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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 21 May 2004
The effect Jackson Browne had in the media with his many relationships with celebrities, including fellow 70's folkie, Joni Mitchell, and his stance politically, have staked his claim in history as not just an inspired individual, but someone who liked to put his point across without exception, when really he started out as an honest world-weary folkster. Indeed, 'Late For The Sky' the title track of what is widely considered Jackson Browne's greatest achievement, is about his failing relationship with Mitchell. It's also the highlight of this and any other album you're likely to find, along with around 20 beautifully crafted, timeless pop songs on a 2 disc set spanning 32 tracks.

Of course Browne wasn't ashamed to put his state of mind into his work, in fact he was one of the best at it. Numerous failed relationships ended with beautiful songs that reflected his personal relationship as well as a thousand others in just a few verses. The lyrics were never overly complicated or winding, nor should they have been; this is your average man singing a song for average people who know their emotions, or to an extent don't. So it was a bit of a shock when he turned political towards the end of the seventies and throughout the eighties, stubbornly sticking to this formula until 1994's superb comeback to original form, 'I'm Alive', throughout his political years showing very little signs of returning to where he began. He also stubbornly refused to release a greatest hits, the first coming in 1999, and this, only the second, appearing in 2004. On this superior collection spanning two discs features pretty much all of the emotions and stances that Jackson Browne ever put across.

Unfortunately, Jackson will mostly be known for the driving anthem, 'Running On Empty' which is indeed a catchy, thriving song, but it wasn't really Jackson Browne. In a way it was, everything he wrote was him, but Browne was more about emotion than riding the freeway. There's a fairly good run through his eighties work which has tended to age since he used a lot of the 'equipment' that was popular, and in the end wasn't as timeless. The arena rocker, 'Lawless Avenue' and one of his few more famous songs, 'Lives In The Balance' are both politically charged, while the beautiful 'In The Shape Of A Heart' was a slight showing that Jackson still had the abilities he had throughout the 70's for writing a good pop song about 'life as it is' even just for a brief moment.
Of course, Jackson Browne is most famous for his beautiful, low key, shining, stunning emotional tracks that filled the first 10 years of his career, before he became America's unheard political spokesman. Just about all the classics are here, opening with the joyous and yet slightly pessimistic, 'Doctor My Eyes' driven by a terrific piano line, shortly joined by drums and guitars and layered vocals that were scattered throughout his work since. 'Jamaica Say You Will' is a standout ballad, supremely relaxed and mournful in a feel-good way, it is one of the best 'morning songs' ever written. 'Take It Easy' which is more famously an Eagles song, is recorded superiorly by Browne is also included, as well as the all time classic, searching, 'These Days'. The not quite so effective attempt to step into the country market of the 70's, 'Redneck Friend' is a good intervention, before the likes of 'Fountain Of Sorrow' and the beautifully tragic, 'Late For The Sky' and the song for every man and woman out there working hard, 'The Pretender' glide back in to smooth the surface. Indeed the album 'Late For The Sky', Jackson's third album, was seen as the one that might kill him. His first two albums were mainly songs that had been written years before, and 'Late For The Sky' was his first newly written album. It was a critical and musical triumph, and sales started to come in throughout America and reached its peak with the on-the-road album, 'Running On Empty'. Included from Jackson's on the road journal on songs are the favourites, 'The Load-Out' an ode to the roadies, followed by 'Stay' one of the few songs that Browne didn't write on this collection, as well as the infamous hit title track.
Disc 2 is a more rocking volume of work mainly consisting of the previously mentioned political albums. To some this was a means to stop buying Jackson's records. Indeed they were nowhere near as good as his debut, or the mournful 'Late For The Sky', or many of his albums from the 70's where Jackson was at his peak. There are some fine songs on there; they are just brought down slightly by the 80's style he picked up. That doesn't mean Jackson Browne decided to go dance-pop synth style: he just used a few of the eighties effects. The hit single 'Somebody's Baby' was one of the few shining lights for Browne throughout the eighties, remaining timeless despite the eighties style vocal effects on the chorus, and the strange flute style noises in the background. 'In The Shape Of A Heart' as previously said was a nice break in the sometimes tedious ways of Jackson's political beliefs, but the 90's offered a much more interesting proposition. The release of 1994's 'I'm Alive' a return to Jackson's roots, was greeted by many fans as a triumph, and the gorgeously touching title track deserves it's place on this compilation. I have never heard a track about losing a lover that is so uplifting and yet reflects exactly how the individual must be feeling, presented by the most experienced man there is. Indeed, 'I'm Alive', the album, was an album about losing love, spite, acceptance, forgiveness, refinding love and finally commitment, and one of the tracks of commitment is deservedly featured in 'Sky Black And Blue' one of Jackson's finest ballads. You always knew he was still there hiding behind the politics, you just weren't sure...
But still Jackson Browne was one of those rare artists who did what he wanted and did it well. Although his eighties works were not greeted well, it didn't put him off and has been doing as he pleases since. Even on 2002's slightly disappointing, 'The Naked Ride Home' (of which two tracks are taken, the title track and the bitter 'The Night Inside Me') and the previous album, 'Looking East' (of which two tracks are extracted, again the title track and the truly beautiful reminiscent, 'The Barricades Of Heaven') Jackson always sounded like he was doing it his way. And despite one or two missing beauties, such as the reggae infused mega-catchy, 'Everywhere I Go' and the title track from 'Hold Out' and the wonderful 'That Girl Could Sing', both fans and new to-be fans will be very pleased by 'The Very Best Of Jackson Browne' as it contains every emotion and power that made Jackson Browne one of the greatest singer songwriters of the 70's, if not of all time.
4.5 Stars.
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on 25 October 2004
I went to see JB at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester with a friend of mine yesterday. She had been a lifelong fan of JB I had heard of him. After 2 hours of acoustic songs I am a fan, not just a fan but a fanatic. Absolutely amazing songs. To anyone over 50 his songs could easily form a soundtrack to your life. The highs and lows, loved and lost, at times he was killing me softly with his songs, to coin a phrase. I may have arrived late but at least I have now found a rich tapestry of one of the best songwriters of his generation. Brilliant a must buy.
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on 17 October 2004
Jackson's Browne's music has been the backcloth of lives of many a 50-something - myself included - for more than 30 years. We have shared his joys, sorrows, anguish and hopes as if they were an integral part of our own lives. In fact, that is exactly what these emotions were, as we lived, loved, died, lied... and survived all that life threw at us over the years. Even in our darkest moments, we found solace in the music of the most wonderful songs of Jackson Browne, a man that was walking the same track and spoke the same language.
No 'best of' compilation can deservedly do justice to the sheer breath of talent that is JB. But this collection is almost as close as one could get, a truly wonderful selection of songs, sung with such real passion that they cut to the very soul and, in some cases, turn it inside out.
One could nit-pick: 'Your bright baby blues' and 'Somebody's baby' are not among Jackson's finest moments, enjoyable though they are. And 'Red-necked friend' is a thinly-disguised (but catchy) song about onanism.
It would be easy to substitute and add numerous stand-out tracks, my choices being: 'Song For Adam' (from his first album, Saturate Before Using), 'Walking Slow' (from the Late For The Sky album) 'Ready Or Not' (from For Everyman), 'Cut It Away' (Lawyers In Love), 'Some Bridges' (from I'm Alive) and ' My Problem Is You' and 'Take This Pain' (from Looking East).
The songs here - and many others - are timeless masterpieces that merit and withstand repeated listening. Fans will have all of these tracks already, so the compilation will make a great in-car companion. For those new to the music of Jackson Browne -just buy this album, listen, learn and let your heart open up to one of the greatest artists of the last 50 years.
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on 18 September 2006
After the disappointment of the last attempt to produce a greatest hits with 'The Next Voice You Hear', this collection of his best work is truly complete. This is probably as comprehensive a 'best of' collection as I have heard from any artist. Nothing essential has been missed out. If you like Mr Browne then you'll love this. Simply a joy to listen to.
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The compilation was put together by Jackson Browne and spans 1972 to 2002 with tracks in chronological order. Disc 1 covers 1972 to 1977, and disc 2 continues with 1977 through some leaner times up to 2002. OK so you're not in your 60's, but you may have seen his set at Glastonbury in 2010, in which case you're going to recognise a lot of those tracks on both CDs.

