Monday, December 25, 2023

The 25 Bargain Buys of Xmas: Day 24

Much of my calendar year, every year, is spent sifting through record store bargain bins, estate sales, etc. and digging into the acquisitions. I win some and lose some, but I never write about it on AuxOut even though it accounts for a huge portion of my listening and discovery. In honor of the season of presents, I am celebrating some of the gifts bestowed upon me by the record gods during 2023.

Randy Newman - Good Old Boys LP $3. 
Oh man, what a record. Not the first Newman record I dug, but the first where I totally "got" him. Growing up I just knew him as the Toy Story guy. Catchy songs, but seemed totally MOR and milquetoast. But every once in a while I would read a comment about his vicious wit or brazen satire, and I'd always think "Huh? The Pixar house composer?" Well, that vicious wit and brazen satire? It shows up in spades on Good Old Boys, a concept record written from the viewpoint of a racist Southerner. Newman takes no prisoners and everyone is a target. The album's most (in)famous and catchiest tune "Rednecks" skewers both the ignorance of the South and the hypocrisy of the North, all while loading up the infectious chorus with racial epithets. Don't play that one around the kids. And, of course, because this is Randy Newman, the composition and arrangement are top drawer. One listen to melancholy anthem "Louisiana, 1927" and the album's beauty is readily apparent. Or the chilling, queasy chorus of "Kingfish", presaging Tom Waits's own brand of oft-kilter, macabre melodicism. One review I read spoke about how the contemporary reception of Good Old Boys criticized him for being too callous and disparaging of his subjects, while if this record had been released today Newman would have been cancelled immediately for not repudiating his subjects harshly enough. As far as I'm concerned, that means Newman threaded the needle perfectly. It takes a special work of art to cause multi-generational discomfort. I became massively obsessed with Good Old Boys for several weeks and there's no doubt I will be again some day. Randy has made a lot of fantastic records but this is the best.

A playlist of tunes from each of the records I wrote about, I'll add a new song each day:

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