February 23, 1996 in Seven

Running On Full Jackson Browne Comes To Spokane Promoting His New, And Possibly Best, Album ‘Looking East’

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The word “comeback” doesn’t quite fit for Jackson Browne, 47, since he never actually disappeared from the music scene.

However, you might say he was in a slump, compared to his big successes of the ‘70s (“Running on Empty,” “The Load Out/Stay”). His ‘80s albums became increasingly strident and political, and his 1993 album “I’m Alive” was too inward-looking to connect with his audience.

Now, he’s launching a huge tour, which hits the Spokane Opera House on Saturday, in support of his new album, “Looking East.” Critics are already calling it the best Jackson Browne album in a long time.

Entertainment Weekly: “Beneath that preternaturally pretty exterior, we’re finding, is a core of stubborn creativity… In his last album, he had to tell us he was alive; here, he proves it. Rating: A-minus.”

New York Times: “Having made detours through rock bombast and outspoken political protest, Browne seems to have recovered the reflective songwriting voice that began deserting him 20 years ago when arena stardom beckoned.”

Los Angeles Daily News: “Middle age apparently has settled well on Browne, and it shows on his 11th and latest release. The 10-song collection is Browne’s most assertive disc in years, lyrically and musically, and perhaps part of the reason is the collaborative efforts of his spunky band, which has helped its leader recall the importance of the rhythm groove.”

Browne himself is in full agreement with that assessment of his band.

“It’s probably my favorite band I’ve ever played with,” said Browne, contacted by phone in California. “They’re very fertile creative ground for me.”

That same “spunky band” will be on stage with him Saturday night.

The core of that band is organist Jeffrey Young, bassist Kevin McCormack, drummer Mauricio Lewak, percussionist Luis Conte and guitarist Mark Goldenberg.

Browne likens them all to chefs, dishing out the entrees in some shiny creative kitchen.

“It’s like cooking,” said Browne. “It’s like, ‘Oh, I think this would be better if we left the organ out of this part, and make it totally empty at this part.’ It’s like seven people cooking a giant souffle, or a paella or something.”

On the album, a guest chef is occasionally called for. On selected cuts, Browne brings in Bonnie Raitt, Ry Cooder, David Lindley, Waddy Wachtel, Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell (the latter two best known as part of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers).

Even with all of these chefs, the menu remains unmistakably Browne’s. His lyrical social commentary is as cutting as ever on one song, “Information Wars,” which is a dizzying tirade against TV commercialism (complete with jingles). At one point, Browne says that even television news has become packaged entertainment.

” ‘Information Wars’ transcends the (protest) genre because it doesn’t merely editorialize; it illustrates the uneasy symbiosis between pop music and advertising,” writes Stephen Holden of the New York Times.

That song probably won’t be the one you hear most often on the radio. The first single is “Some Bridges,” which almost has a jaunty Motown feel. Browne said he has already heard it on L.A. radio; he was surprisingly thrilled by this, for a guy whose earlier songs are staples of “classic rock” formats.

“The other day, I heard myself, and it was really great,” said Browne. “It was my new song, on the AAA format (adult album alternative). They do really great programming on that format. They play everything.”

He says he listens to all kinds of radio stations (except classic rock), and the ones he likes the most are AAA stations and, no surprise, National Public Radio.

Opening the show will be Vonda Shepard, one of Browne’s backup singers who also has her own album out, “It’s Good, Eve.”

“She’s a good friend, and a really fine songwriter,” said Browne.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

MEMO: Two sidebars appeared with the story: 1. JACKSON BROWNE Location and time: Opera House; Saturday, 8 p.m. Tickets: $35, $25 and $22.50

2. HIGHLIGHTED HITS Here are a few of Jackson Browne’s best-known songs: 1972 Rock Me on the Water 1972 Doctor My Eyes 1973 Take It Easy 1974 For a Dancer 1974 Before the Deluge 1976 The Pretender 1978 Running on Empty 1978 The Load Out/Stay 1980 Boulevard 1982 Somebody’s Baby 1983 Lawyers in Love 1983 Tender is the Night 1986 Lives in the Balance 1986 For America

Two sidebars appeared with the story: 1. JACKSON BROWNE Location and time: Opera House; Saturday, 8 p.m. Tickets: $35, $25 and $22.50

2. HIGHLIGHTED HITS Here are a few of Jackson Browne’s best-known songs: 1972 Rock Me on the Water 1972 Doctor My Eyes 1973 Take It Easy 1974 For a Dancer 1974 Before the Deluge 1976 The Pretender 1978 Running on Empty 1978 The Load Out/Stay 1980 Boulevard 1982 Somebody’s Baby 1983 Lawyers in Love 1983 Tender is the Night 1986 Lives in the Balance 1986 For America

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