Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Jackson Browne

"The kid I was when I first left home was looking for his freedom and a life of his own, but the freedom that he found wasn't quite as sweet. When the truth was known I have prayed for America, I was made for America, I can't let go till she comes around. Until the land of the free Is awake and can see and until her conscience has been found" - Jackson Browne

Jackson Browne (Saturate Before Using) (1972)

Jamaica Say You Will/A Child In These Hills/Song For Adam/Doctor My Eyes/From Silver Lake/Something Fine/Under The Falling Sky/Looking Into You/Rock Me On The Water/My Opening Farewell        

This, Jackson Browne’s debut album, shows the huge potential that would give us such great music and lyrics for many years to come.

The songs

Released in 1971, it really was quite lyrically and atmospherically advanced. The first three tracks are all quite laid-back and beautiful - Jamaica Say You WillA Child In These Hills and the mournful Song For Adam which show a sensitivity and maturity that belies his tender years. Not too many other artists were producing this sort of thing in 1971.

Then, fourth up, comes the piano that would drive so many of Browne’s music in future years in the jaunty Doctor My Eyes. This was taken into the charts in 1973 by The Jackson 5. Great drum, percussion and guitar fade out too. 

Then it is reflective time again with one of the album’s best ones, From Silver Lake. Just lovely. Why Browne has never been given more credit is difficult to understand. Something Else continues in a similar contemplative vein.

Under The Falling Sky has a few breaks of early 70s style congas coupled with upbeat acoustic guitars. One can see how songs like this would, six or seven years later be given a full band, piano, guitar and drums treatment like on The Pretender. Here, they just feel slightly like a “work in progress”. 

Looking Into You has the same feel. They do have a kind of naive charm. A genius in waiting, Rock Me On The Water is glorious proof of that claim. It would sound good on any album. Jackson always comes up with one real killer on each album. This is the one here.

My Opening Farewell is a suitably low key goodbye to this partly low key first outing. There was more to come, far more.

For Everyman (1973)

Take It Easy/Our Lady Of The Well/Colors of The Sun/I Thought I Was A Child/These Days/Redneck Friend/The Times You've Come/Ready Or Not/Sing My Songs To Me/For Everyman       

This was Jackson Browne's second album and, while it still had a bit of a "work in progress" feel about it (in comparison to the more finished feel of his subsequent work), it is an album which shows his progression. He was an artist who wrote great songs and was looking for a sound to hang them on to, so to speak, and here he managed it a bit more confidently than he did on the bleak-ish debut album. It was a mixture of some catchy country, guitar-driven rock numbers and thoughtful, melodic slow ballads, plus one extended, grandiose narrative, philosophical, lyrically pertinent number to end with (something that became a tradition on future albums). He really is such a good lyricist, but on these early albums the sound is somewhat austere and tentative in places, not as confident as it would become by, say, 1976's The Pretender. Therefore the album just doesn't quite tick all the boxes. Not quite, but almost. It is still a good album.
The songs

Take It Easy does not quite have the appeal and catchy country rock pizazz of 1972's Eagles hit version of the song, it seems a bit undercooked in comparison. 

Our Lady Of The Well is a mournful song, with a nice, laid-back melodic backing and that sad Browne vocal that we would be so familiar with in years to come. It is a beautiful, sensitive song. Nicely sung and nicely played with a lovely Mexican-style guitar break near the end. 

Colors Of The Sun is a brooding, bassy slow tempo number with a haunting vocal. Again, the backing is appealing. 

I Thought I Was A Child ups the pace somewhat, when it kicks in, but it is actually covered more convincingly by Bonnie Raitt on her Takin' My Time album. It features a delicious acoustic guitar solo followed by some bass/piano interplay though. It is a great song too, it has to be said. Typical Jackson Browne in its sensitivity and phrasing.

These Days is a slow, evocative and moving number with some fetching slide guitar backing. It is another lovely song. 

Redneck Friend sees Jackson really rocking for the first time on this album, something he doesn't always do enough. Whenever he does, it's always good, with a trademark high-pitched guitar sound. 

