Thursday, May 13, 2010
Jackson and David's "Strange" Triumph
“Love is Strange,” the album just released by Jackson Browne and David Lindley, is the third in a series of live acoustic albums that Browne has released since 2005 (following “Solo Acoustic Vol. 1” and “Solo Acoustic Vol. 2”). Like its predecessors, the new release is a triumph of no small proportions. Viewed as a whole, the three albums paint a picture of an artist who is totally at peace with his past glories, one who has discovered a means by which to breathe new life into his substantial body of past work.
In fact, I don’t think it’s going too far to say that Browne has managed to reinvent himself as an artist. It’s not reinvention in the Bob Dylan sense, where you sometimes listen to a song in concert and struggle to figure out exactly what song you’re hearing. Rather, it’s reinvention in the emotional sense. Browne’s songs – many of which he’s been singing for close to four decades now – have always had a strong emotional component, but the benefit of life experience now allows him to instill into them an emotional heft and depth that makes it sound as if he is singing them for the very first time. It’s really quite remarkable.
The main difference between “Love is Strange” and its predecessors is the addition of extra musicians – most notably, of course, David Lindley. Lindley and Browne haven’t recorded together on a regular basis for a very long time, but as every long-time fan knows, there was a time when Lindley was a staple – the staple – of Browne’s touring band. A brilliant musician and instrumentalist, he will probably always be known best for his falsetto contributions to “Stay” on the magnificent “Running on Empty” – probably Browne’s best, and best known, album. Here, he plays a variety of instruments, including Hawaiian guitar, fiddle, bouzuki, oud, and guitar. He also sings a couple of his best known songs, the immortal “Mercury Blues” and “El Rayo X” (featuring a wonderful falsetto vocal), and makes a memorable partner to Browne on the old Mickey and Sylvia chestnut, “Love is Strange.”
Also featured are a number of Spanish musicians, including percussionist Tino di Geraldo (in fact, the album is billed “en vivo con Tino,” vocalist Kiko Veneno (who sings “Tu Tranquilo,” which Browne introduces as “Kiko’s version of The Eagles’ “Take it Easy.”), who turns in a beautiful performance (in a beautiful Spanish accent) of Browne’s “These Days,” and Charlie Cepeda (guitar), Javier Mas (archeleud), and Carlos Nunez (whistle). Even though this is a group of musicians that doesn’t play together often (or hardly at all), their camaraderie is evident, and contributes to the album’s success.
The two-disc set is full of highlights – “I’m Alive,” “Looking East,” “Sit Down Servant,” “Your Bright Baby Blues,” “Running on Empty” – but for now, I’d have to say my favorite is “Late for the Sky,” a great performance of one of Browne’s greatest songs. Truth be told, the album is one long highlight – evidence that experience and advancing age doesn’t have to put a halt on creativity.