- Personnel: Randy Newman (vocals, piano); Steve Donnelly (guitar); Greg Leisz (slide guitar, acoustic slide guitar, pedal steel guitar); Allison Allport (harp); Eun Mee Ahn, Alyssa Park, Irina Voloshina, Anatoly Rosinsky, Katia Popov, Helen Nightengale, Marc Sazer, Sara Parkins, Joel Derouin, Kevin Connolly , Lisa M. Sutton , Jacqueline Brand , Natalie Leggett, Sarah Thornblade, Roger Wilkie, Rafael Rishik, Tereza Stanislav (violin); Thomas Diener, Victoria Miskolczy, Michael Nowak , Steven Gordon, Brian Dembow, Roland Kato, Dave Walther , Darrin McCann, Shanti Randall, Robert Berg (viola); Dennis Karmazyn, Chris Ermacoff, David H. Speltz, Andrew Shulman , Antony Cooke , Stephen Erdody , Armen Ksadjikian, Cecilia Tsan (cello); Norda Mullen, Geri Rotella, David Shostac, James Walker (flute); Frank Marocco (accordion); Donald Foster , Gary Bovyer, Marty Krystall (clarinet); Tom Boyd, Leslie Reed (oboe); Kenneth Munday , Michael O'Donovan, Judith Farmer (bassoon); Dan Higgins , Gary Foster , Greg Huckins, Bill Liston, Brian Scanlon (saxophone); Jon Lewis , Warren Luening, Tim Morrison, Daniel Fornero, Malcolm McNab (trumpet); William Booth , George Thatcher, William Frank "Bill" Reichenbach Jr. , Bruce Fowler (trombone); Doug Tornquist (tuba); James Thatcher, Mark Adams , Richard Todd (horns); Mitchell Froom (keyboards); Greg Cohen (bass guitar); Pete Thomas (drums); Alan Estes, Gregory Goodall (percussion); Rich Logan , Fletcher Sheridan, Steve Jackson , Oren Waters, Terry Wood (background vocals).
- Audio Mixer: David Boucher.
- Recording information: Newman Scoring Stage, 20th Century Fox Studios, Los Ang; Sunset Sound, Hollywood, CA.
- Photographers: Perry Mastrovito; Autumn de Wilde.
- Arranger: Randy Newman.
- By the release of 2008's HARPS AND ANGELS, Randy Newman was firmly entrenched in the pantheon of classic American songwriters. Always slightly out of step with the times, Newman's finest work is marked by a broad, timeless sense of American pop music that encompasses everything from George Gershwin and Jelly Roll Morton to Bob Dylan and the Beach Boys. Yet it is Newman's sardonic wit and razor-sharp sense of satire that makes his view of America as a whole so compelling.
- On HARPS AND ANGELS, both elements of Newman's artistry are on display with a richness they haven't had in years. The album's opening (title) track finds the grizzled songsmith contemplating mortality and the Lord over a mellow, gently swinging melody, while "A Few Words in Defense of Country," the album's centerpiece, takes the complex sympathies displayed for the antiquated norms of the Deep South on 1974's GOOD OLD BOYS and applies it to 21st-century American barbarism. Newman's a sly political fox who loves to ruffle feathers, but when he's singing about loneliness and romantic longing, as on "Losing You" and "Feels Like Home," the sentiments are never maudlin and always true. Randy Newman is a national treasure, and as enigmatic, frustrating, and ultimately rewarding as the nation he so brilliantly skewers. HARPS AND ANGELS is proof that he still has quite a bit to say.
Rolling Stone (p.90) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "Newman works with piano, an orchestra and a Dixieland-style combo, using American musical tradition to amplify irony and yank heartstrings."
Rolling Stone (p.90) - Ranked #16 in Rolling Stone's 50 Best Albums Of 2008 -- "[He's] still fully armed with hilarious rage."
Spin (p.120) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "The brilliantly nasty 'A Few Words In Defense of Our Country' flattens any other anti-Bush rant..."
Entertainment Weekly (p.68) - "The stunning title track -- an orchestrated mini-epic about a lout's near-death experience -- prove that Newman, at age 64, has more healthy bile in him than 64 angry twentysomethings." -- Grade: B+
Dirty Linen (p.85) - "The man has a knack for taking the most direct path the crux of the matter....He does set the stage for a powerful script."
Q (Magazine) (p.108) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "Drolly funny and packed with the usual array of self-deluded fools and bigots, pride of place goes to 'A Few Words In Defense Of Our Country'..."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.69) - Ranked #25 in Mojo's "The 50 Best Albums Of 2008" -- "The set bowls along with jokes aplenty..."
Blender (Magazine) (p.84) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "Newman roots his compositions in uptown-New Orleans R&B, classy and swinging. He mixes in dense string arrangements, breezy horns, even pianette....This is Newman's most unwound album..."
Paste (magazine) (p.56) - "So many laugh-out-loud moments resonate beyond the punchline, and each new spin of the album reveals another."