REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/14/2005
So far in this Dynamic Debuts retrospective, you've seen some damn good albums. It's rare that an artist can succeed right off the bat, but this month has been proof to the contrary. Many of the records featured live on as legend, i.e. Led Zeppelin or Boston. Then you have the lesser-known tremendous debuts. Jackson Browne is a perfect example of such.
To be frank, I am not that familiar with Browne's catalogue. Whilst I have most of his albums, they haven't gotten a listen. However, I don't need to give his other works a spin or two to know how good Jackson Browne is.
Comparisons to James Taylor and Joni Mitchell are only natural; Browne is the quintessential singer-songwriter. In fact, I'd rank his lyrics with some of the best. There are those like Dylan and Springsteen who evoke imagery of the working-class man, and they are damn good at that. However, with Jackson Browne, one gets the sense that he's singing to your average Joe. Yet at the same time, he's covering those all important life lessons like love and loss.
One thing is for certain Jackson Browne does not rock. Even on the more up-tempo tracks like "Doctor My Eyes," or the gospel tinged "Rock Me On The Water," there's a palpable sense of restraint. Don't let that keep you from tuning in though; the former number has a great chorus, giving it that almighty hook.
While Browne's choice to churn out less rockers appears to be simply an artistic decision, another factor has to be his voice. It is not suited to anything but this genre. However, that's fine with me. There are moments on Jackson Browne where you could swear everything he sings about has actually happened to him. "Song For Adam," is an absolute classic, heart-wrenching and spotted with brilliant lyrics. "Until I heard the sudden word that a friend of mine was dead…I sit before my only candle, like a pilgrim sits beside the way." These words, when placed within the context of the song, could force even the most hardened man to well up. It's that good, and I would say it's the best song off the album.
As one would expect, the sound of Jackson Browne is laid back, but lush. There are a few sections that solely highlight a piano or guitar, such as "Rock Me On The Water," or "Looking Into You," but for the most part there are multiple layers to peel through. The important point to make is that the music never sounds "busy."
If there were any chink in the armor to be found, it would be that towards the end of the album, I could hear a few strains of repetition beginning to sink in. The meat of the album is weighted towards the front, but the closing numbers "Rock Me On The Water" and "My Opening Farewell," pick up the slack.
It's winter here, and usually that means I play more somber music in general. Jackson Browne fits that mold, but it's so much more. For some of the best singer-songwriter material out there, pick this album up.