Randy Newman | Park West | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Randy Newman Early Warnings (Music) Soundboard

When: Sat., Feb. 26, 8 p.m. 2011

These days Randy Newman is best known as a soundtrack composer, piling up Oscars and Grammys and scoring beloved Pixar hits. But pop fans know him as a skilled songwriter who's been making great music under his own name since the late 60s. Newman is a composer of vast stylistic knowledge and sophistication as well as a lyricist of blistering wit and honesty—his best songs ripple with dark humor that cuts right to the heart of American hypocrisy. The 1974 track "Rednecks" is a searing indictment of racism, both in its old-school southern version and its equally pernicious though less obvious northern strain, and the more recent "A Few Words in Defense of Our Country" predicts our hubris-driven demise. In 2003 Nonesuch released The Randy Newman Songbook Vol. 1, which departs from the usual heavy orchestrations of his studio albums for a stripped-down piano-and-voice recital of his strongest material. This puts the focus squarely on his writing chops, which is certainly a wise choice—Newman never had an impressive voice, and these days it sounds like he's singing from the bottom of a bowl of lumpy oatmeal. Songbook Vol. 2 finally comes out in May, and Newman will use the same just-a-piano setup for this rare Chicago performance, which should include plenty of his sardonic asides. 18+ —Peter Margasak

Price: $58

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