Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Jackson Browne - Lives In The Balance (1986)

Shape of a heart....


Released February 1986

Recorded in Los Angeles

Jackson Browne follows the habit he set in the mid seventies for his albums - eight tracks, all five minutes or so in length and serious in nature, be they about love and life, or the environment, or the state of the nation. As it is the mid-eighties, there are the ubiquitous synthesisers of the era but it is still a classic Jackson Browne album.


1. For America
2. Soldier Of Plenty
3. Shape Of A Heart
4. Candy
5. Lawless Avenues
6. Lives In The Balance
7. Till I Go Down
8. Black And White                          

The opener, "For America" is a politically hard-hitting, upbeat rocking number, with an eighties-style synthsesiser riff and some swirling saxophone and some great lyrics - sincere and wise. "Soldier Of Plenty" begins with a mysterious-sounding keyboard riff and a low-key but portentous vocal from Browne. Make no mistake, he wants to get his message out on this album. "This world is not your toy" he sings, highly cynical about the state of the world. There is some powerful guitar backing on here too. "Shape Of A Heart" is one of those songs that Browne delivers so well - yearning, emotional, but laid-back and with a killer hook too. Despite the eighties backing, it is up there with the best of "Late For The Sky" and "The Pretender", lyrically and emotively. You just have to forgive the eighties backing, as they were all doing it. "Candy" is a little bit too synthesiser blighted, to be honest, but it is still a solid enough rock number. Browne doesn't do bad songs.

The title track is a beautiful, rhythmic song, with some South American pipes in the backing, lilting acoustic guitar and a searing condemnation of American foreign policy from Browne. "Black And White" is a catchy, rumbling, bass-driven number with a committed, convincing vocal once again. "Lawless Avenue" is one of my favourite Jackson Browne songs of all time - a great, riffy rocker with some evocative Springsteenesque lyrics about a fighter in the barrios of a city, among others (un-named). It has an exhilarating riff and an absolutely wonderful vocal. Browne even sings in Spanish at one point - telling us about how "Manuelito's sister Rosa ran away with a surfer from Hermosa..", (Manuelito ends up dying in an overseas conflict), and the verse eventually ends "otra guerra sin razon..." which means "another pointless war..". Strong stuff.

"Till I Go Down" is played with a reggae beat. Browne's band actually manage it acceptably, with some convincing drums and dubby passages. This has been yet another mature, intelligent and highly enjoyable Jackson Browne album. There are so many.


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