Posts Tagged ‘For Everyman’

For Everyman

Released 45 years ago this month, Jackson Browne’s second album, “For Everyman”, was proof that his remarkable debut was no fluke. As on that earlier work, the lyrics offer sharp observations on both personal and social concerns, and Jackson sings them with even greater confidence – among the standouts from his songbook are single “Redneck Friend,” “These Days” (a song he’d given to Nico years earlier) and “Take It Easy,” which he’d co-written with Glenn Frey. Frey appears here in support, along with fellow Eagle Don Henley and a host of L.A. rock greats including David Crosby, Joni Mitchell and Bonnie Raitt; additionally, multi-instrumentalist David Lindley begins his long collaboration with Browne on the 1973 Asylum Records set. Today we’ll give the platinum-certified “For Everyman” another spin and to wish Jackson Browne a happy birthday.

The title track was written by Browne in response to the apocalyptic “Wooden Ships”, a song written by Crosby, Stephen Stills and Paul Kantner. His own version of “These Days” appears here after having been previously recorded by Nico, Tom Rush, who also covered “Colors of the Sun”, and Gregg Allman. Nico was the first to record the song in 1967. Browne later commented “When [Allman] did [These Days] I thought that he really unlocked a power in that song that I sort of then emulated in my version. I started playing the piano. I wasn’t trying to sing it like Gregg; I couldn’t possibly. I took the cue, playin’ this slow walk. But it was written very sort of, kind of a little more flatpicking.” “Take It Easy” was written by Browne and Frey and became the Eagles‘ first single,

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Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, playing a musical instrument and guitar

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.

Clearwater, FL
First Concert after Glenn Frey’s Death

Jackson Browne honored the late Glenn Frey with an intimate acoustic performance of the Eagles’ 1972 folk-rock anthem “Take It Easy.” Browne performed the track, which he co-wrote with Frey, during a January 19th concert in Clearwater, Florida – one day after Glen Frey’s death at the age 67,

“Here’s a song that I’ve been singing every night for a while,” Browne told the audience in the above fan-shot video. “I didn’t always sing it because it was such a famous song, I figured, you know, if people heard me sing it they’d come away thinking, ‘nah, and then he sang an Eagles cover.'”

“I wrote this song with Glenn Frey,” the singer-songwriter continued. “It’s a song that I started, but I didn’t finish it. Even if I had finished it by myself, it wouldn’t be the song that it is and it wouldn’t be the song that we all love.” Browne strummed along, leading a massive sing-along that culminates with the audience handling all the vocals (harmonies and all) on the wordless bridge.

Browne wrote the bulk of “Take It Easy” in 1971, with plans to include it on his first LP. After Frey, his friend and then-neighbor, shared his enthusiasm for the track, the Eagles guitarist finished off the lyrics and included the breezy track on his band’s self-titled 1972 debut. Browne then recorded a version for his second album, 1973’s For Everyman.