Randy Newman

Born Again

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After the song "Short People" finally earned Randy Newman the hit single he claimed he always wanted (and in perhaps the worst way possible), Newman told reporters that for his next album he was preparing "a larger insult." And sure enough, Born Again was packed full of losers and misfits for whom Newman's contempt was unmistakable; from a man who had found some measure of understanding in his tales of thugs, stalkers, and slave traders on previous releases, the unmistakable bile Newman summoned up on "Half a Man," "Mr. Sheep," and "Pretty Boy" seems little short of perverse. And while Newman indulges in his usual passion for social satire here, "They Just Got Married" and "It's Money That I Love" are so stunningly unsubtle you have a hard time believing they came from the same man who wrote "Sail Away" or "Kingfish" (though "It's Money That I Love" has a piano line that would do Fats Domino proud). "The Story of a Rock and Roll Band" is a hilarious and deadly accurate parody of the Electric Light Orchestra (admittedly an easy target, but still beautifully executed), and the all-too-brief "William Brown" is a lovely vignette that wouldn't have been out of place on 12 Songs or Sail Away, but otherwise Born Again is the weakest non-soundtrack album of Randy Newman's career.

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