Band: Randy Newman
Album: Sail Away
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: You know who's a badass? Randy Newman.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: Newman is hardly rock and roll in any conventional sense. I imagine most people who love the preceding and following albums are big Newman fans. Or anyone who loves the first ten albums on the list.
Best song: "Political Science" is perfect for current American life, while "God's Song (That's Why I Love Mankind)" and "He Gives Us All His Love" are a great maltheistic track. "Burn On" features Newman's classic sarcasm.
Worst song: I don't really like "Simon Smith and His Amazing Dancing Bear"
Is it awesome?: Yes.
About his music... Randy Newman does a lot of film scoring and songwriting for children's movies these days. He's not really much in the way of a rock and roller, but he never really was. He has a giant pop sensibility and his ability to use old genre-style piano stuff -- honky tonk, New Orleans jazz, etc. -- backs up his catchiness.
The reason to listen to Newman, of course, is his world-famous sarcasm. Simply put, Newman is awesome. He opens the album with the title track, a song of a carnival barker singing the virtues of... The slave trade. In pure parody, he sings the virtues of America:
In America every man is free
To take care of his home and his family
You'll be as happy as a monkey in a monkey tree
A ridiculous notion and one that is wonderfully clever. And, of course, that's just the first song. From the sarcasm about Cleveland ("Burn On") to the prescient political theme song ("Political Science," in we the U.S. bombs the whole world) it's a wonderful record.