Before Jackson Browne embarked upon a solo career he packed a lot into a short space of time. His career began in 1966. That’s when he moved to Greenwich Village and joined the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Jackson wasn’t even eighteen. Soon, he was writing songs for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. They’d later record These Days, Holding On and Shadow Dream Song. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band wasn’t the only band Jackson was  a member of.

Jackson was also a member of his friend Pamela Polland’s band, Gentle Soul. Away from Gentle Soul, Jackson was recruited by Elektra Records’ publishing company Nina Records as a staff writer. His job was to report on New York’s thriving music scene. Incredibly, Jackson wasn’t quite eighteen. After that, Jackson backed Tim Buckley and Nico of the Velvet Underground, during 1967 and 1968. 

The Nico connection didn’t end there. Jackson and Nico became a couple. Three of his songs featured on Nico’s 1967 debut album Chelsea Girl. The Fairest of the Seasons opened Chelsea Girl. These Days, a Jackson Browne classic, and Somewhere There’s a Feather were his two other contributions. This was just the start of Jackson’s songwriting career.

Soon he was writing songs for some of the biggest names in music. By then, Jackson had left New York. He settled in Los Angeles. The Byrds, The Eagles, Linda Ronstadt and Joan Baez. That’s not forgetting the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Tom Rush, Steve Noonan and Greg Allman recorded Jackson Browne songs. However, Jackson wasn’t just a songwriter in L.A, he was the member of a folk group.

The folk group featured Ned Doherty, Jack Wilce and Jackson. The band was just the latest group to feature Jackson Browne. It didn’t make a commercial breakthrough. At least, Jackson met a man who’d play a big part in his future career, Glenn Frey, soon to be a member of The Eagles. Then in 1971, Jackson met another man who’d play a huge part in the rise and rise of Jackson Browne, David Geffen.

Despite the success Jackson had enjoyed as a songwriter, he still couldn’t make a breakthrough as a singer. He started sending out demos to people within the music industry. This included David Geffen. The demo featured Jamaica Say You Will. When David Geffen heard the demo, he realised Jackson Browne was a seriously talented singer and songwriter. So, he decided to try and get Jackson a record deal. Try as he may, he’d no luck finding Jackson a record deal. So, David Geffen decided to found his own record label Asylum Records in 1971. This was a shrewd piece of business by everyone involved.

Jackson Browne.

Now signed to Geffen Records, Jackson began work on his debut album Jackson Browne. Recording took place at Crystal Sound Recorders. Accompanying Jackson, was an all-star cast, including David Crosby, Graham Nash, Sneaky Pete Kleinow and Albert Lee. A total of ten tracks penned by Jackson were recorded. This included a Jackson Browne classic, Doctor My Eyes, which was released as the lead single in 1972.

Doctor My Eyes was released as a single in 1972, reaching number eight in the US Billboard 100. Jackson Browne was then released in January 1972, and reached number fifty-three in the US Billboard 200. It was certified gold in 1976 and platinum in 1997. The second single was Rock Me On The Water, which reached number forty-eight in US Billboard 100. Since then, it’s become one of the most covered Jackson Browne songs. Back in 1972, Jackson and David Geffen, they could hardly believe what had happened. Their lives had been transformed.

For Everyman.

Having released his debut album in January 1972, over eighteen months passed before Jackson released his sophomore album, For Everyman. Jackson wrote nine tracks and cowrote the anthem Take It Easy with Glenn Frey. It had been released by The Eagles as their first single. So, it was a familiar way to open For Everyman. Just like before, the great and good of music headed to Studio One, Sunset Sound. David Crosby, David Lindley, Joni Mitchell, Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bonnie Raitt and Elton John, who recorded using the alias Rockaday Johnnie. This all-star cast recorded the ten tracks that became For Everyman.

For Everyman was released to critical acclaim in October 1973. It reached number fifty-three in the US Billboard 200, and was eventually certified platinum. Two singles were released from For Everyman. Take It Easy failed to chart and Redneck Friend stalled at number eighty-five in the US Billboard 100. Remarkably, These Days, a stunning ballad was overlooked as a single. These Days seemed an obvious choice for a single. However, Jackson Browne and Geffen didn’t always choose the obvious tracks for singles. That was the case on Late For The Sky, which was recently rereleased by Inside Recordings.

