Posts Tagged ‘Asylum Records’

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Jackson Browne is perhaps the quintessential 1970s singer-songwriter, a sensitive individual who analysed his difficult relationships into songs. On September 14th Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. will introduce Jackson Browne as he receives the Gandhi Peace Award from Promoting Enduring Peace,

He was extremely well connected into the 1970s Laurel Canyon Californian scene – he dated Laura Nyro and Joni Mitchell, wrote the Eagles’ first hit single, and produced Warren Zevon’s breakthrough album. Browne has written and recorded songs such as “These Days”, “The Pretender”, “Running on Empty”, “Lawyers in Love”, “Doctor My Eyes”, “Take It Easy”, “For a Rocker”, and “Somebody’s Baby”.

Primarily, Browne’s a lyricist, and certainly one of the best text writers in pop music, After a period in the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Browne left and after a few months and moved to Greenwich Village, New York, where he became a staff writer for Elektra Records‘ publishing company, Nina Music before his eighteenth birthday. He spent the remainder of 1967 and 1968 in Greenwich Village, where he backed Tim Buckley and singer Nico of the Velvet Underground. In 1967, Browne and Nico became romantically linked and he became a significant contributor to her debut album, Chelsea Girl, writing and playing guitar on several of the songs (including “These Days”). In 1968, following his breakup with Nico, Browne returned to Los Angeles, where he formed a folk band with Ned Doheny and Jack Wilce, and first met Glenn Frey.

Jackson Browne’s most artistically successful decade was the 1970s, during which he made five studio important studio albums. Browne’s right hand man in the 1970s was multi instrumentalist a guitarist, fiddler, and falsetto vocalist David Lindley, who enlivened Browne’s albums with his instrumental work. Browne’s voice is boyish, and not always engaging, and Lindley helped to make his records more accessible.

Jackson Browne  – Saturate Before Using (1972)

In 1971, Browne signed with his manager David Geffen’s Asylum Records and released his debut Jackson Browne (subtitled Saturate Before Using) produced and engineered by Richard Orshoff, which included the piano-driven “Doctor My Eyes” was the surprise hit, which entered the Top Ten in the US singles chart. “Rock Me on the Water”, from the same album, also gained considerable radio airplay, while “Song for Adam” (written about his friend Adam Saylor’s death) helped establish Browne’s reputation. Touring to promote the album, he shared the bill with Linda Ronstadt and Joni Mitchell.

Doctor My Eyes was Browne’s first single, and one of only two Top 10 hits he’s had, is one of the most musically upbeat songs he’s recorded, despite the bummer subject material. It’s basically a precursor to the searching, longing and disenchanted character who showed up in so many of Browne’s songs in the ’70s. It’s a little heavy-handed, as far as the sentiment goes — “Tell me what is wrong,” he sings. “Was I unwise to leave them open for so long?” — but it sets the template for almost every Top 10 Jackson Browne song.

Jackson Browne’s debut release didn’t emerge for six years after he had wrote ‘These Days’ for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. His first record, was for David Geffen’s Asylum label .The album, is his most minimal, and outside the singles, his material is simply presented – it’s the only 1970s album that guitarist David Lindley doesn’t appear on. It’s the singles that shine  was the surprise hit, but I prefer the gospel-tinged ‘Rock Me On The Water’ and the plaintive ‘Jamaica Say You Will’. 

The daughter of a captain on the rolling seas
She would stare across the water from the trees

For Everyman (1973)

Browne raided his back catalogue for his second album, featuring his well known songs like ‘These Days’ and ‘Take It Easy’ cowritten with Eagles’ Glenn Frey, had already been a major success for that group, while his own recording of “These Days” reflected a sound representing Browne’s angst. Gregg Allmanreleased a version on his 1973 albumLaid Back.But it’s Browne’s sad, plaintive take of the song — which he wrote while still a teen growing up in the mid ’60s — that nails the melancholic tone of the lyrics.

The arrangements are fuller, and David Lindley’s guitar and fiddle parts are prominent, joining The Section musicians Russ Kunkel, Craig Doerge, and Leland Sklar. Elton John plays piano on the rollicking ‘Redneck Friend’, but my favourite track here is ‘For Everyman’, a post apocalyptic vision of sailing to a new society, featuring David Crosby on backing vocals.

