[138] Jackson Browne – Late For The Sky

27 Nov

The initial notes of this album capture my heart – huge warm piano and twangy guitar quickly followed by velvet vocals subtly understated in the mix – but it turns out this is only the start of my journey.


Late For The Sky is far from the slam dunk, the instant favorite that the opening moments suggested.  My relationship with this fascinating album from the year of my birth is a more complex and ultimately more satisfying tale.

On superficial first blush I am wondering where this recording was in my formative years, imagining an alternate reality where I spent my teen years memorizing Jackson Browne lyrics instead of Billy Joel to teach me how and what to feel.

Quickly I step away from trying to decipher meaning and I’m caught up in the close harmonies, the unconventional melodies, hearing the Eagles, hearing James Taylor.  Which is when it all starts to sour . . .

With all of these touchstones – and without a lifelong connection to this voice, these words, these tunes – I find myself wanting to hear the songs and albums that are actually familiar, not mere shadows.

I want to sing along and find myself unable.

I am saddened and frustrated – a mindset not at all at odds with the sound of Browne’s creations on Late For The Sky – so I leave this album alone for a time to revisit old friends; Hotel California, Storm Front and Sweet Baby Jane.

That detour out of my system, I find myself back listening to Browne at odd moments, find myself with unexpected earworm snippets, and I realize that this album has touched me after all.  I am still not singing along, still don’t have a concrete handle on the story arcs of song or album, but I no longer seem to need these.

The mood paintings – perfectly crafted, soulful and sublime – touch me viscerally rather than intellectually which is all the more satisfying for being so surprising.  I love story songs, and expected to fall in love with this facet of Browne’s craft, but instead it is the production and performance which moves me and keeps me coming back to this album.

This blog has talked before about the limitations of Classic Rock radio.  That there does not seem to be a place for anything from Late For The Sky is as damning an argument as any.

Next Week:  Anton Bruckner – Symphony No. 7 in E

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 138 = 9%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (20 of 138 = 14%)
Recommend? Yes. (114 of 138 = 83%)

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