- The Washington Times - Friday, May 30, 2008

The Early Songs of Randy Newman,” a collection, dropped last month, of Newman compositions as interpreted by the likes of Fats Domino, the O’Jays and Ricky Nelson. Even the most generous of Newmanites must admit, the man’s pipes are not for everyone.

Burt Bacharach- The illustrious pop songsmith has tried intermittently since 1967 to cut a figure as a solo artist. “At This Time,” released in 2005, was his most recent attempt. Critics agreed: The ability to sing Burt Bacharach songs on pitch is not overrated.

Robbie Robertson- When it came to singers, the Band had an embarrassment of riches in Levon Helm, Rick Danko and Richard Manuel. So it was enough that Mr. Robertson was merely one of rock’s greatest songwriters. The craggy vocals of his self-titled 1987 solo debut - shrouded in producer Daniel Lanois’ sonic ambience as well as backup help from Peter Gabriel and Bono - revealed anew the wisdom of the Band’s division of labor.

Pete Townshend- Were it not for the explosive vocals of Roger Daltrey, rock operas such as “Tommy” and “Quadrophenia” would have been the unfulfilled pipe dreams of an ambitious, unknown songwriter with a big nose, gangly build and reedy voice.

Craig Finn- If he weren’t simultaneously able to write great power-pop hooks and play a mean rhythm guitar, the Hold Steady frontman probably could have scratched out a living as a poet. No amount of barking and growling could hide the fact that he’s darn lucky to make a living as singer.

Carole King- Sorry, “Tapestry” lovers. She may be one of American pop’s most original and beloved composers, but her voice, even at her peak, was thin, nasally and shaky of pitch.

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