December 15, 2018

Album Review: Time the Conqueror

Jackson Browne is a folk-rock, singer-songwriter who has been going strong since 1972. Somehow, his name escapes recognition by our generation, while his songs are quite commonly known. For instance, who doesn’t know “Running On Empty” from the classic running montage in Forest Gump, and anyone who’s seen Fast Times at Ridgemont High will recognize “Somebody’s Baby,” which reoccurs throughout the film. He also co-wrote the song “Take It Easy,” with Eagles band member Glenn Fry. Suffice it to say, that Jackson Browne has a resume.

So here’s the deal with his new CD, Time the Conqueror: I like it. It’s Jackson Browne, and the man is so musically talented and lyrically gifted I don’t think it’s possible for him to make a bad CD. Having said that, it’s not his best. I’m going to lay out my disappointments with Time the Conqueror, and then let you know why it’s still great and why I can’t stop listening to it.

Since 1973, Jackson Browne has been releasing music both personal and political. His discography, fourteen albums (not including live or compilation discs), contains certain CDs which are more political than others. Time the Conqueror, is definitely partisan. And there is nothing wrong with that, only that I prefer his more sentimental stuff. My other grievance with this CD is that six years is too long in the making. For one, it really raised my expectations. Six years is a long time to perfect ten songs. The other problem with waiting six years to put out the album is that it’s a little outdated. He is criticizing Bush policies and talking about Hurricane Katrina, which is all still very relevant, but this CD is being released a little more than a month before a Presidential election. There is no mention of the economy or the current Presidential race. I guess what I’m saying is, he missed the zeitgeist.

Now, to the good stuff. Jackson Browne can actually write amazing political songs, and has, such as “For Everyman,” “Blood on the Wire,” and “I Am a Patriot.” See, most of Browne’s political songs are not comparable to Neil Young, although one song on this CD does ask the question, “Why isn’t impeachment on the table?” For the most part, sentimentality overwhelmingly pervades his activist tunes. Browne has mastered the art of implicitness, which Neil Young forgot some time ago. For instance, “Going Down to Cuba” is one of the best songs on this CD, and it is first and foremost a romanticism of Cuba, international friendships, and cultural mixing. The song exalts the pleasures of the Mojitos, music, and Cuban friends. The song also, explicitly, makes statements such as “Free people will insist on the freedom to travel.” So, like I said, the CD is political, but you aren’t paying for propaganda or to hear an old man rant. The lyrics are witty but, mostly, they are emotional. It doesn’t sound like a congressman put to music, it sounds like a human who feels the hurt of inhumanities and, having no podium on which to speak, stands on his heart and sings.

And what songs! The harmonizing on Time the Conqueror is outstanding. If you were to strip away all of the music, this would be a fantastic a capella CD. Plus, if you are like me and prefer Browne’s politics-free, personal songs such as “The Pretender,” “These Days” and “Sky Blue and Black,” he put a couple of the type on this new release. Deep introspections and intricate looks at relationships, which sing the woeful longings and existential celebrations of human nature, can be found on Time the Conqueror same as they have been on previous albums. The title track, “Time the Conqueror,” as well as “Off of Wonderland,” “Live Nude Cabaret,” and “Just Say Yeah” all deliver deep pensive substance and beautiful human portraits.