Highs and Lows
A. Mccormick | Lawrenceville, NJ United States | 02/27/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Born Again is definitely a "really like it" or "couldn't stand it" kind of album. For the record, I really like it. It's Newman's oddest record. In listening through the album several times recently, I came to the conclusion that Randy is thumbing his nose at his core audience with many of these songs - the hipsters who "got" what Newman was about.
He does this through the use of abrasive, almost rasberry like synthesizers and backing vocals that can throw a whole song off kilter. "It's Money That I Love" does this in a few spots, and to be honest I think it detracts from the song. It's a great cut nonetheless. He does a similar minor sabotage effort on "They Just Got Married" by adding ad-lib lines like "Oh, No...what's going to happen to her?"
"Ghosts" and "William Brown" are both classic Newman ballads, quiet and letting the sparse instrumentation frame the great lyrics (especially Ghosts).
"Pretty Boy" is a harrowing take on machismo, with instrumentation to match. You can almost feel the violence emanating from the protaganist.
I enjoy "Spies" "The Women in My Life (Part One)", and "The Story of a Rock and Roll Band" even if the latter is a little over the top. And though it's fun, it blurs the line between the usual detachment he has on his songs. This can be a little disorienting - is he really attacking ELO? Not that I really care one way or the other, but it's more personal and a bit more mean-spirited than anything he recorded before.
So we have 8 solid entries, but then there are the three songs that undoubtedly turned off a huge number of people: If the ELO song is mean-spirited, what about "Mr. Sheep"? Cruel to the point of being unfunny and generating not even a minor sliver of empathy for the character singing the song. I suppose it's a caricature of your classic junior high school bully grown up. "Half A Man" is a more interesting but in retrospect seems to be a misguided effort. And then there's "Pants". When the wild swirling music at the beginning settles down to the subject at hand, it's the crowning thumb in the hipsters eye - reinforced with the leering "Will you take off my pants?" near the end of the song.
For those who listened to this record once and gave up, I'd recommend another try. Anyone who likes Newman should also listen to this if only for "It's Money That I Love", "Ghosts", and "William Brown"."
A brilliant, if underrated, work
rg61 | Boston, MA USA | 03/22/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Yes, I'm a Randy Newman fan. I had all of Randy Newman's studio vinyl between Sail Away and Land of Dreams. But this was the first CD of his I bought.
Okay, the synthesizers indicate when this album was recorded. But c'mon, folks -- get over it!! There is more wit and melody on this album than you're gonna find most anywhere else. And some fabulous chord changes (notably on Mr. Sheep).
It's Money That I Love was too risquée for top 40, but it's hilarious. Story of A Rock & Roll Band is a brilliant send-up of ELO. William Brown and Ghosts are as poignant as anything else Mr. Newman has written shy of In Germany Before the War. ...
I could go on, but just buy the album and enjoy.
No, it's not as eloquent as Sail Away or Good Old Boys. And there *is* one track, Half a Man, that I think is less than weak. But it's still a Randy Newman album -- and if you're still reading this, then there's probably more on this album for you to enjoy than on most others."