The first time I ever heard the music of Jackson Browne was many years ago in something that we then called "the pictures". It was in an old cinema, which had one screen and a dank old velvet atmosphere as heavy as a swamp, but it was great. The film was "Taxi Driver" and at one point its Big Apple anti hero Travis Bickle played with chilling brilliance by a young Robert De Niro watches an episode of "American Bandstand" with a loaded Magnum. As young couples dance on screen they are soundtracked by Jackson Browne's epic "Late for the sky" chosen by Martin Scorsese as the only song in the film. It perfectly captures the loneliness and the burning desire to be someone who matters that eats away at Bickle's dark heart. Browne song writing is contradictory in this respect. For many he is boyishly handsome and quintessentially Californian singer whose name conjures up the Eagles cover of "Take it easy" and soundtracks a laidback Laurel Canyon ethic. And yet over the course of a generation Browne has come to mean much more in relation to charting dread and disillusion, while at the same time producing some of the most profound and value laden songs in rock music and facing up to a range of political, environmental and social concerns. Respect also goes to David Lindley his great musical partner over these many years.
These two acoustic live albums are aptly described by one American Amazon reviewer as "poetry with chords". They were recorded after a period when many of Browne's records had been subject to those horrible 80s style "brat pack" production values all intrusive drums and tightly tuned guitars. All this was stripped away in these concerts recorded over 3 years from 2005-08 and what we have here is Browne at his most raw and tender. Like his live performances it captures his long spoken introductions some of which are very funny while others quite political. You can obviously avoid this by downloading the music but you do miss some of the character of the shows. The music of course speaks for itself with these two "joint" albums contain some of his greatest songs (although sadly no "Late for the sky"). As a starting point the solemn but beautiful "Birds of St Marks" is a true heartbreaker with a stunning Browne vocal. Equally the lovely versions of Browne standards like "These days, "For a dancer" "Fountain of sorrow" and a gorgeous "The Pretender" really do fit the stripped back piano concept and they are every bit the equal of the full album versions if not better. Indeed the acoustic guitar driven "Too many angels" sounds much better here than on "I'm alive". Coming to the second disk this feature of surpassing of album versions continues with the stunning piano version of his greatest song "Sky blue and black" charting his break up with actress Daryl Hannah and the containing the line "You're the hidden cost and the thing that's lost, In everything I do" which lays you to waste every time. The version of "In the shape of a heart" alternatively does suffer from the lack of its electric backing although Browne delivers a thoroughly believable performance, likewise on balance Disk 1 is stronger than Disc 2 largely because the song choices are more well known and more definitive. Still this introduces a discordant note when there should not be any.
Jackson Browne was inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in 2004 with a warm and glowing tribute from one of his greatest fans and friend namely Bruce Springsteen. Despite the presence of Don Henley in the audience "the boss" was honest enough to state that Browne's many recordings " were the songs they (The Eagles) had wish they had written". As it stands Browne largely remains in the UK somewhat of a "buried treasure" thus not only on the evidence of these wonderful recording alone but a lifetime of stellar albums it is hoped that one day we all manage to find the right map to discover this great American confessional songwriter and talent.
on 10 August 2013
Two excellent value, very good condition, used CD's. Jackson Browne sings a full range of his songs in his, usual, very professional manner but more mellow in tone and volume. The album only has acoustic backing but works very well. An excellent pair of Jackson Browne CD's.