Much is written about the success of a song, album or artist. Jackson Browne is certainly an artist who has had a lot written about him and enjoyed a lot of success over decades, with a strong body of work that has reached people at a world-wide level, that has sold in the...See more
Much is written about the success of a song, album or artist. Jackson Browne is certainly an artist who has had a lot written about him and enjoyed a lot of success over decades, with a strong body of work that has reached people at a world-wide level, that has sold in the millions. However, forgetting that (however impressive) the true assessment of his material, most certainly on this album, lies in the quality of the songs and their lyrical content. The front cover really sums up the essence of the album. Indeed, it is an album full of songs where doubt, fear, stress and depression meet positivity and hope for a better world. The front cover shows Browne crossing a road, surrounded by many other people in the same boat, seemingly unaware of each other. Yet the "walk" sign is flashing, meaning they are free to carry on their journey having had to wait for the traffic to clear. Whether this was the full intention when chosen for the cover I do not know, but it is very suitable for the songs contents. Also work noting is the back sleeve features a photo of a small child on a beach, without a care in the world. Deliberate or not, this too is suitable for the message of the albums songs. The first song "The Fuse" also has a very suitable opening with the first lyrics being "It''s coming from so far away, it''s hard to say for sure, if what I hear is music, or the wind through an open door..." and with that opening line, the albums lyrics begin to tell a story of life, that many of us (if not all) can relate to & an album many of us will feel a strong personal connection too in our own way based on experiences we have had in life. "The fuse" covers a lot of ground. Using an example of a actual fuse to describe time and the events throughout time, at both the level of an individuals personal life & society in general ("the fuse is burning, the earth is turning"). Personal struggles, disappointments, taking chances, poverty and world hunger, are just a few of the issues addressed in the song, and as a result comments on a high level to people in general. The next track "Your Bright Baby Blues" has a more personal feel to the listener, but is certainly no less meaningful than it''s predecessor. The song opens with the singer sitting by the highway watching everyone travel as fast as they can, saying "I guess they got a lot to do" before hoping God can "let him slide" as he has travelled the highway fast himself many times but can never get away from himself, proclaiming he is constantly hoping he is "just a day a way, from where I wanna be". The singer feels unable to escape his hurt, pain, problems and for "that feeling of peace" turns to comfort, though ultimately what is comforting him is doing him no good in the long run (pills of drugs in this song, though this could be any form really, be it drinking, smoking, comfort eating, or anything else). The lyrics continue "I felt like I was flying like a bird, so far above my sorrows, but when I looked down I was standing on my knees... now I need someone to help me, please." His pleas for help to someone continue until the songs end. The third track "Linda Paloma" turns out to be my least favourite track on the album. I know I am not alone in this. I also know many love it. Personally, I think it is a good song, but just not up there with the rest of this album. Put it elsewhere, and it would probably work better. Indeed its tale of lost love is one that many can connect with, but nothing that hasn''t been done before by a hundred other artists. You can not say that about the other tracks on this album. The fourth cut "Here Come Those Tears Again", while along a similar line, takes the ante back up to the first two cuts (and is continued for the remainder of this album). However, what makes this song different is that while this could be about a love affair, it could also be applied to relationships with a spouse or close friend. The singer feels he is just getting over his hurt and pain, but then when he thinks he is over the worst, he suddenly finds himself back to square one, hurt, disappointed and depressed about the failure of the relationship in question. The lyrics confirm "some other time... when I''m strong and feeling fine... when I can look at you without crying, you might look like a friend of mine" but for now he can not feel able to re-open his heart to the person who broke it into pieces. The 5th track on the CD (or for those vinyl and cassette listeners, track 1 on side 2) is another great song called "The Only Child" which tackles greed, selfishness, mistakes, compassion and forgiveness (for yourself, as well as others). The song pleads its listener to take care of their mother, brother and each other. However, it does not make light of anyone''s let downs, proclaiming "There are those who feel themselves exiled, on who the fortune has never smiled, and upon whose lives the heartaches have been piled." Ultimately, the song tells us to take care of each other the very best we can, and to hold on to those who love us. Next is "Daddy''s Tune" and what a tune! The singer starts talking to his father, recalling his know-it-all youth and refusal to take his fathers advice seriously, instead listening to the words of his just as immature peers back in the day. The singer goes on to admit to his Dad "the things you said are so much clearer now". Wishing he could turn back time, though it is obvious such a desire can never be granted. I love the line "Make room for my 45s, along beside your 78s..." this would sound a little dated to todays audiences, but not for the next line "nothing survives, but the way we live our lives" which means the reference before it actually hits the nail on the head even more decades after the songs composition (jokingly, I will often sing "make room for my MP3''s, along beside your CD''s" if I am singing along to this). Sleeps Dark & Silent Gate" is a true gem. It opens with the singer laying awake at night, wondering where all the years he has ahead will take him. We then go though on a journey of love gone wrong, friends lost and countless disappointments. The singer states he tried so hard to make his love work out and questions what does love have to do with being happy, reflecting the times he and his loved one were happiest were the times they never tried to be. The song ends full circle, years later, laying awake in bed, with the singer wondering where all the years have gone. The final cut is the title track "The Pretender" one of the albums longest cuts, clocking in at about six minutes. The song opens with the singer getting up, getting ready, packing his lunch and going to work, before returning home ready to do it again tomorrow. Again lost love comes into the picture, as does the now longing for a true lasting love and "the struggle for the legal tender". When I was a small child, I used to think he was literally referring to former soldiers when he sang about "the veterans dreaming of the fight, fast asleep at the traffic light..." Now, of course, I know it is symbolic, and it could be referring to any one of us, traveling home from our job, about our own struggles with love, life, money, careers, and other personal issues. The song concludes the pretender (anyone of us) accepts his dreams have likely begun and ended, and the ship bearing many of these dreams "sails out of sight". However, the pretender has not given up and will be "a happy idiot" and continue to live life the best he (or she) can. The song ends asking us to say a prayer for the pretender (ourselves). Yes, this album has a lot of dark moments. It can be a very emotional album to listen to, and will certainly remind many (as it does me) of our misfortunes, mistakes, disappointments and times we wished or should have known better. Yet, in spite of all this, there is still a strong undercurrent of positivity on this album that comes to the fore by its conclusion. It is an album I for one (and I am sure many others) will continue to love and return too forevermore.