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Randy Newman's non-soundtrack albums ranked

Although Randy Newman is pretty acclaimed as an artist, he's probably still better known for the Toy Story soundtrack than the mordant wit he displays in his singer songwriter albums. One of the kings of the satirical American ditty, I thought it's worth a shot ranking his albums. I didn't include Faust.
11Randy Newman
Harps and Angels

Top 3 tracks: Losing you, Feels like home, A piece of the pie

Pretty much the same as Dark Matter. It does include the heart breaking 'Losing you', a particularly moving piece about Newman's ex-wife, who has been a muse before on the regretful 'I miss you' from Bad Love. This one goes even further.
10Randy Newman
Dark Matter

Top 3 tracks: Lost without you, It's a jungle out there, Wandering boy

Dark Matter's strongest moments are the songs about family; somehow the potency isn't there on the more political or satirical tracks.
9Randy Newman
Little Criminals

Top 3 tracks: Baltimore, Texas Girl at the Funeral of Her Father, Old Man on the Farm

This is usually counted among his finest records, and it's in no way a bad album, but I feel like it just doesn't have as many highlights.
8Randy Newman
12 Songs

Top 3 tracks: Let's Burn Down the Cornfield, Mama Told Me Not to Come, Have You Seen My Baby?

12 Songs has some of Newman's finest songs, but is pretty front loaded. The second half of the record feels a little rote. 'Let's burn down the cornfield' remains one of my favourites, with its eerie mix of eroticism and destruction.
7Randy Newman
Land of Dreams

Top 3 tracks: Dixie Flyer, Bad News from Home, I Want You to Hurt Like I Do

This is apparently deeply connected to Newman's upbringing and childhood - a personal record from someone gifted with the ability to tell third person stories. Oddly enough, this album doesn't have quite as much power as his other records.
6Randy Newman
Trouble in Paradise

Top 3 tracks: Song for the Dead, I Love L.A., My life is good

This one also sticks to a theme (issues below the seemingly pristine surface). If you can look past the slurs uttered by the characters in the songs (see Good Old Boys as well - Newman has said there are a few songs in his catalogue he can no longer perform live), then it's a fascinating study of things gone wrong.
5Randy Newman
Randy Newman

Top 3 tracks: I Think It's Going to Rain Today, Love Story (You and Me), Cowboy

The debut has a real standards feel. While Newman always sounded "old" to me, this one does have a sort of youthful energy perhaps never repeated on his other albums. The strings are particularly outstanding, arranged with a beautiful vitality.
4Randy Newman
Born Again

Top 3 tracks: Pretty Boy, Ghosts, It's Money That I Love

Born Again is one of Newman's focused albums, exploring various negative aspects of masculinity. It produced 'Pretty Boy', one of the more unusual and unsettling songs in his career (and a personal favourite). The thematic depth holds up except for an occasional misstep and this album rewards repeat listens.
3Randy Newman
Bad Love

Top 3 tracks: My Country, I'm Dead (But I Don't Know It), The Great Nations Of Europe

Many artists get to a place where they are putting out great, consistent music, but struggle to replicate the peak moments in their career. I always admire someone shooting for those dizzy heights again, and Bad Love comes pretty close. Newman delivers his finest salvo against himself in the clever 'I'm Dead (But I don't know it)' and the record is peppered with classic songs. Feels like his roughest record with the most hustle and bustle.
2Randy Newman
Good Old Boys

Top 3 tracks: Kingfish, Louisiana 1927, Naked Man

As Newman often writes from the perspective of unpleasant people, the album is marred by some racial slurs which might hamper its acceptance from a contemporary audience. It's a shame, as it could have been timeless. The most cohesive album, it's a song cycle tackling the problematic elements of the South. It also smartly skewers those who consider Southern issues unique to that part of the world. Newman fleshes out all the pathetic foibles of the characters in the songs, but also gives us enough to understand them.
1Randy Newman
Sail Away

Top 3 tracks: Sail Away, You Can Leave Your Hat On, Last Night I Had a Dream

A cracking collection of songs - Newman cycles through his favourite obsessions (religion, American bluster, lascivious and reprehensible men, race issues) with some of his most elegant, lush and even pretty music. It's just hit after hit of smart songbook standards. His most effortlessly enjoyable record, despite the sometimes heavy subject matter.
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