Short Cuts

Disc two is home to Newman's later studio music and contains a number of the novelty hits for which he still is best known. These include the thoroughly obnoxious but lethally catchy "Short People," "I Love L.A.," and "It's Money That Matters." But the strength of Newman's songwriting has always been his unembarrassed willingness to assume musical personae and drape them in lush song lines. "Sail Away" is a rousing comment on the slave trade that owes as much to Aaron Copeland as to Fats Domino, while "Lonely at the Top" (originally written for Frank Sinatra, though never recorded by him) is a melancholy study of fame that showcases the languorous alto sax work of Abe Most.

As richly rewarding as these first two discs are, the remaining two are mixed affairs. Disc three is an odds-and-ends edition that includes half a dozen live tracks and more than a dozen Newman originals that were never released. A number of these (notably "The Goat" -- actually written by Sonny Boy Williamson -- and "Maybe I'm Doing It Wrong") are full of infectious swagger. But a lot of the tracks here feel like what they are: rejects from previous outings.

The fourth disc, composed entirely of Newman's music for movie soundtracks, is for true aficionados. It's not that the songs are any less well-crafted or wry than his other compositions. But the medium -- with its requisite histrionic flourishes -- tends to dull Newman's edge.

As always, Rhino's packaging is a joy to behold and includes excellent liner notes and essays that help take stock of Newman's career. For anyone with even a passing interest in his inimitable stylings, Guilty will prove a rare, if distended, treat.

-- Steven Almond

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