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The Earliest Bird: Top New Recorded Release 7-23-21 – 7-29-2, Jackson Browne’s “Downhill From Everywhere” Reviewed

At his best, 72 year old Jackson Browne was a sunshine boy perfecting SoCal pursuits of girls and social justice. Standing on the corner of Winston, Arizona, he was such a gorgeous, and deeply sensitive guy that he slept with Nico where Leonard Cohen got turned down and got to Linda Eastman before Paulie did. His tunes were like his face, superbly contoured architect that had the little girls understanding.

But time goes on its relentless way and Jackson got old and his melodic skills got rusty as he delved into modern protest with a blues edge on albums with which you’d be lucky to find two good songs. A quick look:

Jackson Browne (a.k.a. Saturate Before Using) –  A

For Everyman – A-

Late For The Sky – A

The Pretender – B

Running on Empty – A-

Hold Out – C

Lawyers in Love – C

Lives in the Balance – B-

World in Motion – C-

I’m Alive – B

Looking East – D+

The Naked Ride Home – B

Time the Conqueror – D

Standing in the Breach – C+

A lot of these albums have one standout, maybe two, The Naked Ride Home makes it on “My Stunning Mystery Companion” and that opens the door to other songs. Time The Conqueror was conquered by lousy arrangements, his last album before Downhill From Everywhere, Standing in the Breach, found him in better mode less due to the songs and more to the Spanish sound though the surfeit of agit-prop, something he doesn’t have the force of anger to pull off. Jackson is much more sad then pissed off, even when he is happy with love he doesn’t sound that happy, his epitaph could read “Fountains Of Sorrow”.

Seven years after Breach and Browne returns with a typical and a little better than typical selection of Spanish sounding agro on “A Song For Barcelona” (don’t know why it would need one…), new love found on the mortality driven “Minutes To Downtown,” stand out single “My Cleveland Heart” and more. The album is like a blueprint of what Browne does, a beautiful voice that seems to hide a sob in it, first rate melodies when he finds them, and yet a sense of purpose that makes him more than MOR as he wrestles with dating girls who are too young for him, the dreadful state of the planet, and being a lot more than late for the sky. Highlights abound but kudos to his duet with Brooklyn singer songwriter Leslie Mendelsohn, “A Human Touch”.

Back in 2018 I wrote (here) “(Browne) isn’t pompous, he is amused, sometimes bemused, self-confident but not arrogant, in complete control of everything.” I see no reason change my mind.

Grade: B

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