Harps And Angels - Randy Newman

Universal acclaim - based on 25 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 23 out of 25
  2. Negative: 0 out of 25
  1. It remains extraordinary this ability to jump from Tom Lehrer to early Tom Waits.
  2. 100
    Sharp, incisive, funny and at times even heart-rending in the context of some beautifully-judged rag/country/Dixie-land songs.
  3. Never have his arrangements exploited his soundtrack chops so subtly, changeably or precisely.
  4. This is Newman’s most touching, musically rich and consistent record since "Good Old Boys" way back in 1974; and it’s hilarious to boot.
  5. Harps and Angels belongs up there with "12 Songs" and "Sail Away" as one of Newman’s greatest works, regardless if he took 20 years to get it out into the public.
  6. The characters are memorable, the satire sharp, the music luxurious, and the arrangements maybe the most gorgeous in all pop music.
  7. Yet as welcome as it is to have Newman’s acerbic wit back, it remains a singular pleasure to listen to a simple, devastating ballad like 'Losing You,' which is wrapped up in sympathetic strings and absolutely devoid of irony.
  8. Newman’s work here demands high praise, especially with his resume.
  9. The stunning title track proves that Newman, at age 64, has more healthy bile in him than 64 twentysomethings....Harps has a couple of duds, though. [8 Aug 2008, p.68]
  10. Some of the more on-the-nose satire falls flat....Still, heart-on-the-sleeve tracks like 'Losing You' and 'Feels Like Home' feature Newman at his most affecting.
  11. 80
    His delievry now possesses a wry, self-deprecating warmth which, along with Mitchell Froom and Lenny Waronker's unobtrusive production, suggests a man coming to terms with it all and who realises he's as much a part of this mess as anyone. [Sep 2008, p.110]
  12. 80
    Newman is at his most affecting when he plays it mercilessly straight: his flickers of sincerity all the more beguiling for only appearing rarely.
  13. 80
    This is Newman’s most unwound album.
  14. It's his signature sound and Harps and Angels captures it sublimely, as the production--a co-credit to Newman's longtime associate Lenny Waronker and his latter-day producer Mitchell Froom--has no fancy accoutrements and he's written another set of quietly wonderful songs.
  15. So his return to political-minded material on Harps and Angels is reason to wrap yourself in the flag and cheer.
  16. 80
    He's still way too fond of show-tune orchestration, and then there's the tossed-off corny stuff, but the orneriness of Newman's now-64-year-old wit makes George Carlin seem like Dane Cook. [Sep 2008, p.120]
  17. Randy Newman's shock-and-aw-shucks wit is so joyfully scathing at times on "Harps and Angels" that it's hard to believe it's been nine years since his last album of new material.
  18. Newman is a master of sardonic humor, be it subtle or slapstick. Harps and Angels is further proof.
  19. 40 years after his debut, the curly-haired songwriter continues to play to his strength: three-minute social commentaries that might sound bitter if they weren't so funny.
  20. A savvy storyteller with an acid-tipped language, Newman packages yarns in a voice that is the sonic equivalent of an Emmett Kelly clown face, naturally hangdog while subtly playful as he reminisces about life's rough patches.
  21. Harps and Angels is another fine Randy Newman album, minimally produced by Mitchell Froom and Lenny Waronker.
  22. If Harps and Angels occasionally seems uneven, it's because Newman is still so daring. If it seems occasionally classic, it's because he's still so insightful and startlingly good at writing songs.
  23. Intermittently brilliant, occasionally belligerent, it presents a vision of American identity as sprawling and ultimately as confused as the country itself.
  24. Anyone who doesn't actually live for updates from Iowan caucuses can safely skip the whole ragtime politicking middle section and, instead, enjoy the work of a true master of popular song.
  25. It's hard to slate Harps and Angels too much, because the music is actually quite good in places and it's nowhere near bad enough to be a chore to listen to.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 13 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 2 out of 3
  2. Negative: 0 out of 3
  1. ChrisC.
    Sep 12, 2008
    Too much whining that some people have more money than others. Newman's old stuff was sardonically opinionated while seeming vaguely informed. This just sounds like a lot of angry whining trying to be funny, but only in the 'Everyone else is stupid' way. Full Review »
  2. JoeB.
    Sep 10, 2008
    Randy Newman continues to be one of the most important artists out there, right alongside Tom Waits, Neil Young, Radiohead, Bruce Springsteen etc. His words sear the listener and force them to take inventory of what's going on around them. His sardonic wit is matched equally by his song craft. His arrangements are edited so precisely, his notes and words chosen so meticulously, it is moments like this in music that truly remind me of how small all of us other practitioners really are. Mr. Newman constantly poses challenges for himself and is apparently not afraid to ruffle a few feathers in the process. Kudos! Music should be dangerous, it should provoke thought and controversy, it should force people to take responsibility for their actions. Unfortunately, the reality is that most of these sentiments will be lost as I'm sure, nobody really cares about this kind of stuff anymore except maybe a small few of us. Thanks Randy, you always remind me that I'm not alone. Full Review »
  3. MichaelE.
    Aug 8, 2008
    More than in his past, the new album reveals autobiographical moments. Not, because Randy Newman has a message to be delivered (apart from his biting comments on current politics), but because of the disturbing moments and the angst that make the "ego" a vulnerable thing when growing older and older. On the other hand, the sound palette he makes use of (from orchestral to intimate chamber atmosphere) is brilliant and always serving the songs! Full Review »