Late For The Sky.

Late For The Sky would become Jackson Browne’s third album. It featured eight tracks, which were all penned by Jackson. The music dealt with a variety of themes. This included love, loss, identity and even apocalypse. There were similarities with Jackson’s eponymous debut album. However, Jackson decided to examine the subjects further. He did these subjects justice, with some of the best songs of his three album career. So, it was only fitting that he was accompanied by some top class musicians.

When recording of l Late For The Sky began at Elektra Sound Recorders and Hollywood Sound Recorders, Jackson’s band included longtime friend and collaborator David Lindley, who played electric guitar, slide guitar and fiddle. Doug Haywood played bass and sang harmonies, Larry Zack played percussion and drums and Jai Winding piano and organ. Jackson played piano, acoustic guitar and slide guitar. Harmonies came courtesy of Don Henley, Dan Fogelberg, Joyce Everson, Beth Fitchet, Perry Lindley and J. D. Souther. David Campbell arranged the strings and Jackson and Al Scmidt produced Late For The Sky, which was released in 1974.

When Late For The Sky was released, critics were won over by the album. They felt it was a much more mature, grownup album from Jackson. Some felt it was the best album of his career. So did music lovers. Late For The Sky reached number fourteen upon its release in September 1973. This was his highest chart placing and resulted in Jackson’s third consecutive gold disc. Sadly, neither of the singles charted. Walking Slow and Fountain Of Sorrow didn’t trouble the charts. Again, the most obvious choice of single was overlooked, the title-track Late For The Sky. It ensures Late For The Sky gets of to a storming start.

Opening Late For The Sky is the title-track.T he familiar and melancholy strains of a deliberate piano combining with a thoughtful, chiming guitar set the scene for Jackson’s vocal. His vocal is full of hurt and heartache. Rueful and tinged with regret, we wonders how his relationship has gone so wrong? The end is near and he knows it.” How long have I been sleeping, how long have I been drifting  along through the night” Despair fills his voice as washes of Hammond organ, crystalline guitars and tender harmonies provide the backdrop for Jackson’s soul-searching vocal. The loss he feels is almost tangible on what’s one of the most beautiful ballads Jackson ever recorded.

Stabs of piano inject a sense of urgency into Fountain Of Sorrow. Before long, things settle down and Jackson’s piano and acoustic guitar combine on this relationship song. Jackson becomes the narrator, after he discovers a pile of photos of a former lover. Soon, memories come flooding back. The song takes on a cinematic quality. Each of the scenarios is like a part in a play, with Jackson introducing each of the characters. Meanwhile, he and his band create a melodic, dramatic and hook-laden backdrop. All this epitomises Jackson Browne at his best as both a singer and songwriter.

A searing, wistful guitar soars above the lone piano on Farther On. This sets the scene for a heartbroken Jackson. Since the loss of his  partner, he’s immersed himself in music, books and films. In doing so, he’s been in denial. Now, he’s having to face his loss. Not just the loss of  a partner, but having lost his way in life. It’s only now that he realises that life will never be the same again. Against the backdrop of piano, searing guitars and subtle drums, Jackson realises now it’s a case of “moving farther on.” If he doesn’t, he knows “the sun’s setting fast.” The result is a poignant, moving and beautiful ballad.

Just a gentle strummed guitar and piano accompany Jackson on The Late Show. It’s a hopeful, country-tinged ballad. David Lindley unleashes subtle washes of slide guitar and West Coast harmonies accompany Jackson on another song about love lost and found. Having found the woman he’s been searching for, Jackson is tongue tied. He then sings call and response with his all-star choir. When his vocal drops out, David Lindley and the piano combine. David delivers a slide guitar masterclass that plays a huge part in the song’s success. So do the quivering, sweeping strings and harmonies that accompany Jackson as the track heads to its dramatic, but ultimately beautiful ending.

A pounding piano opens The Road And The Sky, and we hear another side to Jackson. It’s an uptempo rocker, with a nod to Elton John’s Saturday Night’s Allright For Fighting. Jackson and his band kick loose. This is an impressive sound. Especially, with the band in full flight. This means blistering guitars, a pounding, good time rhythm section and stabs of piano. The only thing that doesn’t sit well is the galloping percussion. It’s out of place. Even this doesn’t spoil the song. Not with Jackson and his tight, talented band kicking loose.

