Review by Brad Green:
I was watching an ABC doco on the history of jazz the other night. It was chockers with
the most wonderful old club recordings: small ensembles in full swing. The grainy
recordings had a quaint charm, but I couldnít help imagining what they might sound
like with crisp contemporary production. So nice of this CD to arrive the next day and let
Randy Newmanís title cue is both an original tune and an overnight evergreen: the
cymbals swing, the horns blow, and thereís nostalgia and exuberance knotted together
as thick as monsterís fur. It also shimmers with production polish.
Dear old Randy has never been one to keep his mammoth talent, and even bigger sense of
humour hidden in a closet. And since the mid-1990s heís found the perfect vehicle for
his truckload of creativity: James And The Giant Peach, A Bugís Life and Toy Stories
1 and 2 have all sprung to life with a hand from his effervescent soundtracks. Animation
allows Newman to run the gamut of emotions, and of musical notes. Its freedom, surrealism
and inherent wit fitting as snugly as a bug-eyed monster in a rug with his joyous
As usual this score is as colourful as the characters. In fact, Iím not sure
Newmanís blend of trad jazz and classical orchestrations has ever been such a
monstrous success. The spins and cartwheels of the melodies and arrangements are dizzying.
A walking bass gathers to climbing strings that segue to scurrying winds and hooting
horns, which jostle playfully for lead lines. There are laughing, lumbering big brass
phrases, whooping, tripping rhythms of glee and accents that go "boo!". It all
adds up to controlled chaos of musical sophistication with humour in every bar.
Of course no Newman score would be truly complete without a song, and we get two
interpretations of the one heís written here. Itís not quite up to the gorgeous
When She Loved Me from Toy Story 2 Ė which was a travesty beaten by one of the most
mediocre efforts of Bob Dylanís career last Oscars Ė but itís a typically
spritely tune; and thereís lots of fun to be found in the first version, courtesy of
voiceover talent John Goodman and Billy Crystal. Goodman does particularly well, and his
gruff delivery and Crystalís exaggerated twang are a jolly contrast. Newman,
understandably, does even better with his own version: as always a spiky, puffy tone that
sounds like heís swallowed a blowfish whole. Youíve got to love it. The only
problem I have is figuring out whether itís funnier having Goodman or Newman croon
the line: "If I were handsome (. . . it could happen) . . ."