The Times You've Come is a plaintive acoustic number that gets a bit muscular half way through, but retains its intrinsic sadness throughout in Browne's vocal delivery.

Ready Or Not is a tongue-in-cheek, light-hearted number about Browne and his wife expecting a child. Beneath the wry humour it has a mid-pace infectious melody and an impressive mid-song guitar solo. 

Sing My Songs To Me is a laid-back, slow tempo rock ballad, with sumptuous guitar and gentle piano backing. It has airs of Paul McCartney about it, for me, just in a few places. 

The title track, For Everyman, is one of those big, meaningful lengthy numbers to finish the album, like Before The Deluge or The Pretender. Yes, there were better albums to come, but this one is getting there.

Late For The Sky (1974)

Late For The Sky/Fountain Of Sorrow/Farther On/The Late Show/The Road And The Sky/For A Dancer/Walking Slow/Before The Deluge            

Jackson Browne's mid-seventies albums (indeed pretty much all his albums, but particularly these ones) are tender, meaningful, melodic and sensitive affairs. Usually only eight songs or so, all around five minutes in length - piano-driven with some tuneful, subtle guitar enhancements and Browne's acute ear for a hook and a thoughtful, intelligent lyric. Late For the Sky exemplifies these descriptions perfectly. In many ways it is the archetypal Jackson Browne album.

The songs

Late For The Sky is simply lovely, mournful yet uplifting at the same time, backed by a stately piano and those great lyrics and gently addictive hooks. Fountain Of Sorrow sees Browne going slightly upbeat - a lovely country-ish rock song, underpinned by a beautiful bass line, some Billy Joel-influenced piano and the usual killer guitar half way through. Browne's voice is so laid-back and relaxing, you just want to sit down with him and have a sincere conversation over a coffee. Browne deals with complex issues in his songs, it is very much AOR - life, love, loss, death, the state of the world, philosophical thoughts. He is an intelligent man and his songs certainly reflect that.

Farther On is a piano/slide guitar reflective ballad, and The Late Show continues in the same vein, but a bit more "full band", with a strong drum sound, although still delivered in the same slow, solid mode. Just the you are beginning to think that Jackson couldn't rock out, he does with the lively, barroom rock of The Road And The Sky, which is a pulsating, uplifting number. Just what was needed, actually, as it was all getting a little too intense and serious. 

For A Dancer is a return to the yearning, sad ambience. It is a lovely, touching song, however, with some evocative violin at the end.

Walking Slow is an upbeat, guitar-driven rocker. Browne does these numbers as effortlessly as he does the ballads. He has a real feel for these mid-tempo AOR-style rock songs. Freeway driving music. It always sounds so invigorating. On these albums, though, Browne always ends with a classic. Here it is the wonderful Before The Deluge. "The brave and crazy wings of youth.." sings Browne, "let the music keep our spirits high...let the buildings keep our children dry..." he continues. It is just a great song. Its ecological message delivered so beautifully, quietly yet powerfully. It has a great guitar/violin fade out too. Thoroughly mature music. One of his best songs of all time. From one of his best albums.

* A great review of the album can be found on Mark Barry's excellent site :-


The Pretender (1976)

The Fuse/Your Bright Baby Blues/Linda Paloma/Here Come Those Tears Again/The Only Child/Daddy's Tune/Sleep's Dark And Silent Gate/The Pretender        

This was a somewhat ignored album back in late 1976, (certainly in the UK, if not in the USA, where it sold lots) in the midst of the excesses of prog-rock, cock rock and the first sparks of punk properly taking flame. Shame. It is a lovely piece of work.

Firstly, there is no indication anywhere that this is a remaster. However, the sound is excellent, and certainly sounds as if it has been given the treatment. The music is crystal clear and top notch (as always on Jackson Browne albums).

Lyrically, Jackson Browne just makes one think, reflect and contemplate. Must be a tough gig being his analyst. Another reviewer has made reference to the trying times Browne went through before the release of this album. With that in mind, it is amazing what a beautiful, touching collection of songs he has come up with.
The songs

The Fuse and Your Bright Baby Blues are both typical five-six minute Browne mini-masterpieces, melodic piano interlaced with guitar and those "mini hooks" he specialises in which has you singing along before the song whisks you off in another direction. There is a sadness to all those mini hooks too, further exemplified on the lovely Here Come Those Tears Again and the tour de force title track. 

