Thursday, February 05, 2009

Take That You Tree Hugging Hippie!

Kenny Rogers is back! Oh wait, that's Jackson Browne. Rock's other eternal teenager grows a grey beard covering his trademark youthful appearance.

Last year a new Jackson Browne disc hit the streets so I snapped it up after Christmas. His recent Solo Acoustic series garnered some attention and made fans like me reappreciate his talent for matching literate lyrics to a peaceful easy feeling. He got a little boost in visibility last year when he sued John McCain for usage of his song "Running on Empty". After taking some time to take in the sounds of the great mellow one I've reflected on the reflections of the famed So Cal singer / songwriter.

When a rock & roller reaches old age they have a choice: modernize their trademark sound to prove relevance attempting to reach new fans or relax and sink in to what made them great. Browne has chosen to do the second option and is all the better for it. Time the Conqueror is classic Jackson Browne with comfortable beats, tasteful guitars, pleasant harmonies and dramatic piano topped with a layer of organ. In familiar surroundings, Browne's voice continues to evoke longing and hesitant weariness.

Even with a good sound Browne's only as strong as his songwriting. Time the Conqueror finds him in fine form, hitting his familiar targets of lefty politics decrying the right wing, wistful recollections of hippie freedom and the knotty nature of relationships. There is an added layer of mortality as the title track shows with its suspended folk guitar riff. Browne calmly reads the riot act to the Bush era in the urgent Drums of War. And if you missed old school Browne, before national politics became the centerpiece of his writing, Just Say Yeah provides fine detail of the changing of a relationship from friend to lover. Or if you just want a nice melody, Giving That Heaven Away fits the bill nicely. Just to show he's not always Mr. Dour, Browne has a little fun with the absurdist Going Down to Cuba.

To much of the public, Jackson Browne will remain someone who peaked before 1980. But Time the Conqueror shows that if you stick around, he still has some good music to offer. Based on that, if you like Jackson Browne this is a really good record, um disc. Sorry, slipping into the 70's again. If not, it's still good stuff if you're open to his little diatribes. No longer running on empty, Jackson Browne reveals a man still late for the sky.

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