Real love blues

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Hollywood hasn’t quite ruined Randy Newman for pop music, but big-screen duties sure have hogged his time. The prolific composer of film sound tracks hasn’t given us a real solo album – not counting 1995’s all-star Faust project – since the affecting Land of Dreams, released all of 11 years ago.

For Bad Love, Newman has, perhaps as a result of his cinematic offerings, cranked out material that’s more evocative than ever, beginning with "Shame," the self-mocking interior monologue of a lonely middle-ager begging his sweet young thing to come back to her sugar daddy. His bitter complaints – "Do you know what it feels like/To have to beg a little bum like you for love?" – are countered by female gospel-rock vocalists, gleefully wielding the song’s title like a knife.

The singer, who recently split from his wife and two children, spills blood all over these piano-centered tunes and word pictures, hoping for healing that won’t come on the ballad "Every Time It Rains"; bemoaning a love affair gone wrong on "Better Off Dead," all distant, muted trumpets and sickly sweet strings; and going to the heart of the darkness on the stark "I Miss You," so autobiographical as to include a reference to Idaho, the real home of Newman’s old flame. Bad Love hurts so good.

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