The last five years have seen several 1970s acts make carefully manicured surveys of their repertoire. A sample includes Fleetwood Mac:The Dance; John Fogerty: Premonition, The Eagles: Hell Freezes Over, Farewell Tour, Live from Melbourne; the Rolling Stones (who never really quit) 40 Licks, etc. A welcome variation on this theme is Jackson Browne's Solo Acoustic, Volume 1. Like the aforementioned, Solo Acoustic contains the de rigueur unreleased songs ("The Birds of St. Marks") . The remainder of the disc shakes out like this:
- For Everyman: "These Days," "For Everyman," "Take it Easy"
- Late for the Sky: "Fountain of Sorrow," "For a Dancer"
- The Pretender: "Your Bright Baby Blues," "The Pretender"
- Lives in the Balance: "Lives in the Balance"
- I'm Alive: "Too Many Angels"
- Looking East: "The Barricades of Heaven," "Looking East."
The heyday of feel-good Southern California music of the 1970s and ‘80s produced, among others, two superb songwriters in Warren Zevon and Jackson Browne.
Talk about strange bedfellows.
If Warren Zevon was rock music’s Hunter S. Thompson, then Jackson Brown is surely its Werther. Yet for all of their disparate talent, they are more alike than different. Their respective compositions have been covered by everyone form Linda Ronsdtadt to Dwight Yokum. They are equally capable on guitar and piano (though I give the nod to Browne on guitar). They both are intensely romantic: Brown in a breathless Wordsworth sort of way and Zevon in a fevered Coleridge manner. And, they are both passionate.
Solo Acoustic finds Browne on firm familiar ground. While his recordings after Running On Empty remain secondary to those before, the ballad, "Barricades of Heaven" is certainly one of his greatest compositions. Brown is afforded lengthy, often unnecessary introductions to his songs, but the songs...what songs. "Fountain of Sorrow" and "For a Dancer" almost, but not quite, yern for David Lindley's lap steel guitar. The former is perfectly performed. In a solo setting, the listener can still hear the background vocals accenting the song's coda. These, from Browne's greatest offering, Late for the Sky, are among the disc's highlights. The Pretender's "Your Bright Baby Blues," replete with slide guitar (originally played by Little Feat's Lowell George) is superb.
I have little use for "Lives in the Balance,"Looking East," "Too Many Angels." This is not the best Jackson Browne. He took quite the left political turn (not a bad turn politically, just musically) and it was unbecoming. Personal experience was always Browne's most fertile field and look to his first four recordings for those acres. Volume 1 is a great sign. Carry On, Jackson Brown.
Tracks: Barricades Of Heaven; These Days; Birds Of St. Marks; Fountain Of Sorrow; Your Bright Baby Blues; For A Dancer; Too Many Angels; For Everyman; Lives In The Balance; Looking East; The Pretender; Take It Easy.
Personnel: Jackson Brown: Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards.