Time the Conqueror
First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2010, Volume 17, #6
Written by John Metzger
Fri June 4, 2010, 06:30 AM CDT
Considering his penchant for political activism, it is quite surprising that Jackson Browne allowed six years to pass between his brilliant late-career masterpiece The Naked Ride Home and his 2008 set Time the Conqueror. Consistently an outspoken critic of the right-wing agenda, he has dedicated a tremendous amount of time and energy to supporting an array of social justice and environmental causes. With everything from the war on terror to the catastrophic destruction of New Orleans, the Bush era certainly provided plenty of fodder for Browne to contemplate.
As America stood on the edge of a precipice, Browne finally broke his silence, though as it turned out, he merely had been stockpiling material and biding his time until the right moment came to piece them together. In a sense, Time the Conqueror is a sequel of sorts to The Naked Ride Home. The albums share similar themes and ideas as well as a general air of reflection. While the former set was laced with political overtones, however, the latter one deals with issues that are linked to a specific time and place. By bringing Time the Conqueror to fruition when he did, Browne essentially was pushing voters to cast aside the Bush administration’s policies in order to embrace Barack Obama’s promise of hope.
Throughout his career, Browne has often used songs about relationships to paint portraits of societal conflict. Nevertheless, he often has struggled whenever his lyrics have pushed too far toward addressing actions of governance. On albums like Lives in the Balance and World in Motion, for example, Browne sometimes lost sight of the organic nature of his music. Both outings have their moments, of course. Yet, there also are times when Browne’s arrangements don’t support the anger of his words.
Throughout Time the Conqueror, Browne repeatedly highlights how closely his output is linked to Bruce Cockburn’s, while Going Down to Cuba nicks a few ideas from Ben Harper’s canon. Nevertheless, although the effort is more durable than either Lives in the Balance or World in Motion was, Time the Conqueror suffers a similar fate. As angry as he sounds about the misuse of power (Drums of War) or the disparity between rich and poor (Where Were You), Browne pulls his musical punch. He laces his songs with militaristic marches and angry posturing, but the mood he generates is one that stews ominously, yet never reaches the feverishly urgent pitch it needs to match his verbal outrage.
Fortunately, Time the Conqueror is more than just another protest album. Browne also builds connections to the country’s past as well as his own. The title track might ponder the fate of a nation without taking a side, but its music radiates optimism and hope. Likewise, Off to Wonderland is a wonderfully reflective tune that examines how the ideals of the 1960s were shaken to their core, only to achieve a somewhat miraculous rebirth in the hands of the Obama campaign. Elsewhere, on Just Say Yeah, Browne examines the dawning of a relationship in a more mature fashion than he did on Ready or Not, and within the context of the album, it captures the excitement that surrounded the rejuvenated Democratic Party. These things help Time the Conqueror to achieve a longer shelf life than it otherwise might have had. Although the outing likely won’t completely satisfy all of his fans, it at least shows that Browne continues to be more in touch with his Muse than he had been in years. ˝
Of Further Interest...
Time the Conqueror is available
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
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