June 07, 1999 12:00 PM

Randy Newman (DreamWorks)

If you like your romance laced with irony and whimsy, Newman is the Man. This far-from-conventional love-song collection, which is unlikely to make anyone forget standards like “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” includes both “I’m Dead” and “Better Off Dead” as well as “The World Isn’t Fair,” a rare pop song about Karl Marx; “Big Hat, No Cattle,” a testament to the superiority of substance over style; and “Great Nations of Europe,” featuring Newman’s geopolitical musings. (Perhaps in a bid to win over critics, he also includes a song titled “I Want Everyone to Like Me.”)

Since we can assume nobody turns to Randy Newman for warm, fuzzy, cuddle-by-the-fire music, the vaguely deceptive title seems harmless. Besides, anyone who stumbles upon Newman’s shrewd, tuneful songs should consider himself fortunate, no matter how he got there.

Bottom Line: All the usual nice Newman twists

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