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FILTER 44: It’s Lonely at the Top: A Selected Randy Newman Discography

By Marty Sartini Garner on July 6, 2011


FILTER 44: It’s Lonely at the Top: A Selected Randy Newman Discography

In lieu of our weekly FILTER Five, we're continuing our trip down Sixth Street, U.S.A. with Randy Newman and talk with the pop genius about his own back catalog.

Randy Newman (1968)

It sounds as if I’d never heard The Rolling Stones. Van Dyke Parks, Harry Nilsson and I were like a branch of Homo sapiens who’d never become sapien. I’m very proud of some of it. I hadn’t listened to it in years until recently, and it’s really better than I thought it was.


12 Songs (1970)

The first one wasn’t successful so I thought about not using the orchestra at all on the next one. There are a lot of really good players on that record. The songs are a bit stranger, but it was enormously well-received critically, which was a first for me.  


Sail Away (1972)

There’s a lot of good songs on there. I made some arrangement mistakes that would have helped some of the songs. I’d change the beginning of “Sail Away,” for instance. Again, I’m proving to be the worst first date by quibbling over this stuff and having no important or attractive qualities to relate about it. But I think it’s as good a bunch of songs as I’ve written for an album.

Good Old Boys (1974)

I tried to make a narrative thread through the entire way as a concept album. I wrote “Rednecks” and then felt like I had to explain the guy more, so I wrote “Marie” and “Birmingham.” I tried to keep going, but couldn’t quite keep the storyline up. Still, it hangs together pretty well. 


Little Criminals (1977)

I like that song, “Little Criminals.” No one ever told me that they liked it, but I do. People like “Baltimore” a lot, but I can’t figure out why. It may just be that they like that minor chord progression. “In Germany Before the War” really works; that’s pretty good.


Born Again (1979)

I like it, but I maybe like it like a less-favorite child. I really liked it at the time. I was anxious for people to hear it to the point that I was all of a sudden scared of flying in small planes. I didn’t want to get killed before it came out. It doesn’t sound true, but it is. But I was fine, and no one gave a shit.  


Trouble in Paradise (1983)

It’s the best-sounding record I’ve made. It’s got some good rock and roll on it. I really like “Miami” as a record. “Take Me Back” sounds real good to me; it rocks good. I thought when it came out that it was the best I’d done, in terms of rock and roll.  


Land of Dreams (1988)

There’s something about that record—there’s a lid on it. Maybe because it’s so digitized, but it feels like there’s an emotional component that’s inherent to the songs that you can’t hear. “Dixie Flyer” is a good song, and it’s my first attempt at autobiography; I just wanted to see if there was anything there.  


Bad Love (1999)

By that time I was happy that I didn’t see quality eroding much. “Shame” really works. The whole New Orleans vibe, with the French Quarter and the young girl—it works really well. Every now and then I’ll say some big stuff in songs, and that’s some big stuff about getting older in a bad way. 


Harps and Angels (2008)

I’m most familiar with it. The execution’s a little better, the singing’s better. I think I thought about breathing, which I’d never noticed before. The arrangements are better, and they should be. But I was good early.     F