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Jackson Browne – The Pretender

Elektra Records, 1976

Ever since I saw Jackson Browne open for Tom Petty I’ve been intrigued with what he might sound like on record.  If you’ve been an avid reader (skimmer … passerby … garbage tosser?) of my blog here you probably have caught on that I mostly spin rock, punk, and more rock.  However, I have always found Browne’s voice to be considerably relaxed and relaxing.  Obviously, given my penchant for spending nearly zilch, I just haven’t gotten around to buying any of his stuff.  Lucky for me this record was only a quarter!  Definitely worth checking out even if “Doctor My Eyes” and “Running On empty” aren’t on this one.  By the way, if all my reviews start getting softer and seventies-based from here on out, you’ll know Browne got to me.

“The Pretender” came out during the height of Browne’s early career, which many of you likely weren’t around for. Think Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, and the folk rock side of Neil Young. Given that, one might expect that every song on “The Pretender” would have a cooling sensation, but Browne doesn’t hesitate to turn up the volume a small notch early on. On “The Fuse” you have Browne working his introspective magic in lyrics that describe his wish to make the most of his time on this earth. It carries on as a typical even-tempered Browne tune but then builds rather powerfully at the end. Quite a start! Then, of course, Browne settles down and sings a few softies like “Your Bright Baby Blues” and “Linda Paloma”. Well, it had to be expected.

“Here Comes Those Tears Again” is an excellent title for a tune that defies the prediction that it would be an absolute momentum drag. It actually is an upbeat track about that old back-and-forth relationship break up story, but Browne comes off as a bit casual about it. I suppose there’s only so many times one can be morose and try to carry it for more than three minutes, so Browne opts for a little pep. “Daddy’s Tune” has an air of optimism, yet I feel it was stuck on the album to break up an otherwise low key affair. Sure, it has got horns and spirited guitar play, but it sticks out as one of the few songs that dates this record in my mind. Thankfully “Sleep’s Dark and Silent Gate” and the classic title track end the record wonderfully. And yeah, when I say “wonderfully” I mean low-key Jackson Browne vocals all over the place. Oh so nice.

Jackson Browne can be found aplenty at dusty vinyl record stores and flea markets everywhere, but I suppose if you want to go digital you could check out a large collection of his videos on this fan’s MySpace page.  His website is also not too bad either.

Jackson Browne is, of course, still putting out records with a stunningly similar voice that rivals his seventies sound.  As for “The Pretender”, I still can’t believe I got it for only a quarter.  Whether I continue with my dabbling of softer music during a time that I was not even born is up for debate, but I can certainly see why people were big into Jackson Browne at the time.  Ah well, I suppose I should get back to bands like Trapped By Mormons now, eh? Here comes those punk rock tunes again…

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