Trouble In Paradise

Randy Newman

Reprise, 1983

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


To the men and women who inhabit my generation, Randy Newman is either the senile pianist as portrayed on Family Guy or that one guy who sang in Toy Story. Who knew he had an actual career?

When making the decision to pick up my first Newman album, I went with the song that I’ve always known of his, “I Love L.A.” That raucous little number has always been a favorite of mine, so why not get the album it spawned from?my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Having gone through Trouble In Paradise, the title seems apt in a few ways. The subject material is a bitter and cynical look at the Reagan years and America in the 1980s. That in itself is not a bad idea, but the music that accompanies the words simply does not fit.

Speaking of Reagan, when he was seeking re-election in 1984, his campaign team decided to use Bruce Springsteen’s “Born In The U.S.A.” Obviously, the Republicans neglected to actually listen to the words, instead latching onto the catchy and “patriotic” chorus.

Now, what does this have to do with Mr. Newman? Take “The Blues,” an upbeat pop number, with a catchy chorus, also featuring guest vocals from Paul Simon. However, if one takes the time to read the lyrics, they are incredibly depressing, with no good news to be found. This would not be the first time I’ve heard a song with this yin/yang, but the whole album follows suit.

Great lyricists often can take complex ideas and break then down in manageable lines/stanzas. With Newman, it sounds like his lyrical skills are much more suited for poetry. “Christmas In Capetown” isn’t very melodic for the most part, with Newman practically tripping over himself to spit out all the words.

Finally, there’s the fact Trouble In Paradise reeks of the 1980s, with numbers like “Mikey” not working whatsoever in the current day. In fact, that song is just flat out awful on all fronts; maybe Newman had a seizure while playing his keyboards. Who knows? Basically, the entire album is keyboard-driven, which I would not normally mind, but it just contributes to the dichotomy discussed previously.

Newman has skill, that much is sure. He can create some classic pop songs that actually have a soul and a message, and I appreciate that. Trouble In Paradise just never gels, and that is the critical issue.

Rating: C

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2007 Jeff Clutterbuck and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Reprise, and is used for informational purposes only.