Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Randy Newman: Good Old Boys [Reprise, 1974]
Despite my immense misgivings--Newman's political sensitivity, a useful attribute in one conceptualizing about the South, has never impressed me--I'm convinced that this is Newman's second-best album. It also rights a career that was threatening to wind down into cheap sarcasm. Contrary to published report, the white Southerners Newman sings about/from are never objects of contempt. Even Newman's psychotic and exhibitionist and moron show dignity and imagination, and the rednecks of the album's most notorious songs are imbued by the smart-ass Los Angeles Jew who created them with ironic distance, a smart-ass's kindest cut of all. There is, natcherly, a darker irony: no matter how smart they are about how dumb they are, they still can't think of anything better to do than keep the niggers down. A