Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Randy Newman's Faust (1993 Concept Cast)
Genres: Folk, Pop, Rock, Classic Rock
With his career built on twin pillars of concise narrative songwriting for his own albums and evocative orchestral composition for his film scores, Randy Newman is eminently qualified to resuscitate musical theater. And... more »
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With his career built on twin pillars of concise narrative songwriting for his own albums and evocative orchestral composition for his film scores, Randy Newman is eminently qualified to resuscitate musical theater. And while the initial stage production of his reworking of Goethe has stalled west of Broadway, the 1995 studio version of Faust is a triumph. In Newman's hand, the Faustian myth transforms its title hero into a clueless rocker (sung by Don Henley), the Devil into a huckster (sung by, who else, Newman himself), and God into a callow yuppie (James Taylor, in the project's most revelatory performance, every bit as funny as the composer's). With Bonnie Raitt and Linda Ronstadt completing this dream cast, Newman honors the form's theatrical demands with ensemble show-stoppers (the opening "Glory Train"), expository duets ("How Great Our Lord"), and romantic ballads ("Feels Like Home"), framing the 17 songs with his own rich orchestrations and generous choral support. It's devilishly good. --Sam Sutherland
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Featuring Don Henley, Elton John, Randy Newman, Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt, & James Taylor
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The Newman musical...
ewomack | MN USA | 05/21/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"After putting out albums for over twenty-five years in the same 12-song style format, Newman tried something different in the early 1990s. He wrote a musical. And it's not your typical boy-meets-girl type of musical (well, maybe Satan-meets-girl). It deals with God, death, Satan, the BIG questions, power, and innocence. In all of Newman's non-soundtrack work, "Faust" remains his only concept album. But before it was an album it was a musical (and it still gets performed here and there, too).
To really appreciate this album for what it's worth, it must be looked at from the realm of musical theater. "Faust" doesn't showcase Newman the same way "Good Old Boys" or "Sail Away" did. "Faust" is more of a soundtrack than a straight forward album. And, as a musical, it shines. It breathes life into some of the stale overused empty song-driven Broadway shows that people flock to each year in droves. All musicals should be as good and as challenging as "Faust".
And in the style of most musicals, "Faust" contains numerous characters sung by numerous vocalists. Some BIG and surprising names appear here: Don Henley (of the Eagles; he sang background on "Rider In The Rain" on "Little Criminals"), Linda Ronstadt (a long time Newman fan; she's recorded her own versions of quite a few Newman songs), James Taylor (he plays God, a hilarious and intentional miscast), Bonnie Raitt (she was at her prime at this time), and Elton John (who only sings one song). Newman's reputation amongst musicians apparently belies his albums' sales. Including these chart-toppers on "Faust" may have alienated some diehard Newman fans (murmurs of "sellout" could be heard here and there in 1995). But the music rises above it all. "Faust" is definitely no sellout (the closest thing to a hit is "Feels Like Home"). It's hard to say whether the stars' presence increased sales of "Faust" or not.
"Faust", being a musical, also has a storyline. This does not emerge from the CD, however. In fact, almost no story can be extracted from just listening to the album. The book contains a story guide with song titles. Following along with this at least once reveals the story and the meaning behind a lot of the lyrics (the guide is also on Newman's website). By just listening to the album listeners may simply wonder "what's the point?" Probably the biggest reason "Faust" sits amongst Newman's most neglected albums (right down there with "Born Again") is that some effort is required to appreciate it.
The CD contains some incredible moments. "Relax, Enjoy Yourself" segues from a stupidly happy skipping song into a shocking dirge about a dead girl talking to the devil. "That man who shot you in the head, in the Burger King in Tuscon, well he never will be punished you know". "Glory Train" features the devil himself (played by Newman, who else) halting a train of angels to heaven to announce that it's all a bunch of nonsense (the lyrics put it much less mildly). "Faust" takes shots at religion, innocence, and happiness. At times it's downright disturbing. But it still somehow manages to exude fun.
Rhino re-released "Faust" with a bonus CD that features a solo Newman on piano. Supposedly this CD reflects the actual stage show more than the 1995 release. More than a few songs get played here that appear nowhere on the original disc. It also proves that Newman wrote the majority of this material for other singers (his voice strains on some of the higher notes). And he also narrates through the music. It's similar to "Johnny Cutler's Birthday" from the "Good Old Boys" 2 CD-set (also released by Rhino).
"Faust" may not be Newman at his absolute best, but it showcases a different side of Newman not seen before or since. And it also continues his tradition (going solid since 1983) of releasing only two albums per decade. 1995's "Faust" and 1999's "Bad Love" completely exhaust Newman's non-soundtrack 1990's output. He keeps promising he'll do more, but even Newman has to pay the bills."
Not for everybody
Rollie Anderson | Forney, Texas United States | 02/03/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"How perfect a platform is "Faust" for Mr. Newman? Well, duh. Here Randy takes the same attitude he voiced in "God's Song" years earlier and pokes fun not at God, but of mankind's ridiculous views concerning the deity. He fills the famous story with shallow and silly human personalities to make fun of the very absurd idea that God is anything like us at all. James Taylor really stands out here with his glib take on the Lord. And Elton John's brief appearance on "Little Island" is fantastic. The satire is so thick you could cut it with Satan's sword. As the cd ends with Randy merrily strolling down the Las Vegas strip speaking in tongues you can't help but laugh at the cosmic joke he's pulled on us all."