Musically there's the days of the Laurel Canyon set with David Crosby and Graham Nash harmonising on Doctor My Eyes. Elton John and Glen Frey provide piano and backing vocal on Redneck Friend. The soft West Coast feel was replaced by his political stance in the 1980s. The arrangements have a bigger sound in the late 80's and up to 1996. In 2002 he appears to have been looking for a different sound as Bob Clearmountain is credited with mixing The Naked Ride Home album.

Some of the tracks are not as strong, but even then, the great tracks make this one of the bargain CDs of 2011.
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on 29 July 2013
Always loved Jackson Browne and have this on in my car more often than not. His lyrics are poetry and the songs bring back so many memories from my youth. Glad I bought it....love listening to it, over and over.
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on 13 May 2010
After recently hearing 'The Pretender' on a movie soundtrack (whilst watching a film) I thought, "I'll give him a go." Why, oh why did I wait so long? I cannot believe that this music has been missing from my collection for 40 years!! I'll admit it, he passed me by, but I recognised many of the tracks from radio play over the years and have come to love those that I didn't. If you're a fan it's got everything you need in the way of hits etc and if you're on a voyage of discovery (like me) you wont be disappointed. Highly recommended.
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on 4 February 2014
Purchased this CD for our eldest Daughter and from how she described Jackson Browne's singing it would appear he ranks with some of the best.
Amazon offered the best price and I was pleased with that. Service and delivery great, as usual. Well pleased.
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on 9 September 2009
I bought this CD as over the years some of my Jackson Browne LP's were on tape etc. This is a good compilation with all his hits, recent and past, here together. A must have item for JB's fans.
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on 12 January 2015
Really good to get to listen to an extended repertoire from this talented songwriter. Missed most of his catalog in the 70's so doing some catch up now. Great music for any Eagles enthusiasts out there.
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