The Only Child is beautiful, with its heartbreaking "take good care of your mother" line. Daddy's Tune relieves the understandably sombre mood somewhat with some brassy upbeat couple of minutes. 

Sleep's Dark And Silent Gate washes over you in preparation for the glory of one of Jackson's best ever tracks, The Pretender. It is packed full of great imagery and killer lines, 

Linda Paloma is a throwaway bit of Mexicana which Browne often loves. Pleasant enough, but the album's weakest track.

Incidentally, check out Gary "US" Bonds' corking, Springsteen-produced cover of The Pretender while you're at it….

Running On Empty (1977)

Running On Empty/The Road/Rosie/You Love The Thunder/Cocaine/Shaky Town/Love Needs A Heart/Nothing But Time/The Load Out/Stay   
This is one of my favourite ever albums. It is ostensibly a live album, but what it is, as opposed to being one live gig, is a selection of tracks recorded live by Jackson Browne in different situations. Some are recorded live at large gigs - like the rocking opener Running On Empty, the equally rousing, riffy You Love The Thunder, with a killer guitar solo,  and then there is the truly magnificent, evocative and moving "tale of the road" closer, The Load Out/Stay, which is one of the greatest live cuts of all time, from anyone, in my opinion. Check it out. The point where the full band kicks in is one of those spine tingling rock moments. Another was recorded on the tour bus, in rudimentary fashion, like the folky Nothing But Time. This sounds great, considering it was recorded on the bus.

The sad ballad The Road (another song about life on the road, which is a recurring theme), the soulful rock of Shaky Town and the acoustic, hard-hitting Cocaine were recorded in various hotel rooms. The unique thing about The Road is that the first 2.58 minutes of it were recorded in the hotel room, with Browne on acoustic guitar only, and then you hear the crowd whoop and it turns into a full band concert recording from a proper show. It is so cleverly done, you can't "hear the join" so to speak. Shaky Town also sounds remarkably full and bassy, with a great drum sound, considering it was so basically recorded.

The heartbreaking
Rosie, about a groupie, was recorded by Browne backstage after a gig. It is a wonderfully atmospheric song. 

The laid-back, piano-driven country-ish rock of Love Needs A Heart was another full band, concert recording. There is a superb, melodic organ solo in this track.

This is just an uplifting, exhilarating record, from a strangely underrated artist. I never fail to enjoy it, even after all these years. Highly recommended. My God, I love The Load Out.

Hold Out (1980)

Disco Apocalypse/Hold Out/That Girl Could Sing/Boulevard/Of Missing Persons/Call It A Loan/Hold On Hold Out    

For some reason this album, from 1980, seems to have attracted critical scorn. God knows why. Personally, I think it is a superb album.
The songs

Disco Apocalypse is a funky slow burner, with a laid-back regular beat and the usual serious, intelligent and wise lyrics from Browne. Yes, there is a somewhat cheesy synthesiser riff but, as always the hooks are absolutely instant and catchy. Browne is almost sending up the whole lightweight disco scene by having disco influences on this often cynical song. Admittedly it is a somewhat bizarre song, but it has many hidden depths. 

Hold Out is up there with the best songs Jackson Browne has ever written - moving, melodic and with one hell of a guitar solo too. 

That Girl Could Sing is a lively, staccato rock-ish number with some solid, clunky guitar riffs.

Boulevard has a storming guitar riff intro. This is one of Browne's best rocking tracks. 

Of Missing Persons has some excellent slide-style guitar and a lovely vocal from Browne. Nobody does this sort of song better than him. Apparently it was written about the departed Little Feat main man, Lowell George. Quite why some are underwhelmed by this album is beyond me. The guitar on the song is magnificent. 

Call It A Loan is lovely too, moving and melodic. Just a really appealing song, with a great lyric and yet more sublime guitar. The end solo is just wonderful.

