Release Date: Apr 1, 2014
Record label: Music Road Records
With dozens of tribute albums floating around, often feting the work of lesser songwriters, it’s astonishing that no one has yet paid respect to Jackson Browne, one of folk/rock’s most talented, respected and gifted artists. Thankfully this two disc package does a magnificent job where many attempts for other well-musicians come up woefully short. That’s partially because the acts are particularly well chosen.
With him being a sexagenarian who has been as influential as he has throughout the music industry, it’s surprising that a tribute album hasn’t been compiled in Jackson Browne’s honor before 2014. On 23 songs spread across two CDs, luminaries such as Don Henley, Bruce Hornsby, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Springsteen, the Indigo Girls, Keb Mo, Lyle Lovett and many more adorn this tribute album. Starting the collection with Don Henley’s take on “These Days” makes sense.
Let’s be frank. Tribute albums are almost always a bad idea. If the original artist does a good job with the material, the cover versions will almost always be inferior. The most one can hope for is that the new renditions will have something different to offer, not necessarily something better ….
In the late 1960s, Jackson Browne came screaming out of the gate with a notebook full of astonishingly wise, beautiful songs that would soon come to define the SoCal singer-songwriter thing. A sensitive, incisive observer, Browne was also possessed of a soaring voice and unflinching honesty; his was (and remains) a rare talent. Indeed, his first run of five records — Saturate Before Using, For Everyman, Late For The Sky, The Pretender and Running on Empty — ranks among the very greatest opening salvos of any artist you can name.That his star has faded in the ensuing decades (despite the fact that he's continued to produce worthy, if not essential, records) should not diminish our admiration for his extraordinary arrival.
Split fairly neatly between his contemporaries and those who followed in his footsteps, Looking into You: A Tribute to Jackson Browne is a generous tribute to the quintessential singer/songwriter, running 23 songs over the course of two CDs. In all that space, the producers don't find much room for Browne's lighter moments -- his new wave and soft rock flirtations of the early '80s are absent, there's no "Somebody's Baby" or "Tender Is the Night," nor is the road warrior of Running on Empty emphasized, although Texan homebody Bob Schneider sings that album's title track -- and the predilection for ruminative introspection eventually gets a little heavy, but on a track-by-track basis this collection is very good. Perhaps Browne's contemporaries fare the best -- Bonnie Raitt and David Lindley team for a fine "Everywhere I Go," J.
Jackson Browne's first three LPs alone, which source half this illuminating double-CD covers set, are singer-songwriter urtexts. Don Henley offers a no-frills take on "These Days," Lucinda Williams does a raggedly existential "The Pretender" and Bruce Springsteen turns in a handsome three-tequilas-in "Linda Paloma" with Patti Scialfa. Not every performance is memorable, and the absence of younger fans is a missed opportunity – where's Conor Oberst? But the way that Browne's songs braid verbose emotions with melody remains magical.
Various Artists“Looking Into You: A Tribute to Jackson Browne”(Music Road Records)4 Stars Sorrow has a sound, and no one has mastered it like Jackson Browne. His classic songs, many written when he was incredibly young and impossibly handsome, let their melodies descend slowly, moving down the scale with the tone of mourning, the focus of contemplation and the beauty of revelation. Yet, as famous as odes like “These Days” or “Jamaica Say You Will” may be, Browne never got the tribute-disc treatment he has long deserved — until now.
If anyone had any doubts about the durability of Jackson Browne’s canon, this two-disc tribute, featuring many of his friends and peers, should put them to rest. Unfortunately, the longtime troubadour of existential restlessness and uncertainty gets overly reverential treatments here from Don Henley, Lucinda Williams, and Bonnie Raitt, among many others. The artists take few chances and the choice of interpreters is much too narrow.