Everybody’s just waiting to hear from the one
Who can give them the answers
And lead them back to that place
In the warmth of the sun
Where sweet childhood still dances

Running on Empty  (1977)

Jackson Browne’s best known work is a live album of all new songs, themed around the seedy side of a musician’s life on the road. Browne was a big enough star by 1977 to take The Section and David Lindley on tour as his backing band, and the album was recorded live on stage, as well as in hotel rooms and backstage. Running on Empty was recorded entirely on tour, It became his biggest commercial success. Breaking the usual conventions for a live album, Running on Empty contains some of his most popular songs, such as the title track, “Rosie”, and “The Load-Out/Stay” (Browne’s send-off to his concert audiences and roadies). “The Load-Out” runs down the daily monotony of tour life (“We’ve got truckers on the CB/We’ve got Richard Pryor on the video/We got time to think of the ones we love, while the miles roll away”) before giving way to an exuberant cover of Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs’ 1960 No. 1 doo-wop hit featuring vocals by members of Browne’s band. Criminally, the songs were split when “Stay” was released as a single in 1978, with “The Load-Out” shoved to the flip side on later pressings.

Unusually, Browne includes covers, like a charming version of ‘Stay’ spotlighting Lindley’s falsetto vocals, and co-writers on most tracks. But the title track, one of only two Browne solo compositions, is the standout track, a sweeping, Springsteen like tale of nostalgia and determination.

Running on Empty is one of the most revolutionary live albums ever made. Instead of going through their usual set of hits and favorites, Browne and his band recorded new songs onstage, backstage, at soundchecks and wherever else inspiration might have hit them. Fittingly, most of the songs are about touring; the album doubles as a concept album about being on the road. This one, which was released as a single, sympathizes with the wives, girlfriends and groupies who are along for the ride. It’s one of his most autobiographical songs — check out the years and ages he runs through in the song and a sign of things to come. “I don’t know where I’m running now, I’m just running on”turned out to hold some truth: After three classic albums in a row, Browne turned to mostly political subjects in the ’80s with a string of mediocre records.

Look around for the friends that I used to turn to to pull me through
Looking into their eyes I see them running too

The Pretender  (1976)

Browne’s life was hit by personal tragedy during the recording of The Pretender – his wife Phyllis Major committed suicide, leaving Browne as a young solo father. These events are covered in the brief, wrenching ‘Sleep’s Dark and Silent Gate’. Production duties on Browne’s fourth album are handled by Jon Landau, who gives Browne’s music more detail than usual. ‘The Fuse’ is one of my favourite Jackson Browne deep cuts, and the title track is a fascinating look forward to 1980s yuppies. The closing track of Browne’s fourth album is also a summation of sorts of the previous seven songs, a nearly six-minute breakdown of one man’s occasionally harsh, and almost always dishonest, survival instincts. He lies, he cheats, he screws, and tomorrow he’ll do the same damn thing, even if he knows there’s something morally wrong at the core of it all. All that ’60s idealism had finally given way to mid-’70s cynicism, worn down by war, Watergate and crushing dreams.

At times, Browne’s fourth album plays like a eulogy for his wife, who killed herself in early 1976; at other times, it plays like a eulogy for his growing disillusionment with the leftover and broken promises from the idealistic ’60s. This song — one of the best Jackson Browne songs, a Top 25 single co-written by his late wife’s mother — falls into the former category, as Browne futilely tries to hide the scars of his broken heart. He’s bitter, angry and not ready to forgive. But most of all he’s at his most revealing here.

But my favourite track is ‘Your Bright Baby Blues’, with its warm arrangements and amazing backing band; Little Feat’s Lowell George is prominent on slide guitar and backing vocals, Bill Payne on organ, E-Street Band’s Roy Bittan on piano, Chuck Rainey on bass, and Jim Gordon on drums.

