First Appeared in The Music Box, October 2010, Volume 17, #10
Written by John Metzger
Tue October 12, 2010, 06:30 AM CDT
By the time that he released his self-titled debut in 1972, Jackson Browne already was writing songs from a remarkably mature perspective. Otherwise known as Saturate Before Using, the album began a string of phenomenal efforts — For Everyman, Late for the Sky, The Pretender, and Running on Empty — that rank among the best outings that the singer/songwriter scene of Southern California ever managed to produce. Not surprisingly, however, the weariness and disillusion that swept through Running on Empty, Browne’s masterpiece from 1977, took their toll. As the music business altered its course, Browne was left battered, bruised, and wondering how he could remain relevant.
Somehow, Browne managed to survive, but by clinging tenuously to his commercial appeal throughout the 1980s, he also undercut his artistic vision. The perky pop of tunes like Boulevard, That Girl Could Sing, Somebody’s Baby, and Lawyers in Love might have been hits, but they also felt as if they had been forced to fit within the reality of the era’s leaner, slicker marketplace.
The other side of the story, however, is that Browne’s time in the limelight made it possible for him to raise awareness for a variety of social and political causes. At the same time, though, his emphasis upon external affairs increasingly overshadowed his music. Although the seeds for his rejuvenation were planted during the creation of his 1989 effort World in Motion as well as his subsequent tour with longtime collaborator David Lindley, this notion largely went unnoticed by all but his most devoted followers.
Consequently, Browne’s 1993 endeavor I’m Alive was a wonderfully pleasant surprise. He not only returned to writing songs about relationships, but Browne also bathed his arrangements in the organic warmth of his outings from the 1970s. Clearly, I’m Alive was inspired, thematically and musically, by his acrimonious split with actress Daryl Hannah. Yet, because Browne was shrouded in allegations of spousal abuse, the effort was overlooked by those who chose to ignore the fact that no charges were ever filed against him.
The following year, as part of a bid to rebuild his image, The Disney Channel aired Going Home, a documentary that covered the full scope of Browne’s career. Mixing live and vintage performance footage with an array of interview clips, the program provided an intimate glimpse into various aspects of Browne’s life. For obvious reasons, the storyline avoided addressing his personal relationships. Instead, via interviews with Browne — as well as with Bonnie Raitt, Don Henley, David Crosby, Graham Nash, and others — Going Home emphasized his upbringing, his roots in the Los Angeles music scene, his philosophy about writing songs, and his decision to use his popularity to draw attention to the problems of the world.
In hindsight, Going Home still stands as a solidly crafted overview of Browne’s work. Serving as a testament to the strength of I’m Alive, Browne’s new songs — such as My Problem Is You, Sky Blue and Black, and Too Many Angels — fit quite comfortably alongside his classic compositions like These Days, The Pretender, and Your Bright Baby Blues. Performed with Lindley, Crosby, Nash, and percussionist Luis Conte, Lives in the Balance was rearranged and given room to breathe, and although Before the Deluge was modernized, its new atmospheric configuration accented its gospel roots.
Nevertheless, while it serves its purpose as a documentary quite well, Going Home has its limitations. Most of the performances in the film unfortunately are either cut short or interrupted, and there is no option available on the DVD to turn off the dialogue. Because of the songs it showcases, however, Going Home still manages to provide a stellar overview of Browne’s tremendous catalogue while spurring revealing of interesting anecdotes about his life.
Of Further Interest...
Going Home is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
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