Released: October 1977
Chart Peak: #9
Weeks Charted: 29
Certified Gold: 1/24/78
Little Criminals is Randy Newman's first album in... hell, we don't even want to count the years. In his absence, a whole generation of semi-demented, would-be perverts calling themselves punk rockers has tried to cop his act. We aren't calling Newman the first punk rocker -- for one thing, he's intelligent. For another, his piano belongs in a Salvation Army band or a smoky San Francisco bawdyhouse. But we are calling Newman perverted, wry and one of our favorite crazies. The long-awaited album is everything we hoped for. There's a vicious song about short people. There's a song about a city that begins with the letter B (first "Birmingham," now "Baltimore." Next stop, Berkeley?). There are hypnotic love songs with simple phrases running over chords like worry beads. There's a patriotic number called "Sigmund Freud's Impersonation of Albert Einstein in America." The album's getting plenty of airplay; it might even make Newman a star.
- Playboy, 2/78.
The irreverent Newman returns to the scene with his first album in nearly three years. His songwriting has taken on an even more sarcastic tone, as Newman's cutting, wry and sardonic humor fiercely hits below the belt. At other times, he is an emotionally sensitive writer able to convey vivid lyrical passages. Eagles' Joe Walsh, Glenn Frey and Don Henley contribute on guitars and background vocals while Linda Ronstadt's guitarist Waddy Wachtel, Ry Cooder, J.D. Souther, Klaus Voorman, Andy Newmark and bassist Willie Weeks supply the instrumentation. Newman's dreamy piano playing and distinct vocals are often at their effective peak. Lenny Waronker and Russ Titelman produced this offbeat assortment of Newman ditties. Best cuts: "Short People," "In Germany Before The War," "Little Criminals," "Sigmund Freud's Impersonation Of Albert Einstein In America," "Texas Girl At The Funeral Of Her Father."
- Billboard, 1977.
- Charles M. Young, Rolling Stone, 12/15/77.
Always the master craftsman, Newman doesn't waste a second here, doesn't permit an inept lyrical insight or musical fillip. But over the past three years he doesn't seem to have written one song that ranks with his best. Among all these explorations of America's dirty white underbelly, only the out-and-out jokes -- the gross intolerance of "Short People" and the Eagles music on "Rider in the Rain" -- distinguish themselves. Very disappointing. B+
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
Because it included "Short People," Newman's only hit single (it charted for twenty weeks, holding down the No. 2 spot for three weeks), this was easily Newman's most popular album, reaching No. 9. Unfortunately, it is far from his best -- his lyrical muse seems to have deserted him. He goes through the usual motions all right, but too often the results are cruel, rather than creative, let alone insightful. It does have its moments: "Sigmund Freud's Impersonation of Albert Einstein in America" and the L.A. country send-up, "Rider in the Rain," performed with the Eagles. But two out of twelve is a lousy batting average, even for a lesser artist. What it does have are creative, lush musical arrangements, which are fairly effectively reproduced on the CD, albeit with slight compression and a tendency toward harshness in the heavier vocal passages. B-
- Bill Shapiro, Rock & Roll Review: A Guide to Good Rock on CD, 1991.
On Little Criminals, Newman's penchant for satirically illuminating the quirks in human nature earned him a million-selling #2 hit with "Short People," a song that dealt with the issue of bigotry. It also earned him the loathing of thousands of short people who failed to get the message. Aside from that controversy, Little Criminals was relatively tame by Newman standards. "Baltimore," "Sigmund Freud's Impersonation of Albert Einstein in America," and "Rider in the Rain" were among the standout tracks. * * *
- Rick Clark, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
Sarcasm reaches new heights in the lyrics of this always witty, always on target cerebral album, which represents clever Randy before he became Hollywood Randy. There's a scary amount of good songs here, many of which spoof on everything considered holy -- no doubt some petite people never recovered from the sly, controversial "Short People" -- just a small example of his twisted and comical look at life. * * * *
- Zagat Survey Music Guide - 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.
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