“Randy Newman is our generation’s Stephen Foster and our Mark Twain.”—CBS Sunday Morning
On The Randy Newman Songbook Vol. 2, which Nonesuch Records released on May 10, 2011, Randy Newman takes a fresh look at both classic and more recent work in new solo recordings of the Grammy, Oscar, and Emmy winner’s celebrated songs. The New York Times said of the 2003 first volume of his songbook: “The great craftsmanship is more apparent in the stripped-down context.” The Associated Press said, “Few singer-songwriters could inject more new life into solo piano versions of their work than Randy Newman.”
Songbook Vol. 2, which was co-produced by Mitchell Froom and Lenny Waronker, includes songs spanning from the 1968 album Randy Newman (“Cowboys”) through Newman’s most recent, 2008’s Harps and Angels (“Laugh and Be Happy” and “Losing You”). In anticipation of the new record’s release, Newman began his North American tour on February 11 in Baton Rouge, LA, and continues through April 22 in San Francisco, with a stop at New York City’s Town Hall on March 5 (complete calendar follows).
Froom, who first worked with Newman on 1999’s Bad Love, produced Songbook Vol. 1 before co-producing Harps and Angels. “Mitchell is a great musician and is enormously helpful in every way imaginable,” Newman says. Waronker, who co-produced Harps and Angels with Froom, is Newman’s childhood friend and life-long champion; this is the eleventh of his albums on which the former head of Warner Bros. Records has served as producer, beginning with Randy Newman. “His instincts are better than mine, in some respects. He’s always been, for me, the most crucial person to my songwriting. I wanted to be the best that I could be. I always felt that Lenny wanted me to be better than that. I’m grateful to him.”
Harps and Angels received tremendous critical acclaim: Rolling Stone named it to its Best Albums of 2008 list, and USA Today said, “Newman veers from instantly classic ballads to Dixieland romps to razor-sharp narratives that wouldn’t be out of place in a Brecht/Weill musical. Few troubadours can so deftly blend aching poignancy and biting wit; like the greatest American songwriters, from traditional pop on, Newman has an enduring knack for stories and observations that pique the heart and mind.”
After Randy Newman’s self-titled debut album was released in 1968, his reputation as a songwriter grew quickly, as Judy Collins, Dusty Springfield, Peggy Lee, Harry Nilsson, and Joe Cocker, among others, recorded his songs. Newman began a career as a film composer in the early 1980s. Among his film compositions are many kid-friendly songs, including Toy Story’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.”
Newman has earned six Grammys, for: Toy Story 3 (2011), “Our Town” (2006), “If I Didn’t Have You” (2002), “When She Loved Me” (2000), A Bug’s Life (1999), and The Natural (1984). He has received three Emmys and in 2010 received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.