The Randy Newman Songbook Vol. 1 (Nonesuch)

There’s no getting around these facts: Randy Newman is a squat, plump, ugly, old man and he sings like a cancer victim with his dick caught in his zipper. Other than that, the guy’s a fucking genius. Songbook, Newman’s first recording for Nonesuch, Emmylou Harris’ label, is a solo re-recording of his greatest hits, piano bar-style.

It won’t win him a hip, younger audience like Harris’, but it’s sharp, mellow and satisfactorily depressing enough to warm — or freeze — the heart of any regular old fan. There’s no “I Love LA” (shame) or “Short People” (hurrah), but ballads “Lonely at the Top” and “I Think it’s Going to Rain Today” are as haunting as ever, while “Rednecks” and “Political Science” (a rollicking ditty from 1972’s classic Sail Away about America starting World War III) look spookily prescient. New material soon, please.

Primo Polpo

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