Posts Tagged ‘Running On Empty’

Few singer-songwriters embodied the late-’70s California sound as much as Jackson Browne.  He started out writing for others in the previous decade, but broke onto the scene as a solo artist with his 1972 self-titled debut (sometimes referred to as Saturate Before Using).  Five years later, he made waves with Running On Empty, a collection of 10 new songs recorded live during his 1977 tour.  Several tracks were taken from the band’s performance at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland and the Garden State Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey.  But further tracks were recorded in more intimate spaces — various hotel rooms, rehearsal spaces, or “on a bus (a Continental Silver Eagle) somewhere in New Jersey.”

It takes awhile for your ears to acclimate to what you’re hearing when you drop the needle on Jackson Browne’s “Running On Empty”. It’s just the droning roar of people, a crowd – something that, in the year and a half the world has been living with COVID-19, isn’t as common as it used to be. Then, like a rocket, Browne and his band kick into high gear with the title track. Browne, with that golden voice that was, at the time, a staple of rock radio waves for a decade, sings with clarity and conviction:

Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
Looking back at the years gone by like so many summer fields
’65, I was 17 and running up 101
I don’t know where I’m running now, I’m just running on

It’s as classic as his type of rock and roll gets: instantly relatable, meshing the everlasting promise of youth with the vaguer realities of adulthood, hurtling toward a future that has no guarantees.

No matter the space, Browne and his band (featuring David Lindley on lap steel and fiddle, along with members of The Section) delivered stellar performances that have been lauded by critics since the album’s original release more than four decades ago. Running On Empty became Browne’s best-selling album, peaking at No. 3 on the Billboard Albums chart and eventually achieving a 7x Platinum certification from the RIAA.

Now, that legendary album – featuring such classics as “Running On Empty” and “The Load-Out / Stay” – will be re-released on CD, vinyl, and through digital download and streaming providers.  Arriving on July 5th from Asylum/Rhino, the new edition of Running On Empty features a fresh remaster by Gavin Lurssen of Lurssen Mastering.  The vinyl edition, meanwhile, was mastered by Ron McMaster and will be presented on 180-gram vinyl pressed at Pallas.

Running on Empty is not a typical live album. None of the songs took hold on other LPs beforehand. Not all of them were recorded in concert. Some, yes – including album bookends from a rousing show at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD on August 27th, 1977 – but others were taped in spacious rehearsals, behind the thin walls of motel rooms, and even on a tour bus somewhere down the highways of New Jersey.

But its polish is considerable; for that, you can thank the all-star band backing him up, including session legends like guitarists Danny Kortchmar and David Lindley, keyboardist Craig Doerge, bassist Leland Sklar and drummer Russ Kunkel. (They were the House band for Browne’s label Asylum, playing on albums for Linda Ronstadt and Warren Zevon as well as Carole King’s “Tapesty” and James Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James” .

Moreover, it’s a live document that transcends its typical mission – a souvenir of what it was like to see the singer-songwriter in concert – and becomes a heartfelt commentary of life on the road.

Second track “The Road” offers a powerful confessional to the mundanity of a touring artist’s life, spliced brilliantly between a close-quarters version in a motel room and a version in front of a crowd. “Rosie” is a forlorn song about a girl with a backstage pass – told with none of the salaciousness you might expect of such a tune in the ’70s, with weary harmonies supplied by Browne’s tour photographer. Some songs sound like they could fit into any of Browne’s studio LPs of powerful Everyman observations (“You Love the Thunder,” “Love Needs a Heart”). Others – a cover of J.J. Cale’s “Cocaine,” the original “Nothing But Time” featuring a bus’ shifting gears and Kunkel’s box-tapped percussion – are one-of-a-kind sparks that could only happen here.

The album’s penultimate tune, “The Load-Out,” is a real gut-punch: over his piano and Lindley’s lap steel, Browne sings a tender tune about the people and scenes that make such a tour possible – opening a window to the audience about what goes on when the lights come up and everyone heads out of the parking lot and into the night. More than 40 years later – long after the album spent nearly a year on the USA chart, outsold all of Browne’s other albums and picked up a Grammy Award nomination for Album of the Year – it hits just as hard, in a year marred by illness, death, financial hardships, uncertainty and the wish that, just for a minute, things could go back to something approaching normal and we could go back to enjoying concerts like the ones we hear here.

Then, just as the emotions reach their peak and the song seems ready to come to an emotional end, Browne and the band have one more trick up their sleeves: a cheeky cover of Maurice Williams and The Zodiacs’ “Stay,” rewritten to reflect the thrill of chasing “one more song.” Rosemary Butler’s soaring co-lead vocals – and Lindley’s falsetto, Frankie Valli-esque last chorus – bring the listeners and the players together in one, brilliant truth: the show doesn’t ever have to end, and the needle never has to leave the record.

Jackson Browne caught the attention of fans with a notable single track, “Doctor My Eyes” from his debut release, often referred to as Saturate Before Using (1972). From there, Jackson Browne became an essential staple of Southern California Rock alongside such artists as Poco, The Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, David Lindley, and Warren Zevon. He released several more classic studio sets, including The Pretender album before issuing a live set that would elevate him to a higher status as a recording artist.

The Section featuring Craig Doerge, Danny Kortchmar, Leland Sklar and Russ Kunkel reunite with Jackson Browne at the 2018 NAMM TEC Awards held at the NAMM Show in Anaheim, CA., to perform “Running On Empty”.

On July 12, Elektra will reissue Running On Empty on CD, and vinyl LP and present the classic album with new remastering. However, there are no other adds to this set. The ten songs from the original were tracks performed in various live settings like hotel rooms, tour bus, stages, and a rehearsal room. A DD version will arrive sooner for the remastered classic on July 5.

A single reissue of newly remastered “The Load Out”/”Stay” was released on June 21st digitally.

While some fans may want to hold onto their long-out-of-print previous editions, the newly remastered CD, vinyl, and digital versions that arrive on July 5th will no doubt be essential listening for those who might be new to Browne’s music.

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.