EP (great).
    The only thing that makes me stagger a bit, is the Concert Orchestra… I hope Mr. Newman’s edge hasn’t been drowned in an ocean of violins.

    Anyway, I DID pre-order my copy directly from Nonesuch (you also get the 320 kbps MP3s, available on release date) :-))


    October 10, 2011 at 15:22

    • Indeed, Andrea, the songbook collections are wonderful sets, and though they are studio recordings, they’re accurate representations of how Randy is so often heard in concert these days.

      In addition to the iTunes EP, there are of course many other stray live tracks as well as concert DVDs, but you’d have to agree that Randy Newman Live is the man’s only live “album” to date, as written, in the traditional sense. Thanks for reading and contributing!

      Joe Marchese

      October 10, 2011 at 15:43

  3. I’ve seen this concert and it is superb: well worth the purchase and I look forward to it

    Simon Morley

    October 11, 2011 at 10:29

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