I came across an interesting tidbit on the Wikipedia page for this album: Brian Wilson turned to it during the depths of his depression to lift his spirits and renew his creative spirit. I totally get that. Both the music and the underlying sensibility of Sail away are grounded and spiritually refreshing.
I see it was ranked #321 on Rolling Stones’ list of the 500 greatest albums — on the one hand, considering how many albums have been recorded over the past 50+ years, making the list at all is an honor; but on the other hand, are you really telling me there are 320 albums better than this one? Bullshit.
Sail Away – Randy Newman (1972)
Randy Newman is the first repeat artist on my 70s list (though he won’t be the last). As I said in my write-up of his 12 Songs album, this decade featured him at his finest.
And for my money, 1972’s Sail Away — Newman’s fourth album — remains his finest moment on record. Alternately biting, sweet and sad, this collection lifted the idea of popular songwriting to a whole new level. These songs feel more like literature.
Best Songwriters – #5 – Randy Newman
A couple of months ago I dedicated three weeks to the music of Randy Newman, concentrating in turn on his sincere songs, his caustic songs and his songs for Disney films. The point was that this man can do wildly different things equally well.
But Newman’s versatility isn’t what lands him in the top half of my list of favorite songwriters (despite my owning only five of his albums). No, it is his scathing satirical wit and his uncompromising ability to bring the most unsympathetic characters to life. Newman has a novelist’s gift set to blues pop infused with the soul of New Orleans jazz.
This week’s track, nestled just a few spots away on the same album, takes a decidedly more cynical look at a father-son relationship at the other end of life. ‘Old Man’ is told from the perspective of a son at his father’s death bed. But this isn’t a heartfelt goodbye. This is the son’s opportunity to throw a lifetime of uncaring neglect back in the old guy’s face.