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A welcome, if flawed, return.
on September 26, 2008
TIME THE CONQUEROR is a mixed-bag of delights; I won't sugarcoat it. The album is heavy on the political, a knack that I wish Browne had left back in the 80s. Granted, if anyone is going to do political music, let it be rock's poet laureate...but still...when he cries "Why is impeachment not on the table/We better stop them while we are able," we can't help but wince. I mean, Jackson, there are just four months left...it's almost over...
The political tunes (with one exception) aside, the rest of the album borders, occasionally, on brilliance. Take "Just Say Yeah," perhaps one of the best tunes to capture the innocence of young, unexpected love since...well...since Browne wrote about it a few decades ago. "You would think you would see love coming," he croons, "but of course you don't." Or the stellar "Live Nude Cabaret," a journey into one man's troubled desire that has an in-your-face opening that betrays the narrator's struggle: "I went to the Live Nude Cabaret/To see what I could see/And I saw the ladies dancing/And I guess that they saw me." "Giving That Heaven Away" is a tale of love and rock 'n roll, while "Going Down to Cuba" melds politics and the beach into a melodic, relaxing number, the ocasionally harsh political lyrics ("They might not know all the freedoms you and I know/But they do know what to do in a hurricane") sung with his tongue a little bit closer to his cheek.
Considering the beauty and brilliance to be found in these tunes, it's disappointing that so much of the album is political. It's all VERY well written--don't get me wrong. Jackson Browne has long been the songwriter's songwriter; I think everyone reading this review knows and appreciates that fact. But even the greatest songwriter can get lost within his lyric every now and then..."Off of Wonderland," for example, an otherwise stellar tune, idolizes the 60s just a bit too much ("If we could just believe in one another/As much as we believed in John"), and "Where Were You" gets lost within its groove, so much so that you forget the lyrics are about the devestation caused by Hurricane Katrina, and Browne is bemoaning "How strong will we ever really be? How long do we imagine we'll be free?"
TIME THE CONQUERER is a welcome return from Jackson Browne; it's nice to hear some new material again (though, personally, I hope he will continue with his SOLO ACOUSTIC series as well). There is a lot wrong with the world today, and it is natural for a songwriter as talented as Browne to write and sing about it. We just wish he wouldn't do it SO MUCH. When he's singing about the woes of our nation, he's good...but when he's singing about the woes of our hearts, he's brilliant. That's what makes TIME THE CONQUEROR so frustrating--there are moments of brilliance (and we know he's capable of whole albums of brilliance) obscured by something just this side of mediocrity. Jackson Browne is a true poet, and this is an album worth being added to your JB collection...but, if you are a beginner, then start elsewhere. Start, perhaps, at the beginning. It's as good a place as any, and better than some.