BOX SET - Randy Newman - Guilty: 30 Years

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4 CD box. This four-disc overview of Newman's fitful but ultimately brilliant career offers a portal into Newman the solo artist, the film composer, and the for-hire songwriter. Discs 1 and 2 (for old fans, the least rewarding of the lot) serve as a greatest hits package--greatest hits being a relative term ("Short People," "I Love L.A.," "Mama Told Me Not to Come," and a few others qualify as commercial successes). Newman's trademark style--mouthing the skewed views of twisted protagonists (including God and Satan)--surfaces in songs old and new. The guardian of an obese boy who puts his charge to work as a freak narrates "Davy the Fat Boy." "Let's Burn Down the Cornfield," "Suzanne," and "You Can Leave Your Hat On" explore perversion; "Rednecks" and "Sail Away" deal with bigotry; "Real Emotional Girl" and "I Want You to Hurt Like I Do" explore wanton cruelty. Disc 3 is littered with fascinating flotsam, beginning with 1962's bewilderingly boyish "Golden Gridiron Boy" (coproduced by Pat Boone!) and tailing into a slew of brooding but truly extraordinary solo demos. Despite his sardonic nature, the Newman of "Gainesville," "Feels Like Home," and "My Name Is James" summons true pathos. Disc 4 samples nine Newman soundtracks, including the orchestral scores to Ragtime, The Natural ("heromuzik," opines the composer), and Toy Story. Guilty is an appreciation of an artist who defies admiration. Here, however, the evidence is overwhelming