September 10: Randy Newman Released Good Old Boys in 1974

Randy_Newman-Good_Old_Boys-Frontal

“To me, someone who writes really good songs is Randy Newman. There’s a lot of people who write good songs. As songs. Now Randy might not go out on stage and knock you out, or knock your socks off. And he’s not going to get people thrilled in the front row. He ain’t gonna do that. But he’s gonna write a better song than most people who can do it.

You know, he’s got that down to an art. Now Randy knows music. He knows music But it doesn’t get any better than “Louisiana” or “Cross Charleston Bay” [“Sail Away”]. It doesn’t get any better than that. It’s like a classically heroic anthem theme. He did it. There’s quite a few people who did it. Not that many people in Randy’s class.”
– Bob Dylan (1991)

Good Old Boys is the fifth album by Randy Newman, released 10 September 1974 on Reprise Records. It peaked at #36 on the Billboard 200, Newman’s first album to obtain major commercial success. The premiere live performance of the album took place on October 5, 1974, at the Symphony Hall in Atlanta, Georgia, with guest Ry Cooder and Newman conducting the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

This is one of the best records about “The South” that has ever been made. Randy Newman is cruel but, oh, so witty.

The album’s scabrous opening cut, “Rednecks,” is guaranteed to offend practically anyone with its tale of a slow-witted, willfully (and proudly) ignorant Southerner obsessed with “keeping the n—–s down.” “A Wedding in Cherokee County” is more polite but hardly less mean-spirited, in which an impotent hick marries a circus freak; if the song’s melody and arrangement weren’t so skillful, it would be hard to imagine anyone bothering with this musical geek show.

Good Old Boys is one of Newman’s finest albums; it’s also one of his most provocative and infuriating, and that’s probably just the way he wanted it.
Mark Demming (Allmusic.com)

Rednecks:

It was initially meant to be a concept album about a character named Johnny Cutler, an everyman of the Deep South, a demo of which was recorded by Newman on February 1, 1973. These 13 songs were subsequently released as the bonus disc for the 2002 reissue, entitled Johnny Cutler’s Birthday.

The ideas of this concept survived into the released album, although as Newman’s take on viewpoints from the inhabitants of the Deep South in general, rather than from a single individual character. As Newman has done before,he addressed generally taboo topics such as slavery and racism, most stringently on the opening song “Rednecks,” a simultaneous satire on institutional racism in the Deep South and the hypocrisy of the northern states in response.

Birmingham:

Newman also incorporates actual historical events into the album, remarking upon the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 on “Louisiana 1927” and a plea to Richard Nixon to alleviate poverty as a result of the recession of the mid-1970s on “Mr. President (Have Pity on the Working Man)”. Preceding an original song illustrating the achievements of Louisiana Governor Huey P. Long, Newman performs with members of The Eagles on a song written by Long himself, “Every Man a King”.

A Wedding In Cherokee County (funny intro):

Robert Christgau gave the album an A rating upon release, and both the 1992 edition of the Rolling Stone Album Guide and Allmusic gave it a five-star rating. In 2003, the album was ranked number 393 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. It spent two weeks in the Top 40 of the Billboard 200 in late 1974, with an overall 21 week tenure. It also earned a gold record in the Netherlands.

Good Old Boys on Spotify:

– Hallgeir & Egil

Sources: Allmusic, Wikipedia, Amazon

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