Hold On Hold Out is, as is often the case on Jackson Browne albums, a sheer monster of a track to close the album. Packed full of emotive, sad lyrics, great melodies, wonderful changes of pace and of course, that ubiquitous killer guitar. It is an absolute copper-bottomed Browne classic. My one complaint about this album is, at only seven tracks, it is too short.

Lawyers In Love (1983)

Lawyers In Love/On The Day/Cut It Away/Downtown/Tender Is The Night/Knock On Any Door/Say It Isn't True/For A Rocker       

This is another fine collection of thoughtful, sensitive songs from Jackson Browne, with his finger on the pulse of politics, the world situation and romance. He is a master craftsman, lyrically and also, by now, musically too. His excellent songs are backed by hooky, often gently riffy AOR rock beats and rhythms. Browne's social comment "message" songs had still not begun to completely dominate as yet, more of the material was still balanced toward relationships and the human condition as opposed to being overtly political, although his personal tide was changing.
The songs

Lawyers In Love is a wry look at contemporary throwaway culture sung over a catchy, melodic backing. On The Day is an appealing, mid-pace rock number with a copper-bottomed guitar solo half way through. 

Cut It Away has a bit of an eighties synthesiser backing but there is also an infectious guitar riff and crystal clear percussion too. Browne's voice is now strong and confident on these recordings too, far more so than ten years earlier. 

Downtown is very much a big production eighties number, but none the worse for it, although it could drop some of the synthesiser, to be honest.

Tender Is The Night is a seriously good, catchy rocker, with a great hook and evocative vocal from Browne. It is one of my favourites, he does this sort of thing so well. Yes, it sounds a bit eighties, as all the album does, but it still has something special. 

Knock On Any Door continues in the same vein. Say It Isn't True is a dignified, slow tempo, pot boiler of a rocker, building up slowly over an insistent keyboard/drum beat. Browne' voice is wonderful on this - sad, moving and expressive. 

For A Rocker is a synthesiser-driven upbeat number to end on. It sounds a bit dated now, it has to be said. Overall, though, this is another impressive Jackson Browne album, but it is definitely of its time.

Lives In The Balance (1986)

For America/Soldier Of Plenty/Shape Of A Heart/Candy/Lawless Avenues/Lives In The Balance/Till I Go Down/Black And White         

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.
The songs

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.

Lives In The Balance 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 Avenues 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.

World In Motion (1989)

World In Motion/Enough Of The Night/Chasing You Into The Light/How Long/Anything Can Happen/When The Stone Begins To Turn/The Word Justice/My Personal Revenge/I Am A Patriot/Lights And Virtues           

From the mid-eighties, Jackson Browne's output had become increasingly political. Here he went full on down the "message" road, which irked some, but was fine by me as I agreed with what he had to say. It was not all political, however, despite perceived wisdom passed down by some critics. Much of it, though, is concerned with the future of our planet and that, as far as I am concerned, is no bad thing. Jackson Browne's heart has always been in the right place.
The songs

World In Motion is a slow burning, eighties production chugger, full of synth-style drums and keyboard riffs. The vocals are actually a little indistinct against the crashing backing. There is some impressive, industrial guitar backing though. It is a track that demands a few listens, though. 

Enough Of The Night is actually a romantically-driven song, so it is not all political stuff on here. It has a captivating, percussive. rhythmic Paul Simon-esque backing. 

Chasing You Into The Light is another rocking love song, with Springsteen-esque hints in its beat and lyrical content, particularly also on the rock 'n' roll guitar parts.

How Long is a plaintive song questioning the necessity of keeping nuclear weapons, sung against an atmospheric acoustic guitar, keyboard and drum backing. It is a sad, mournful, though-provoking song that is actually pretty depressing if you think of the stark reality of the subject matter. 

Anything Can Happen is similar, a yearning song about people disappearing and the problems of an unstable world in general.

