We’re a figment of their imagination, a beautiful dream, it is true.” Thus, at an office party in Heaven, Lucifer sheds unforgivable light on God’s punch bowl. Light that becomes Randy Newman’s Faust, 1995’s fractured fairy tale, now Rhino’d with a bodacious bonus disc of demos, incl. shoulda-rans, brought to you by a chorus line of Ran’s angels, chilling ’round his grand piano. He “explains” the plot and undersings the principal roles: James Taylor, ultrasmoove G-d; Don Henley, ultradork Faust; Linda Ronstadt, ultrainnocent Margaret; and Bonnie Raitt, who brings Mr. (Ran’) D. to his knees. (Oh, but when he interrupts the Lord’s hymn to Himself, don’t the Devil’s li’l eyes get their glee on? Just like Seinfeld’s own accursed “Noooman!!”)
The Randy Newman Songbook, Vol. 1 contains 18 units. Just a voice and that piano, which is unappeasable on “Lonely at the Top,” amputates the blues under Mankind’s appeal in “God’s Song,” and rings blue skies over the floodwaters of “Louisiana 1927” (as has often “happened down here,” where I live, the day after “the wind have changed”). Voice and piano can’t quite silkworm their way back into “Marie,” not without the original version’s orchestra. Which later planted sleeper cells in today’s children, via Unca Randy’s Monsters, Inc., etc. soundtracks. Thus bridging the gap between us Disneyfried boomers and all future candy forevers.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 20, 2004