Since Randy Newman has always borrowed from Hollywood and Broadway musicals in his songwriting, it's not surprising that he wrote his own full-blown musical with Randy Newman's Faust. Adapting Goethe's classic morality play for the '90s, Newman has his God and Devil vying for the soul of a Harvard college student. However, neither wins because they can't keep abreast of modern times -- the Devil tempts the student with a recording contract, but the student wants his own video game company since that's where the money is. On paper, the reworking of the story is fairly intriguing, but the actual execution is heavily flawed. Newman's humor is forced and not all that funny, while his eye for detail isn't as sharp as it is on his classic albums; furthermore, he sacrifices strong melodies for the lyrics. The bombastic production -- featuring large orchestras and choirs as well as guest artists James Taylor (God), Don Henley (Student), Elton John, Bonnie Raitt, and Linda Ronstadt -- emphasizes the lack of subtlety in the lyrics and the lack of compelling melodies, making Randy Newman's Faust no more than a noble failure.
Randy Newman's Faust Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine