Jackson Browne Standing in the Breach

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I recently watched The History of the Eagles and was struck by their description of Jackson Browne’s composition method. The Eagles (when they were Linda Ronstadt’s backup band) and Browne were neighbours and they would overhear him working through tunes, their description of such tunes as “Doctor My Eyes” sounding like those moments in Keith Jarrett concerts where searching leads to a melodious breakthrough. I hadn’t heard anything from Browne since the early 80s, Lawyers in Love being the last Browne album I had heard for the last few decades.  What a fortuitous surprise to find 2014’s Standing in the Breach.

Jackson Browne Sure Can Write Songs

 Standing in the Breach is one of my favourite finds in 2014, from any era for that matter.  It shows Browne at his songwriting best and all nine of his songs are up there with the best of his works from the 70s.  There is one cover, “Walls and Doors” by  Carlos Varela, which fits in well with the mood and tenor of the album. All of the other nine songs are pure Jackson Browne, featuring some of the best songwriting of his career.  

We’ve all had albums that strike us in some way and are played and replayed.  This is one of those for me.  I did the same thing with 1972’s Jackson Browne (sometimes known as Saturate Before Using) when I first heard it. For those of us who are, or were, used to his early 70s output Standing in the Breach is something like welcome time travel, both familiar and new.

Paying Attention

“Which Side” and “Standing in the Breach” are both lyric-heavy tunes with phenomenal, tonally pure, guitar from Greg Leisz and Val McCallum—and others.  The musicianship, whether it’s Browne on piano or one of the other great keyboardists on this album, is refreshingly bright—the production allowing the studio to be a stage.  Even politically challenging tunes such as those mentioned above and “The Long Way Around” and “If I could be Anywhere” are musically compelling.  Should you choose to pay attention, you’ll rediscover why Browne is one of the best songwriters of the rock era.

If you are looking for a light radio hit you cannot go wrong with the catchy “Yeah Yeah” or “You Know the Night.” “Yeah Yeah” begins like a slightly skewed version of “Sweet Jane” and then quickly proves it’s its own song.  “You Know the Night” has that perfect mix of what makes this such a great album, the familiar and new, with that unmistakable Browne signature. Hopefully some neighbours got inspired hearing him work through these songs.




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