The first time I heard about Jackson Browne was from David Crosby. It was in an interview Crosby did with Rolling Stone magazine. He talked about this young songwriter he met who was overwhelming other musicians with the quality of his songs. So, when Jackson Browne’s Saturate Before Using album came out, I bought it right away. Of course the album was supposed to be simply called Jackson Browne, but the photo of the desert water bag gave it a new title. Even Jackson Browne refers to it as:
Released in January of 1972, it’s an excellent singer-songwriter album. The hit was “Doctor My Eyes”, and it included “Rock Me On The Water” and “Something Fine”, with sublime harmonies by David Crosby.
The song that is probably his best know composition wasn’t included. Instead, Browne gave it to the songwriter who helped him finish it…Glenn Frey. The Eagles album premiered a little later that same year with “Take It Easy”. The ever humble Browne says it was the extended “Eeeeeasy” and other aspects of the Eagles’ arrangement that turned his song into a hit.
Jackson Browne was never a “singles artist”. It’s always been about his Albums. For Everyman was next in 1973. The album included “These Days” (Gregg Allman made a classic version it), and “Take It Easy” also made an appearance.
In 1974 Jackson Browne released Late For The Sky. It’s probably his best studio album. There are only eight songs, because they’re fairly long. Browne says he sometimes has trouble letting go of the writing process. I remember the review in Rolling Stone called three of the songs “masterpieces”. “Fountain Of Sorrow”, “For A Dancer”, and “Before The Deluge”.
1977 was the year of The Pretender. It included the hit “Here Come Those Tears Again”, and standout album cut “Sleep’s Dark And Silent Gate”.
All of Jackson Browne’s first four albums are Platinum or multi-Platinum sellers, but his breakthrough to an even larger audience was Running On Empty. It was an unusual concept. The songs were new, but instead of using studio versions, they were all recorded live. (Only Neil Young’s “Time Fades Away” had used that concept.). Besides the songs being performed to audiences, a couple were even recorded in a hotel room and on a bus! There’s a real freshness to the album. It went 7-times Platinum.
Running On Empty was released in December of 1977, and Jackson Browne started the album tour in Omaha in January, 1978. We were there…my all-time favorite concert. (Paul McCartney’s 1993 concert in Kansas City is a very close second.)
This was the peak for Jackson Browne. He had many of LA’s best studio musicians…Lee Sklar on bass, Craig Doerge on piano, Russ Kunkel on Drums, Doug Haywood on guitar, Danny Kortchmar on lead guitar, and David Lindley on lap steel guitar. The sound at the concert was top notch. We could hear each player so clearly that we could pick out the individual performances on the various instruments. Jackson Browne was perfect! Three encores.
The next album Hold Out was #1 and double-Platinum. Lawyers In Love also went Platinum. We saw Jackson Browne for the second time, during his Lives In The Balance tour, when we took our son Paul to his first concert.
World In Motion was not as popular as his previous albums, but he bounced back nicely with I’m Alive, and we saw him again in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Other albums followed…Looking East, The Naked Ride Home, Time The Conqueror, and Standing In The Breach (2014). He also did a couple of live solo albums that are quite good, with some impressive acoustic guitar work.
The time has passed when singer-songwriters ruled the music world and toured with the best musicians. But, it was a packed show, and Jackson Browne still sounded great!