No matter how fast I run
I can never seem
To get away from me

Late For The Sky (1974)

Jackson Browne attained maximum Jackson Browne-ness with his third album, featuring gorgeous meditations on death and the apocalypse, accompanied by David Lindley’s guitar and fiddle. To save his label money after the expensive For Everyman, Browne used his live band, and they sound great.  Browne’s work began to demonstrate a reputation for memorable melody, insightful, often very personal lyrics, and a talent for his arrangements in composition. Apart from the mundane rocker ‘Walking Slow’, every track is strong, and mournful expositions like ‘For A Dancer’ and ‘Fountain of Sorrow’ are prime Browne. Highlights included the title song, the elegiac “For a Dancer”, and “Before the Deluge”, . The arrangements featured the violin and guitar of David Lindley, Jai Winding’s piano, and the harmonies of Doug Haywood. The title track was also featured in Martin Scorsese’s film Taxi Driver. During this period, Browne began his fractious but lifelong professional relationship with singer-songwriter Warren Zevon, mentoring Zevon’s first two Asylum albums through the studio as a producer (working closely with Waddy Wachtel and Jorge Calderón).

Much of Jackson Browne’s songs on his terrific third album play like a deep, despairing farewell to an old love. This song — one of the album’s many centerpieces — piles on the apocalyptic dread. It could be heralding the end of a relationship … or maybe something much, much bigger. In a way, it foreshadows themes of growing up and out of youthful idealism found on The Pretender, and Running on Empty, but with more widespread and cataclysmic results.

But my favourite song is the title track, especially the moment when Browne’s voice cracks on the final note.

How long have I been sleeping?

Browne’s epic opener to his third album sets the tone for a record that plays like one long breakup montage. This is a key track in the story — the moment where that tiny glimmer of hope is wiped out by cold, hard reality. The song also plays a pivotal part in the movie Taxi Driver,underscoring a scene in which Robert De Niro’s brooding sociopath loses what’s left of his loose grip on reality. Not sure if this is what Browne had in mind for the song, but it serves a similar purpose.

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Last February, Omnivore Recordings released singer-songwriter JD Souther’s three efforts for Asylum Records on CD, remastered with extra bonus tracks and new liner notes informed by interviews with SoutherNo Depressioncalled them: “A worthy upgrade and a good introduction for those who haven’t yet dug into JD Souther.” Relixpredicted the reissues would “bring belated appreciation” to the albums. “Kudos to Omnivore for re-introducing Souther and his work to a brand new audience.”
On September 21st, 2018, Omnivore Recordings will release the trio of classic albums  John David Souther, Black Rose and Home by Dawn on high-quality vinyl. All three have been cut from the original analog masters by Kevin Gray at Cohearent, overseen by Souther himself and Omnivore’s Cheryl Pawelski and pressed atRTI on 180-gram vinyl. These new reissues also feature a little bit of updated art on the Black Rosealbum — no longer featuring the artist name and title, as was originally intended. In every other way, they are presented as they were originally released.
Before he was co-writing Eagles hits like “Best of My Love,” “New Kid in Town,” and “Heartache Tonight with Glenn Frey and Don Henley, Souther formed Longbranch/Pennywhistle with Frey when they were roommates. Their downstairs neighbour was a fellow by the name of Jackson Browne, who took Souther to audition for his boss, David Geffen, who’d recently formed the Asylum Records label. After hearing two songs, Geffen told Souther to “go make a record.” And, that’s exactly what he did. 
John David Souther (Expanded Edition)
John David Souther released in 1971, and was immediately a critical success and established Souther as a, if not the songwriter to watch. (He would be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame 42 years later.) 
Co-produced by Souther and Fred Catero (who had recently finished Santana’s Abraxas), John David Southerfeatured 10 originals — all stunning, and many of which would be covered by artists like Bonnie Raitt (“Run Like a Thief”) and Souther’s old friends The Eagles, who released “How Long” as the first single from their 2007 comeback and multi-platinum smash, Long Road Out of Eden.
John David Souther was, and is, the perfect introduction to the singer and performer behind the songs. Still relevant over four decades later, the recording shows the emergence of one of music’s most influential artists. 
After his impressive debut, Souther worked with Chris Hillman (Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers) and Richie Furay (Buffalo Springfield, Poco) in the short-lived Souther/Hillman/Furay Band. But, at that same time, his songwriting reputation grew, as friends and colleagues took his material to commercial heights. 
Black Rose

