HARPS AND ANGELS by Randy Newman

Is Randy Newman mellowing out in his old age? Hearts and Angels, the latest album from the singer-songwriter-pianist, has as many light fluff tunes as songs addressing society and politics.
The opening song and title track has Newman's singer addressing a near-death experience, having a vision of the afterlife, and promising to be better (then inviting the listeners out for a drink). There are also tunes about lightening up ("Laugh and Be Happy") and missing loved ones.
Harps and Angels soon gets into Newman's trademark commenrary. After offering "A Few Words in Defense of Out Country" (by comparing American leaders to the Spanish Inquisition and Stalin), Newman jumps into a harsh economic attack ("A Piece of the Pie") -- then jumps into how great things are for those on "Easy Street." He then moves on to the joy of memory loss ("God bless the potholes/down on Memory Lane" ) a woman with scores of problems, and why Korean parents create the best students.
Harps and Angels is, ultimately, uneven. Newman's writing seldom reaches his previous highs, and while most of the songs are enjoyable none of them are great. It's nice to hear from Randy Newman again, but I would have liked to have heard more of his sharpness and observations.
Overall grade: B-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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