For A Dancer sees a return to Jackson Browne balladeer. At the start it’s just one man and his trusty piano. This is captivating. Especially, with lyrics that have a confessional quality. They’re about the loss of a loved one and rebirth. When Jackson wrote this, he was still relatively young, twenty-six. He was beginning to realise he wasn’t immortal. The “big questions” were troubling him. This includes death Jackson sings: “I don’t know what happens when people die, I must’ve thought you’d always be around.” It’s a poignant lyric. So is the lyric: “I’d rather we were dancing our sorrow away.” Without doubt the saddest and most poignant lyric is “there’s one dance you’ll do alone.” Here, Jackson’s accompanied by a slow, shuffling backdrop, complete with fiddle, piano and harmonies. Wistful, beautiful and poignant, this track is one of the highlight of Late For The Sky, as it showcases a much more mature side of Jackson Browne.

Walking Slow sees Jackson up the tempo. He kicks back and delivers a slice of rocky music with a feel-good sound. The rhythm section, complete with churning and scorching guitars and probing bass, join a boogie woogie piano and percussion. They’re the perfect backdrop for Jackson’s vocal. So is David Lindley’s slide guitar. He sprays it across the arrangement. Jackson’s vocal is joyous, given he’s in love. Adding to the feel-good sound are the handclaps that punctuate the arrangement. Despite his joy, Jackson is insecure. He’s worried his lover will leave him: “sometimes we forget we love each other, we fight for no reason.” Mostly though, it’s happiness and hooks aplenty, during this slice of perfect pop.

Closing Late For The Sky is Before The Deluge. It has a slow, melancholy sound. A fiddle combines with Jackson’s piano and the rhythm section. They set the scene for his vocal. Jackson sings about some people fearing an apocalypse. They’re angry and fearful. Their reason for this is the way the earth and nature has been mistreated. The future isn’t bright he fears. “Now let the music keep our spirits high…Before The Deluge,” which comes before the apocalypse. With fiddles, piano, slide guitar and the rhythm section Jackson Browne paints a bleak picture about the earth’s future. Just like the other tracks on Late For The Sky, Jackson is a master craftsman, when it comes to a singer songwriter. His lyrics are cerebral, sobering and would provoke his lifelong interest in environmental issues.

Late For The Sky was only Jackson Browne’s third album. He’d come a long way in the space of three years. Back in 1971, he was a struggling unsigned artist. Three years later, Jackson had three platinum discs to his name. No wonder. He was already one of the most talented singer songwriters of his generation. Jackson had also written a string of hit singles for the great and the good of music. Things were about to get even better in 1975.

When the nominations for the Grammy Awards were announced in 1975,  Late For The Sky was nominated. That’s not a surprise. Jackson’s lyrics were soul-baring, personal, insightful, cerebral, wistful and beautiful. Late For The Sky was like a window into Jackson Browne’s soul. Subjects like love, loss, identity and even apocalypse. There were similarities with Jackson’s eponymous debut album. However, Jackson decided to examine the subjects further. He did these subjects justice, with some of the best songs of his three album career. That’s why Late For The Sky was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1975. This wasn’t the end of the commercial success and critical acclaim Jackson enjoyed.

Jackson’s songwriting skills also ensured his success continued right through until 2008, when he released Time The Conqueror. His classic period ended with his 1976 studio album The Pretender, which was certified triple-platinum. The 1977 live album Running On Empty was certified platinum seven times over. After that, Jackson took a break until 1980, when he released Hold Out, which was certified double platinum. Ironically, despite not quite matching the quality of previous albums, Hold Out was Jackson’s only number one album. Jackson Browne’s classic period was over.

He had a good run. It started with his 1972 debut album Jackson Browne, and continued with 1973s For Everyman, 1974s Late For The Sky, 1976s The Pretender and the 1977 live album Running On Empty. Of this quintet of albums, Late For The Sky which was recently rereleased by Inside Recordings, showcases one of the finest singer-songwriters of his generation at his very best.



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