Five years after John David Souther, Black Rose appeared. Beautifully helmed by Peter Asher, the album was not only full of incredible songs, but a who’s who of musicians including Lowell George (Little Feat), Joe Walsh, Waddy Wachtel, Jim Keltner, Andrew Gold, Russ Kunkel, Donald Byrd, and Stanley Clarke — with David Crosby, Art Garfunkel, Don Henley and Glenn Frey adding their voices. In addition to the lush production and instrumentation, Souther’s ten songs were again exceptional. Linda Ronstadt had previously recorded “Faithless Love” on her breakthrough Heart Like a Wheel album, and would tackle “Simple Man, Simple Dream” in 1977 — even basing that year’s album title on the song. (For the record, Ronstadt has recorded 10 Souther tracks, a relationship that began with his production on her 1973 album Don’t Cry Now, also named for a Souther composition.)

Black Rose” was an ambitious undertaking, and it took a long time,” Souther states in the liners. “I wanted to use all the musical influences I had, and I really had to dig deep. But when we were finished, I was almost as pleased with it as if it had sold a million copies. Almost.” 
After hitting the Top 10 twice with “You’re Only Lonely” and his duet with James Taylor, “Her Town Too,” 
Home By Dawn

Souther released his only 1980s album  Home by Dawn, produced by David Malloy (Eddie Rabbit, Kenny Rogers, Reba McEntire).Souther took distinctive creative turns with each release, Home by Dawn emerged at the beginning of the new wave of country music. In fact, legendary producer/engineer, and David’s father,Jim Malloy (Townes Van Zandt, Eddy Arnold, Sammi Smith), told Souther, “You were about 15 minutes ahead of your time!” That timing was confirmed when Dixie Chicks covered “I’ll Take Care of You” on their platinum album Wide Open Spaces

The album has steadily earned a reputation as the groundbreaking and influential statement it was, and continues to be. From rock to roots-rock to rockabilly, Home by Dawn took Souther in a direction reflecting his Texas upbringing. Now is the perfect time to discover — or rediscover the songs of John David Souther. 

a brand new 2LP collection of Judee Sill demos, outtakes and rarities making their debut
on 180 Gram vinyl. Songs of Rapture and Redemptions: Rarities & Live will be a limited and numbered pressing.

Judee Sill may not have been commercially successful in her short recording stint, but her influence looms large with recording artists such as Warren Zevon, Andy Partridge, Liz Phair, Beth Orton, Bill Callahan, Bonnie Prince Billy and more having covered her songs. The Turtles recorded “Lady-O” in 1969, two years before Sill’s 1971 debut album on Asylum Records contained that song.

Hailing from California, Judith Lynn Sill was an American singer songwriter born 10/7/44. Her father owned a bar in Oakland and that’s where Judee initially learned how to play piano. Sill met, befriended and started opening shows for Graham Nash and David Crosby in the mid-to-late 1960s. After a bit of interest from Atlantic Records, David Geffen offered Judee a contract and she became the first artist to sign with his then fledgling Asylum label. During her early days at Asylum she sold her song Lady-O to the Turtles and was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone. Graham Nash produced her first single, “Jesus Was A Cross Maker,” off her self-titled debut album which was released on September 15, 1971 and engineered by Henry Lewy who worked with Joni Mitchell throughout the 1970s. The song was inspired by her romance with singer songwriter JD Souther. He later wrote the song, “Something In the Dark,” about her.

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The album featured Sill’s voice in multiple overdubs, often in a four-part chorale or fugue. Her debut album was not a commercial success, despite good reviews. Sill took over orchestration and arrangements for her second album, “Heart Food,” which was released in March of 1973. The album was critically acclaimed but sold poorly which ended her association with Asylum and David Geffen. Judee continued to write songs and in 1974 began to record new material planned for a third album that was never finished. By this time she relapsed into more drug use and developed health problems. After a series of car accidents and failed surgery for back pain, Sill continued to struggle with drug addiction and dropped out of the music scene completely. Judee tragically died of a drug overdose on November 23, 1979 at her apartment in North Hollywood. Judee Sill’s music was not commercially viable at the time but was incredibly influential as well as ground-breaking and many notable songwriters admired her work and covered her songs.

