DESPITE RELEASING HIS self-titled debut in 1968, it would take several years before Randy Newman hit a level of meagre (yet significant) commercial success, but it’s worth remembering that the key ingredients of the Angeleno’s whip-smart songs can all be found on that startlingly ambitious first album. The penultimate track on Randy Newman is the oft-covered I Think It’s Going To Rain Today – an astonishing ballad rendered bleak and beautiful by an underpinning of MGM strings and Newman’s almost whispered incantations of “broken windows and empty hallways”. With its evocations of a romantic misery at the heart of a cold, smashed society, it was, according to Ian MacDonald writing in MOJO back in 2000, one of Nick Drake’s “favourite songs from one of his favourite albums”.
You can check out Dusty Springfield’s sunnier reading here and here’s Neil Diamond’s stately version, but neither comes close to the haunting purity of Newman’s own approach, captured here in 1971. It’ll thrill you to the core every time.