From a chart standpoint, Randy Newman's only Top 40 hit came in the form of 1977's "Short People, which reached the number two spot, backed by the Eagles' Timothy B. Schmit, J.D. Souther, and Glenn Frey. Actually, it's the music of Newman's career that didn't chart that made him one of the most renowned songwriters of the modern era. Lonely at the Top is a generous 22-track compilation of Randy Newman's best material. He gained notoriety for his commentary on America's neglect and impoverished treatment of its own people, society's lack of concern and disregard for the down and out, and almost any example of downtroddenness or destitute situation imaginable. His proficiency as a writer is channeled through his blatant opinions, quietly but forcibly hitting home by way of the story song. Tracks like "My Life Is Good" and "God's Song" never achieved commercial appeal, but they didn't have to. Instead, Newman's satirical poetry and openly dark sense of humor offer up a moral that is much more hard-hitting and thought-provoking when listened to without any celebrity. Songs such as "I Think It's Gonna Rain Today," written by Judy Collins, and the beautiful "Sail Away" harbor the artist's genuine emotion and ability to instill passion in his work. "Rednecks" evokes the absurdity and ignorance of racial prejudice in mild Vaudevillian style, while "Political Science" touches on his thoughts about religion and it's validity. Outside of Newman's commentary's, tracks like "Mama Told Me Not to Come" (a number one hit for Three Dog Night), "I Love LA," and "Living Without You" are appealing on their musical essence alone, even if they are morally vacant. But his best allegory comes in "Louisiana 1927," about a legendary flood which devastated farmers and washed away their livelihood. Although a couple of Randy Newman's better songs like "Suzanne" and "Davy the Fat Boy" are missing, Lonely at the Top completes the task of unearthing his genius at addressing moral concerns through delicate songcraft, with his piano and voice as his soapbox.
AllMusic Review by Mike DeGagne