OK, so I'm on a bit of a Jackson Browne kick right now. An album I was eagerly looking forward to, Kathleen Edwards' Asking For Flowers, remains sitting on the stereo cabinet, despite having been bought 4 days ago.
But I do this sort of thing every now and then, to the dismay of my family. I hear some variation of "for crying out loud, when are you going to listen to something other than ______ [fill in the blank]?" Soon, soon...be patient, I answer.
I don't know that I would argue that it's his best album, but forced to choose one, I'd probably say that Late for the Sky is my favorite Jackson Browne album. It wasn't the first Browne album I'd bought (that was The Pretender), but for some reason it spoke to me, and it dominated my turntable for much of the spring of 1977. That was my junior year of high school, which without question was the toughest year I ever had in school. It was also the spring I had my first serious girlfriend, which in the end turned out to be a terrible mistake, but seemed at the time the right thing to do. I was working 30 hours a week at McDonalds, which was good in the sense that I had more money than I knew what to do with, even after setting aside much of it for the good old college fund. But it was also bad, in the sense that 30 hours is a long time for a high school junior to be working, especially when you're taking Trigonometry and Chemistry - two subjects for which I had great distaste and no particular affinity. In short, I was a nervous wreck much of the time, and for some reason Late for the Sky seemed the perfect expression of that nervousness, as well as the perfect antidote.
For the most part, it's not a happy album, and that much you can tell from the song titles - "Before the Deluge," "Fountain of Sorrow"...and that was probably the key to why I liked it so much. In his Rolling Stone review, Stephen Holden said it best:
No contemporary male singer/songwriter has dealt so honestly with the vulnerability of romantic idealism and the pain of adjustment from youthful narcissism to adult survival as Browne has in this album. Late for the Sky is the autobiography of his young manhood.
Back in March 1977, youthful survival was enough for me. And the title track was played quite a lot in my room, and my brothers and parents probably thought much the same thing as do my wife and kids today...when are you going to start listening to something else?