Warren Zevon’s self-titled 1976 album announced he was one of the most striking talents to emerge from the Los Angeles soft rock singer/songwriter community, and Linda Ronstadt (a shrewd judge of talent if a sometimes questionable interpreter) recorded three of its songs on two of her biggest-selling albums, which doubtlessly earned Zevon bigger royalty checks than the album itself ever did.

His own breakthrough album from the songwriter’s songwriter from LA. Warren Zevon had been knocking around since the late ‘60s, but with the championing of Jackson Browne, the Eagles and Linda Ronstadt (who recorded a bunch of his tunes) and subsequently the patronage of David Geffen at Asylum Records, he finally connected in a big way. The fact that it was with “Werewolves of London”, the most throwaway song he’d recorded for the label at that point didn’t matter; it was still a great song, and a great entre to Zevon’s weird and violent world. The title track, “Lawyers, Guns & Money”, “Accidentally Like a Martyr” and the seriously wacko “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” are the stuff of genius. Oh, and did you know “Werewolves…” (which peaked at #11 in Australia and was Zevon’s only charting single) features the rhythm section of John McVie and Mick Fleetwood?.

The tracks “Excitable Boy” and “Werewolves of London” were considered macabrely humorous by critics. The historical “Veracruz” dramatizes the United States occupation of Veracruz, and likewise “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” is a fictionalization of a mercenary in Africa. “Lawyers, Guns and Money” is a tongue-in-cheek tale of a young American man’s adventures in Cold War era Latin America. In addition, there are two ballads about life and relationships (“Accidentally Like a Martyr” and “Tenderness on the Block”), as well as a dance tune (“Nighttime in the Switching Yard”).

What album replaced Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours on top of the Album Charts after its 29-week stay?  The answer: Linda Ronstadt’s Simple Dreams.  it was Ronstadt’s eighth studio album, it became one of her most successful and most beloved.  Now, on the occasion of its 40th anniversary, the Grammy Award-winning Simple Dreams is receiving an expanded edition from Rhino Records.  It’s due on CD, vinyl LP, DD, on September 22nd.

The multi-platinum smash was Linda Ronstadt’s fifth consecutive release to cross the one-million sales threshold in the United States, also reaching the chart zenith in Canada and Australia (not to mention the top 20 in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, and New Zealand).  In addition to displacing Rumours, it also displaced Elvis Presley from the top of the Country Albums chart, a true display of its cross-genre appeal.  Produced by Peter Asher, the album’s formula was simple: apply one of the greatest and most distinctive voices of a generation to some of its greatest songs.

Two of those classic songs – Roy Orbison and Joe Melson’s “Blue Bayou” and Buddy Holly and Norman Petty’s “It’s So Easy” both took a place within the U.S. top five, making Ronstadt the first artist since The Beatles to hold two spots within the top five at the same time.  A third hit, Warren Zevon’s “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me,” also emerged from the LP, barely missing the top 30 at No. 31.  Zevon’s “Carmelita” was also featured on the album alongside songs by The Rolling Stones (“Tumbling Dice”), J.D. Souther (“Simple Man, Simple Dream”) and Eric Kaz (“Sorrow Lives Here”).

Ronstadt was joined on the album by an all-star cast of musicians and guest background vocalists including Eagles Don Henley and Bernie Leadon, Andrew Gold, Sneaky Pete Kleinow, Chris Ethridge, J.D. Souther, Spooner Oldham, Nino Tempo, David Lindley, Danny Kortchmar, and Waddy Wachtel.

The newly remastered Simple Dreams will include three bonus tracks, all derived from a concert which aired on HBO in 1980.  These live versions of the album’s three big hits  “It’s So Easy,” “Blue Bayou,” and “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me” are all previously unreleased in standalone audio format.  On the vinyl version, these three bonus tracks will be included on a special 7-inch EP.  You can pre-order the expanded 40th anniversary edition of Simple Dreams at the links below; it’s due on September 22 from Rhino Records.

Linda Ronstadt, Simple Dreams (Asylum Records).