When The Stone Begins To Turn is an appealing, punchy slice of white reggae, played pretty convincingly, even including some dubby passages, as Browne sings of "justice for Nelson Mandela",  as he looks forward to the collapse of apartheid. There are also some backing vocals from iconic Malian musician Salif Keita which are most atmospheric. 

The Word Justice is a staccato rock number full of cutting guitar and lyrics about political corruption and dictatorships. 

My Personal Revenge has some Latin-influenced acoustic guitar and some Andean pipes backing Browne as he bares his soul honestly and sincerely. The songs on here are meaningful, hard-hitting, yet also beautiful. There is no criticism of them from me.

The reggae rhythms are back, slightly, on the cover of Steven Van Zandt's evocative and uplifting I Am A Patriot, an optimistic yet cynical, almost apolitical protest song. The album ends with the pleasing, mid pace rock tones of Lights And Virtues which is packed with excellent guitar. Overall, this was a thought-provoking, sincerely-created album that gains my admiration and respect.

I'm Alive (1993)

I'm Alive/My Problem Is You/Everywhere I Go/I'll Do Anything/Miles Away/Too Many Angels/Take This Rain/Two Of Me, Two Of You/Sky Blue And Black/All Good Things  
For this album, in 1993, Jackson Browne left behind the political "message" songs of the eighties and returned to the singer-songwriter relationship-based, melodic songs that made him famous in the seventies with a string of tender, thoughtful albums such as Late For The Sky and The Pretender.
The songs

I'm Alive vaguely reminds me of Van Morrison for some reason, in its rhythm, understated guitar backing and vocal cadences in places. It has a great rumbling bass line and drum sound on it too as well as some seriously riffy guitar. A great track. 

My Problem Is You is similarly impressive, but this time in a quieter, piano-driven fashion, with crystal clear vocals. Browne has always liked flirting with reggae, and he does so here with the infectious, appealing Everywhere I Go. It also has some Steely Dan-esque Haitian Divorce guitar enhancing it as well and some almost "toasting"-style vocals at one point. 

I'll Do Anything is a laid-back, pleasant mid-pace rock number of the king Browne has always done so well. It has an impressive drum and bass guitar interplay near the end.

Miles Away is a brooding, riffy and bluesy rocker with some excellent organ breaks and a confident rock vocal. It reminds of something else but I can't put my finger on what. 

Too Many Angels is gentle and acoustic, in a Mark Knopfler sort of way. There are hints of Paul Simon in it as well. 

That This Rain is a typically uplifting, guitar and evocative vocal Jackson Browne song. It has a killer chorus. It is a song that reminds me of just how much I have enjoyed Jackson Browne's music for the best part of forty years and more. It is one of those moments you get on all of his albums when you just think "yes!".

Two Of Me, Two Of You is a mournful, sombre song about relationship problems sung out over the usual immaculate backing. 

Sky And Black is one of those lengthy and majestic (six minute) numbers that often used to appear near the end of an album, such as Before The Deluge or For Everyman. The guitar solo in the middle is sumptuous. Lovely stuff. Best track on the album along with the title track. 

The album ends with the Springsteen-esque All Good Things as Browne tells us over a Searchers-style guitar riff, that "all good things come to an end". So, then, does this interesting, but slightly low-key album.

Looking East (1996)

Looking East/The Barricades Of Heaven/Some Bridges/Information Wars/I'm The Cat/Culver Moon/Baby How Long?/Niño/Alive In The World/It Is One   

Into the mid-nineties, and every few years, Jackson Browne was still putting out quality albums. As with the previous one, despite being "aware", this was once more not quite as much of a political album as his eighties offerings, although it was more overt than its predecessor, I'm Alive.
The songs

Looking East begins the album in muscular, Stones-ish riffy fashion. It is a solid rocker not quite in Browne's usual style - hard-hitting and sonically powerful. The song is lyrically not quite as verbose as usual, either. It is a convincing, enjoyable track. 

The Barricades Of Heaven is classic Jackson Browne rock - melodic, strong yet tender in its vocal delivery and backing, full of nostalgic, thoughtful lyrics. Another excellent track. 

Some Bridges is a socially conscious song about the disparity between rich and poor and musically, is another catchy mid-pace rocker, with some of that classic Browne guitar in the middle. 

