Sunday, 5 February 2012

Doctor, my eyes have seen the years and the slow parade of fears without crying. Now I want to understand.

70’s Song of the week

“Doctor My Eyes” by Jackson Browne (1970)

The first time I really paid attention to the Jackson Browne “Running on Empty” album I was at a friend’s place; actually his older sister’s.  We were playing charades. I couldn’t believe we were playing charades – it seems pretty lame to me; I already had a pretty healthy cynicism about me in my teens. What had caught my attention though was the Jackson Browne album on the stereo. When it was my turn to demonstrate something and my clue was’ Deep Purple’ I was kind of useless
Too distracted to realize the answer had already been called out as I continued my ocean waves and deep dives with my arms............the Jackson Browne lyrics were intricate and mesmerizing. Well at least that’s my excuse and I’m stickin’ with it.

Running on Empty
Actually Browne was born in Germany but moved back to California with his American parents when he was three years old. He played coffee houses in L.A. and Orange County during the ‘60s and for a brief stint in N.Y. when his parents moved there. He would become an integral part of the Southern California sound that mostly emanated from the Laurel Canyon.

In 1970 he released his self-titled album on David Geffin's, “Geffin Records”. His ‘Canyon’ buddies David Crosby sang on “Rock Me on the Water” and “Jamaica say you Will” and Stephen Stills helped out on “Doctor My Eyes” which went to number 8 on billboard. The now revered album was mentioned in Rolling Stone magazine in 1972, saying of Browne that his “sensibility is romantic in the best sense of the term”. This sensibility would become a Browne hallmark. His poetically woven songs stick to your ribs like good porridge on a cold winter morning.

Browne’s follow-up album in 1973 “For Everyman” included “These Days” and “Take it Easy”. “Take it Easy’ of course was co-written with Eagle Glen Frey and was released as their debut single. They were thick as thieves in Southern California and collaborations and polarization of ideas was going on all the time. Whether they were at Joni Mitchell’s house or Frank Zappa’s the musical community of Laurel Canyon had a huge impact on music in the early seventies. David Lindley (later did ‘Mercury Blues’), lent a bit of humour and his slide guitar to this album also.

1974’s “Late For the Sky”, is cited by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the “100 Best Albums”, “200 essential Rock collection albums” and one of the “500 Greatest Albums of all Time”.  It solidifies his approach and the songs are brooding and complex. He virtually gives me the link between disappointment and lost dreams and the cynicism growing in my heart and mind – somehow in a soft and melodic way.

1976’s ‘The Pretender”, also one of Rolling Stones ‘top 500 albums of all time”. I think the reason Browne is not as popular as he might have been is that his audience was more adult – teen rockers pretty much ignored Browne.  Asking the introspective question is not overly rebellious. These questions would soon start to turn outward as Browne targets his curiosity at the broader world.

In 1977, with many miles of road behind him on the road, Browne release of his opus: “Running on Empty”. Unexpectedly in a time of every band doing a schlocky ‘live’ album, Browne seemed to be able to cast a strange intimacy on this one. That is what the beauty of it is. It does seem a bit random, but that randomness has a strange elegance and charm.

Taking a bit of break, 1980’s “Hold Out”, did just not have the old Browne charm although harkened back to albums like “The Pretender” – without the edge.

1983’s “Lawyers in Love” album was a bit of an anthem album with my friends. You know when a group of friends sort of latch on to an album and play it over and over? Well this was one of them. “For a Rocker”, “Tender is the Night” and the title track, “Lawyers in Love” – now if that is not cynical than I don’t know what it means: political and saucy. I still love the simplicity of his warning in “For a Rocker” when he says: “I’m going to tell you something I found out. Whatever you think your life is about. Whatever life may hold in store. Things will happen you won’t be ready for”.

Browne’s albums became more politically charged with 1986’s “Lives in the Balance” and 1989’s “World in Motion”. “I’m Alive” in 1993 was Browne return to more personal, introspective songs which continued with 1996’s “Looking East”. 2002’s “The Naked Ride Home” harkened back to the romantic poet that is Jackson Browne.

If you have never really listened to Jackson Browne, although he would have been hard to miss hearing on the radio, you may give “The Very Best of Jackson Browne” a listen- a really good place to start.

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