12 Songs (Randy Newman album)

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12 Songs
Studio album by Randy Newman
Released April 1970 (1970-04)
Recorded mid-1969 at United Western Recorders, Los Angeles[1]
Genre Roots music[2]
Length 29:51
Label Reprise
Producer Lenny Waronker
Randy Newman chronology
Randy Newman
12 Songs
Randy Newman Live

12 Songs is the second album by American singer-songwriter Randy Newman, released in April 1970 by Reprise Records.[3] It features a swampy style of roots music with introspective, satirical songwriting.[2] "Have You Seen My Baby?", the album's only single, was released in May.[3]

When 12 Songs was first released, it was well received and has since garnered retrospective acclaim from critics such as Robert Christgau and Rolling Stone, both of whom cite it as one of the best albums of all time.[4][5]

Music and lyrics[edit]

According to Q magazine, 12 Songs demonstrated Newman's eccentric mix of traditional pop song structures and his sardonic, satirical humor.[6] AllMusic's Mark Deming said although his sense of humor seemed more caustic than on his self-titled debut album, Newman's "most mordant character studies" on 12 Songs "boast a recognizable humanity, which often make his subjects both pitiable and all the more loathsome."[7] In the opinion of Robert Christgau, American songwriting in general is often "banal, prolix, and virtually solipsistic when it wants to be honest, merely banal when it doesn't", but Newman's truisms on the album are "always concise, never confessional", and unique:

Speaking through recognizable American grotesques, he comments here on the generation gap (doomed), incendiary violence (fucked up but sexy), male and female (he identifies with the males, most of whom are losers and weirdos), racism (he's against it, but he knows its seductive power), and alienation (he's for it). Newman's music counterposes his indolent drawl—the voice of a Jewish kid from L.A. who grew up on Fats Domino—against an array of instrumental settings that on this record range from rock to bottleneck to various shades of jazz. And because his lyrics abjure metaphor and his music recalls commonplaces without repeating them, he can get away with the kind of calculated effects that destroy more straightforward meaning-mongers.[8]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Retrospective reviews
Review scores
AllMusic5/5 stars[7]
Christgau's Record GuideA+[9]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music4/5 stars[10]
The Great Rock Discography8/10[11]
Music Story5/5 stars[11]
MusicHound Rock3.5/5[11]
Q5/5 stars[6]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide5/5 stars[13]

12 Songs received positive reviews from contemporary critics. According to Keith Phipps from The A.V. Club, Newman "began to gather a following beyond critics and fellow songwriters" with the album.[14] Rolling Stone magazine's Bruce Grimes gave it a rave review when it was released, hailing the album as "the full emergence of a leading innovator in rock and roll".[15] In The Village Voice, Christgau called it the best record of 1970, finding the songwriting, production, and performances superior and "more accessible than the great-but-weird album that preceded it".[9]

In a retrospective review, Christgau called 12 Songs "a perfect album",[8] while Deming said it was Newman's "first great album, and ... still one of his finest moments on record."[7] Yahoo! Music's Dave DiMartino observed some of Newman's "best-known earlier material" on the album, which he felt featured "a stellar trio of guitarists, including Ry Cooder, Clarence White and (Beau Brummels) Ron Elliott."[16] Mojo commended Newman for replacing "the orchestra with an Americana rock rhythm section", while writing that "the more conventional presentation found Newman a college audience attuned to his wry singularity".[17]

In 2003, 12 Songs was ranked number 354 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[4] Rob Sheffield, writing in The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), cited it as the moment "where Newman got loose as a rock & roller, ditching the complex orchestrations for a bluesy, easy-swinging satire of America".[13]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Randy Newman except where noted.

Side one

  1. "Have You Seen My Baby?" – 2:32
  2. "Let's Burn Down the Cornfield" – 3:03
  3. "Mama Told Me Not to Come" – 2:12
  4. "Suzanne" – 3:15
  5. "Lover's Prayer" – 1:55
  6. "Lucinda" – 2:40
  7. "Underneath the Harlem Moon" (Mack Gordon, Harry Revel) – 1:52

Side two

  1. "Yellow Man" – 2:19
  2. "Old Kentucky Home" – 2:40
  3. "Rosemary" – 2:08
  4. "If You Need Oil" – 3:00
  5. "Uncle Bob's Midnight Blues" – 2:15


  • Lenny Waronker – producer
  • Jack Nitzsche - co-producer on "Let's Burn Down the Cornfield"
  • Doug Botnick – engineer
  • Lee Herschberg – engineer
  • Ed Thrasher - artwork
  • Tony Newman - cover photography


  1. ^ https://www.discogs.com/Randy-Newman-Guilty-30-Years-Of-Randy-Newman/release/1380595
  2. ^ a b Perone 2012, p. 57.
  3. ^ a b Strong 2004, pp. 1077–78.
  4. ^ a b "500 Greatest Albums of All Time: Randy Newman, '12 Songs'". Rolling Stone. Jann S. Wenner. November 2003. Archived from the original on 2010-08-29. 
  5. ^ "Grade List: A+". Robert Christgau. Retrieved 2012-09-03. 
  6. ^ a b "Review: 12 Songs". Q. London: Bauer Media Group: 125. 2000. 
  7. ^ a b c Deming, Mark. "12 Songs - Randy Newman". AllMusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2012-09-03. 
  8. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (1981). Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the '70s. Da Capo Press. p. 277. ISBN 0306804093. 
  9. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (April 23, 1970). "Consumer Guide (9)". The Village Voice. New York: VV Publishing Corporation. Retrieved 2012-09-03. 
  10. ^ Larkin 2006, p. 186.
  11. ^ a b c "12 Songs". Acclaimed Music. Retrieved December 26, 2016. 
  12. ^ NME. London: IPC Media: 42. February 14, 2000. 
  13. ^ a b Sheffield et al. 2004, p. 581.
  14. ^ Phipps, Keith (October 8, 2003). "Randy Newman". The A.V. Club. Chicago. Retrieved February 24, 2013. 
  15. ^ Grimes, Bruce (April 16, 1970). "12 Songs". Rolling Stone. Jann S. Wenner. Retrieved 2012-09-03. 
  16. ^ DiMartino, Dave. "Randy Newman Reviews". Yahoo! Music. Yahoo!. Archived from the original on 2012-09-03. Retrieved 2012-09-03. 
  17. ^ "Review: 12 Songs". Mojo. London: Bauer Media Group: 116. March 2000. 


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]