Information Wars is a brooding, cynical number about the problems new technology brings, featuring some excellent guitar and it has a Paul Simon-style "world music"-influenced, percussive backing in places.

I'm The Cat is a catchy, Springsteen-esque AOR-style rocker. Culver Moon is very like latter-era Dire Straits or some of Mark Knopfler's solo material. Again, it is strong and chunkily guitar-driven. 

Baby How Long? is in the same vein, but even more slow-paced and bluesy. Niño, is, as the title suggests, Latin-influenced. Its riff actually reminds me a lot of Talking HeadsNothing But Flowers. It has an infectious Latin percussion backing and singalong vocal. It is full of Los Angeles references and is quite an intoxicating, ebullient track. 

Alive In The World has some fetching guitar and a nice laid-back rock feel to it.

It Is One revisits Browne's interest in reggae rhythms, although this one has definite hints of South African township jive in its lilting guitar sounds. It is a fine track upon which to end this excellent album. I marginally prefer it to I'm Alive. Both are good albums, however.

The Naked Ride Home (2002)

The Naked Ride Home/The Night Inside Me/Casino Nation/For Taking The Trouble/Never Stop/Walking Town/About My Imagination/Sergio Leone/Don't You Want To Be There/My Stunning Mystery Companion       

This is an excellent album from Jackson Browne and one that, for maybe the first time, sees Browne sounding like other artists. Sure, there have always been echoes of Bruce Springsteen here and there, but here Elvis Costello, Sting and Deacon Blue are exhorted.

The songs

The Naked Ride Home is beautifully bassy, melodic and with a typical yearning vocal from Browne featuring some subtle, riffy backing guitar too. Jackson has still got it. This is superb. He is still a most special artist, to me anyway. The more you listen to this track, the better it becomes. 

The Night Inside Me is another riffy, tuneful upbeat number. More classic Jackson Browne rock. Casino Nation is a staccato, slow burner of a bluesy track, with a mysterious feel to it. Great guitar, bass and keyboards. This is one that has hints of Sting to it. 

For Taking The Trouble is slow-paced but gritty, with Browne’s voice now a bit more gravelly with age. Never Stop has, for me, many echoes of Deacon Blue’s output from the same period.

Walking Down sounds so much like Elvis Costello as well in that shuffling sort of way and Browne’s voice seems to be aping Costello at times. About My Imagination is another one in the same vein, with more Costello vibes. It is another track that really reminds me of something else but I can’t put my finger on what. Something else by Sting, maybe?

Sergio Leone is a brooding, atmospheric, Springsteen-esque song full of imagery about the legendary movie director. It has a killer, rumbling bass line and some addictive percussion. 

Don't You Want To Be There is beautifully low-key with sensitive lyrics and truly lovely guitar and piano backing. It has a wonderful, lengthy brass and guitar instrumental fade out. 

My Stunning Mystery Companion is a country-ish Paul Simon-influenced number, full of superb guitar, to conclude this most impressive collection of songs. Highly recommended.

Time The Conqueror (2008)

Time The Conqueror/Off To Wonderland/The Drums of War/The Arms Of Night/Where Were You?/Going Down To Cuba/Giving That Heaven Away/Live Nude Cabaret/Just Say Yeah/Far From The Arms Of Hunger   

Released six years after the previous album, this is, in comparison with Jackson Browne's albums either side of this one, quite a low-key offering, with quiet vocals, soothing backing and a general feeling of ageing resignation. (Browne is now white-bearded). It has, for me, a sad feeling about it. Browne is still trying to make sense of the world and wondering about the future. It is a political album more than a "relationships" one, but not in a fist-pumping way. Many have criticised Browne for supposedly saying the same things over and over again in this songs. I have never subscribed to that view. I always find him intelligent, sensitive and worth listening to, on any of his albums, from whatever era.

The songs

Time The Conqueror has an understated, melodious guitar riff and a bit of a lo-fi sound to it. It is nowhere near as "big production" as the previous few albums. The end part with the whispered female backing vocals is sad, evocative and somewhat gently mournful. Browne is reflective about the passing of time. 

