The Naked Ride Home
The Music Box's #4 album for 2002
First Appeared at The Music Box, November 2002, Volume 9, #11
Written by John Metzger
It’s been a long time since Jackson Browne has released an album anywhere near as good as The Naked Ride Home. In fact, his latest release very well may prove to be the best of his career. That’s saying something, too, considering that in the ’70s Browne recorded several monumentally beautiful (and brutally honest) masterpieces such as For Everyman, Late for the Sky, and Running on Empty. Indeed, in the past two decades Browne has penned a number of good songs — as well as some that fared better and some that fared worse — but more often than not, the music that surrounded his words left the albums feeling just a tad confining. Only his 1993 set I’m Alive truly came close to recapturing the magic of his ’70s output, but the subsequent Looking East sounded like leftovers from the same recording sessions.
That’s why The Naked Ride Home is such a pleasant surprise. For starters, it wraps Browne’s eloquent lyrics in the same type of unfettered arrangements and organic melodies that made Late for the Sky and For Everyman such classics. But more than thirty years after first venturing onto the music scene, he manages to find a fresh way to parlay his poetic words on love, loss, and the world at large into things of beauty without completely forsaking his past. Never Stop embraces an ebullient R&B euphony; Walking Town delves into a funk motif; Don’t You Want to Be There plays like a sequel to Browne’s epic Before the Deluge, complete with gospel harmonies; and For Taking the Trouble traverses an effortless, airy reggae groove, borrowing a phrase from Iko Iko and succeeding musically where much of World in Motion failed.
Throughout The Naked Ride Home, Browne allows each song to fully develop at its own leisure. Though more than half the tunes stretch far past the five-minute mark, none overstay their welcome. Song introductions and conclusions — such as the joy/sorrow duality of the title track, the haunted spaces of Sergio Leone, and Casino Nation’s ominously bass-heavy indictment of America’s celebrity culture — are extended in ways that allow the melodies to blossom and bloom, slowly revealing each nuance with the utmost deliberation. Indeed, each musical interlude provides the perfect opportunity to ponder Browne’s words. Be it social commentary or personal reflection, the songs on The Naked Ride Home follow a central theme of the loss of innocence, while mixing equal parts of hope and sorrow to form a sequence that strives for and reaches transcendence.
Of Further Interest...
The Naked Ride Home is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2002 The Music Box