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Looking into Jackson Browne

Jackson BrowneIt’s not really worth a special trip, but anyone visiting London’s South Bank arts complex between now and June 14 will find an exhibition of photographs by Henry Diltz and Chuck Pulin, titled Both Sides Now: Moments in American Music, in the foyer of the National Theatre, organised by the Corbis picture agency. Diltz, a former member of the Modern Folk Quartet, took mellow colour photos of Laurel Canyon aristocracy in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Pulin took raw black and white snaps of the new-wavers and no-wavers of downtown New York City in the late ’70s. The contrast speaks for itself.

Among Diltz’s contributions are a couple of pictures of Jackson Browne, one of which you can see above. The first time I saw Browne on stage was at the South Bank’s Royal Festival Hall in February 1971, when he and his guitar supported Laura Nyro and her piano. He was aged 22 and his first album was awaited, containing songs of astonishing maturity that he’d written when in his mid-teens; he performed them impressively. Now there’s a new 2CD set called Looking into You: A Tribute to Jackson Browne, on the Music Road label, which features a couple of dozen people interpreting his songs, and I enjoyed it enough to set aside the wariness with which one has grown used to approaching such projects.

It starts with Don Henley treating “These Days” very well and continues with Bonnie Raitt and David Lindley doing “Everywhere I Go” beautifully before moving on to some names less familiar to me, including Bob Schneider (“Running on Empty”), Paul Thorn (“Doctor My Eyes”), Griffin House (“Barricades of Heaven”) and Venice (“For a Dancer”). Jimmy LaFave’s version of “For Everyman” is good enough to have made me order his latest album (Depending on the Distance) straight away.

You also get Lucinda Williams (a wild-eyed “The Pretender”), Lyle Lovett (“Our Lady of the Well” and “Rosie”), Ben Harper (“Jamaica Say You Will”), Bruce Hornsby (“I’m Alive”), Keb’ Mo’ with “Rock Me on the Water”, the wonderful Karla Bonoff with “Something Fine”, the unlikely pairing of the underrated Marc Cohn and Joan as Police Woman with “Too Many Angels”, another Joan — Osborne — with “Late for the Sky”, J.D. Souther with “My Opening Farewell”, Shawn Colvin with “Call It a Loan”, Bruce Springsteen and Patti Scialfa with a sensual “Linda Paloma”, and the Indigo Girls’ lovely version  of “Fountain of Sorrow”, which contains some of my favourite Browne lines, about coming across a photograph of an old lover: You were turning ’round to see who was behind you / And I took your childish laughter by surprise / And at the moment that my camera happened to find you / There was just a trace of sorrow in your eyes.

Many excellent musicians make their appearance in the various backing bands — the guitarist Marc Ribot with Springsteen and Scialfa, the bassist Victor Krauss with Souther, the Parks/Sklar/Kunkel rhythm section with Lovett, the pianist Chuck Leavell with the Indigo Girls — and I can’t imagine anyone who likes Browne not enjoying this. I was left wondering that no one chose “The Naked Ride Home”, “In the Shape of a Heart” or “Sky Blue and Black”, which only goes to show how many fine songs he’s written.

Eliza Gilkyson sings another of his best, and I like what she has to say about it: “I don’t think anyone has ever told the story of our generation — our ideals, illusions and spectacular fall from grace — better than Jackson does in ‘Before the Deluge’. It is forgiving and tender, sad and hopeful, and ultimately prophetic as we now face the very future he predicted when he wrote it in 1974. I wish he had gotten it wrong.”


14 Comments Post a comment
  1. Stuart Lyon #

    As a matter of interest I have Jimmy LaFave playing at Bush Hall on Friday October 3rd.

    April 14, 2014
    • Phil Shaw #

      Haven’t heard LaFave’s ‘For Everyman’ yet but he does a phenomenal version of
      Dylan’s ‘Not Dark Yet’ and a great cover of ‘Walk Away Renee’. Come to think of it, has there ever been a duff version of that?

      April 14, 2014
  2. Stephen #

    Used to love Jackson Browne until that thing with the alleged abuse of Daryl Hannah . Somehow the sensitive balladeer persona didn’t ring true anymore.

    April 14, 2014
    • I don’t know much about that business between Jackson Browne and Daryl Hannah. Maybe you do. But this might (or might not) make you question your assumptions:

      April 14, 2014
      • Stephen #

        Thanks for that, it’s one of those situations where we will never know, I do hope it’s not true.

        April 14, 2014
  3. Chris C #

    The first time I saw Jackson Browne was the first night I arrived in Los Angeles to take up the MM US job, end of August ’73, at the Hollywood Bowl. Numb with tiredness and jet-lag, I was taken there by the English Asylum PR whom I’d known in the UK, and afterwards found myself talking to him and David Crosby backstage. With the time change that would have been about seven in the morning for me. On the way home to my hotel we passed a film set, a scene being filmed in street, and stopped to watch. Always loved Browne, especially ‘The Load Out’, his song about roadies on Running On Empty, and ‘Rosie’, about the soundman who lost the groupie to the drummer.

    April 14, 2014
    • Oh, yes, The Load Out is beautiful! I am glad someone mentioned that. One of the great careworn songs about life on the road.

      April 14, 2014
  4. My first Jackson Browne concert was on “The Pretender” tour of 1976 with Warren Zevon playing his first album as support. It was quite an evening. I too felt that he was writing my generation’s story up to parts of “Hold Out”. Later LPs have good tunes but there are no more “Song For Adam”s. Now I pull out “For Everyman” for a little nostalgia & “Running On Empty” for the quality I associate with JB.

    I have been reading your stuff for a long time now Richard & I do enjoy these musings turning up in my computer. Cheers.

    April 14, 2014
  5. Richard
    I too was lucky enough to be at the RFH when Jackson opened for Laura Nyro and the next time I saw him was at the same venue a year or so later when he opened for Joni Mitchell. Possibly the best opening act for any show I have seen (twice). The sound system failed at the Joni show but they soldiered on and I can still remember Jackson Joni and her band singing “The Circle Game” as an encore.
    I have loved JB ever since and seen him many times but those two shows live high in the memory.
    I have just got this tribute album which has much to listen too. I have always tried to block out the Jackson/Daryl matter but the link gave some fascinating information notably the police officers report. I never wanted to think Jackson capable of it and this is enough for me to believe he didn’t do it.
    Lastly and thanks to a tweet from Bob Harris I was also lucky enough to see Jackson on stage at The Borderline with Jonathan Wilson and the Dawes about three years ago.

    April 14, 2014
  6. For a cover of Before the Deluge look no further than Christy Moore with Moving Hearts

    April 14, 2014
  7. John Harvey #

    Not sure if it’s in the show at the National, but mention of Henry Diltz’ pictures sent me scurrying to the John Stewart section of old albums and there’s Henry’s cover shot of Stewart on maybe his best,’Cannons in the Rain’. Good, also, to read your remarks about Georgie Fame at the Nottingham Beachcomber which coincided with my first spell in the city 64 – 69. Best wishes … John Harvey

    April 20, 2014
  8. Kevin Cheeseman #

    I recall that you mentioned having enjoyed Jimmy LaFave’s contribution to this album. If you enjoyed the Jimmy LaFave album that you mention having ordered, you may be interested to know that he will be playing at The Maze in Nottingham on October 5th.

    June 3, 2014
  9. Nice piece, Richard. I also love “Fountain of Sorrow”. Apparently its about Joni Mitchell.

    July 5, 2017

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