Off To Wonderland is another with an appealing, laid-back effortless backing riff and wise, but slightly tired, tender vocals. A lovely organ break near the end sees the track out. 

The Drums Of War is a solid rocker with strong backing vocals and convincing vocals. It is the album's most "rock" track with some industrial guitar driving it on. The pace and mood tones down for the next track, the plaintive, tranquil The Arms Of Night. We get some Dire Straits-ish guitar and some touches of "world music" percussion in the middle bit. It just sort of drifts along quietly, though, but in a good way.

Where Were You? is a mysterious, brooding buzzy guitar-driven Paul Simon meets U2 robust, lyrically cynical and questioning number. The guitar parts are quite captivating. It lasts a lengthy nine minutes. The U2-style buzz riff never gives up and, together with some great bass and haunting piano, keeps the song interesting. Probably the best cut on the album. 

Going Down To Cuba evokes Paul Simon once again with its gentle vocal delivery, wistful lyrics and subtle rhythms. 

Giving That Heaven Away is an acoustic and fetching number with echoes of Bruce Springsteen's later era material. Lovely guitar and organ swirling gently around on here. It is simply a most pleasurable number that I can't help but like.

Live Nude Cabaret is even more laid-back and sleepy in a Sting-like way. Once more, it features some sumptuous quiet guitar. 

Just Say Yeah ups the tempo slightly, with a delicious, typically Jackson Browne mid-tempo soft rocker. The organ and guitar backing are as engaging as on most of his album's tracks. 

The soft tone continues on the closer, Far From The Arms Of Hunger, which is positively Brothers In Arms in its sleepiness and again, very Sting in its nonchalant, meditative vocal.

The whole album is laconically beautiful. Thanks to Jackson Browne just for existing and putting out such uplifting music year after year.

Standing In The Breach (2014)

The Birds Of St. Marks/Yeah Yeah/The Long Way Around/Leaving Winslow/If I Could Be Anywhere/You Know The Night/Walls And Doors/Which Side?/Standing In The Breach/Here   

Although Jackson Browne's voice now sounds considerably older, the old magic is still there, both lyrically and melodically on this impressive album.
The songs

The Birds Of St. Marks is a typical Jackson Browne rocker but with Searchers/Byrds-style jangly guitar augmenting the already addictive melody. 

Yeah Yeah appropriates The Velvet Underground's Sweet Jane riff on a most appealing song. It is full of atmosphere and has a great vocal from Browne. It is just a great song. He still comes up with quality material, despite the ageing voice. 

The Long Way Around is a deliciously shuffling, observational song with Browne's voice sounding mournfully nostalgic. 

Leaving Winslow references the town mentioned in Take It Easy all those years ago. It is an appropriately lively slice of country rock. 

If I Could Be Anywhere, for once, doesn't quite do it for me, having an odd rhythmic arrangement. It is ok, and grows on you, but its melody lacks cohesion, for me. Its extended instrumental fade out, though, wins me over.

You Know The Night is a Mark Knopfler-esque acoustic and electric guitar, country/folk rock number. There are, as with many more recent Jackson Browne songs, considerable Paul Simon influences in both the lyrics and the vocal delivery. 

Walls And Doors is very reminiscent of some of Bruce Springsteen's later material. It is both plaintive and upliftingly anthemic. 

Which Side? has lots of echoes of Bob Dylan's You Gotta Serve Somebody. It asks the old "which side are you on" question in no uncertain terms. The title track, Standing In The Breach is an appealing, piano-driven ballad expressing ecological and political concerns quite beautifully. Jackson Browne has always been an honest sincere man, and songs like this show that so well. The guitar kicks in near the end before the vocal comes back, it is just perfection. A truly excellent song.

Here is a gentle, mid-pace rock ballad to end on. Yet again, this has been a most invigorating listen. Jackson Browne keeps coming up with excellent albums, even now, every few years or so. He really is a most underrated artist who has given years of pleasure for well over forty years now.

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The Byrds
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Bob Dylan

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