Jackson Browne released “Jamaica, Say You Will” in 1972 on his eponymous debut album 49 years ago, though the original composition was covered by the Byrds a year earlier on Terry Melcher’s strings drenched disappointment Byrdmaniax. Browne’s memory song of a SoCal summer romance closed the album on a downbeat melancholia, but is was cheerful compared to Jackson’s sugar coated vocals and piano based downer, the first song on his first album, a minimalist, brooding, longing version. I had Jackson Browne (aka Saturate Before Use) on whatever the equivalent of repeat was back then, when as a fourteen year old virgin, the “Los Angeles, California” legend on the album cover invited us to worry less about sex and more about the one thing we knew: longing for a dream world of ache and love and yesterday as the twenty-three year old post-hippie heartthrob remembered. Three years later Joe Cocker howled and growled and soulful overdid it.
But, as part of the upcoming Los Lobos tribute to Los Angeles the July 30th drop, Native Sons, “Jamaica, Say You will” becomes as much about the Pacific Ocean as young lovers rolling in the grass: the backstory, the girl named Jamaica, waiting for her father the Captain to take her away. When he eventually does, the singer is left alone, their “waters have run dry”. Los Lobos see the song, accurately, as a place to rock you on the water. David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosa trade voices and sing the chorus in harmony. Between the two voices, the guitar based arrangement, and the Pacific Ocean, it is a vision with some glorious finger picked guitar just beneath singing, and earns its position as an LA story.