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Pretender

4.6 out of 5 stars 97 customer reviews

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The Pretender
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Audio CD, October 25, 1990
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

A songwriting prodigy since his teens, Jackson Browne had already reached a zenith in confessional writing with 1974's Late for the Sky, a song cycle of his guitar and piano based anthems, reveries, and rockers, distilling themes of disillusionment, apocalypse, friendship, and fragile romances. Teaming with Bruce Springsteen's producer, Jon Landau, Browne himself clearly sought to up the ante with more epic settings, while Landau worked on pumping up the star's vocal attack. But personal tragedy, in the suicide of his partner and mother of his young son, cast an unplanned shadow across these songs, giving The Pretender a darker, heartbroken edge and an authentic, scarred toughness. Fatherhood, mortality, and resignation inform brilliant songs like "Your Bright Baby Blues" (featuring Lowell George's plangent slide guitar and vocal counterpoint), "Here Come Those Tears Again" (with Bonnie Raitt), and the prayerful, desolate "Sleep's Dark and Silent Gate," but it's the title tune that remains the haunting highlight

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A songwriting prodigy since his teens, Jackson Browne had already reached a zenith in confessional writing with 1974's Late for the Sky, a song cycle of his guitar and piano based anthems, reveries, and rockers, distilling themes of disillusionment, apocalypse, friendship, and fragile romances. Teaming with Bruce Springsteen's producer, Jon Landau, Browne himself clearly sought to up the ante with more epic settings, while Landau worked on pumping up the star's vocal attack. But personal tragedy, in the suicide of his partner and mother of his young son, cast an unplanned shadow across these songs, giving The Pretender a darker, heartbroken edge and an authentic, scarred toughness. Fatherhood, mortality, and resignation inform brilliant songs like "Your Bright Baby Blues" (featuring Lowell George's plangent slide guitar and vocal counterpoint), "Here Come Those Tears Again" (with Bonnie Raitt), and the prayerful, desolate "Sleep's Dark and Silent Gate," but it's the title tune that remains the haunting highlight. --Sam Sutherland
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 25, 1990)
  • Original Release Date: 1976
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Elektra / Wea
  • ASIN: B000002GVW
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,196 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
I cannot say enough about the importance of this album. The lowest point in Jackson Browne's life (his wife's suicide) produced the most harrowing and effectual songs of his carrer. 'The Pretender' and 'Here Come Those Tears Again' are the most striking songs about love, life and everything in-between. From the first moments of this album (The Fuse) to the final fading of 'The Pretender', the only thing you want from this album is more of it. As an 'only child', I can hear my father speaking to me through the magic of this song. The heartbreak, remorse and heartfelt passion in 'Daddy's Tune' and 'Sleeps Dark and Silent Gate' justly prepare you for the anthem title track. Jackson Browne's vocals, guitar and piano accompaniment blend so beautifully on this album that you long for more of the creative talent that produced this classic. It is such a leap from 'Late for the Sky' and such a more cohesive album than 'Running on Empty.'
Unquestionably his finest effort.
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Format: Audio CD
Anyone owning the original album could tell by the interesting dichotomy represented in the photography on the front and back covers recognized this one was gong to be a stunner, especially since Jackson Browne at the time was extremely focused on his rapidly growing son, who was busy transforming himself from toddling first steps to rambunctious childhood under his father's steady inquisitive gaze. The inclusion of a stunning translation of poet Pablo Neruda's lovely "Brown And Agile Child" was superimposed on a striking photo of the boy striding innocently out of the surf. All that said, this is another in the string of Browne albums examining the world according to Jackson, his long and endlessly interesting observations of his own feelings, motivations, and thoughts as well as his meaningful entanglements with others.
Right out of the batter's box comes "The Fuse", setting a thoughtful and reflective tone of a contemplative Browne ready to go on, apparently after the devastation of his wife's unexpected suicide. As Browne concludes, life must go on. This is followed by "Your Bright Baby Blues", a diverting look at contemplation, drug use, the games people play with themselves, and the difficulty of really coming to terms with yourself. Throughout the song cycle, Browne keeps returning to the idea that one must find the unique answers that make life worthwhile for oneself, attempting to live life for one's own goals and sense of purpose, and he again and again rejects the notion of copping out by accepting the easy and simplistic compromises others have settled for.
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Format: Audio CD
The Pretender is the best of Jackson Browne's recordings which is similar to saying that Hamlet is the best of Shakespeare's work. And the comparison to Shakespeare is not accidental. JB has long been known as a master of the lyric and has always managed to put together musicians and vocalists that complement his own considerable talent. Lowell George and Bonnie Raitt appear on this record and their contributions shine brightly as against the background of what they were to become.
The Pretender, as a song, is widely recognized as a masterpiece and that is enough said about that tune. Your Bright Baby Blues, Here Come Those Tears Again, Daddy's Tune, and Sleep's Dark and Silent Gate are in the same category of masterworks, but less widely heard.
At first and even tenth listening, Linda Paloma does not seem to fit with the rest of the album, but after years of reflection I have concluded that there is no other place in the work of Jackson Browne that the song would fit. And fit it does! I have owned three lp's of The Pretender, each having been repaced with a new record as the ravages of time took its toll on the vinyl. My one and only copy of the CD has, of course, resisted wear and tear and remains pristine. Nonetheless, the old records get played once in a while as less than perfect sound was the norm when The Pretender was first heard and a less than perfect world is the subject of the record.
If I were to be required to choose only five record to take with me to a desert island this would be first on my list and I'd take two copies just in case a hurricane were to take one out to sea.
The Pretender is a melancholy record. It conveys what was and what could have been but will never be.
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Format: Audio CD
What can you possibly do after your partner commits suicide? Jackson Browne channelled his grief, following the suicide of his wife, into this magnificent record. Many of America's top musicians came to help him out: Little Feat's Lowell George, Bill Payne and Fred Tackett, Springsteen's Roy Bittan, Orleans' John Hall, and Steely Dan's Jeff Porcaro.
The result: a wonderful mixture of the introspective and the harrowing. I have owned this album as an LP since its release, and always found it a great comfort at times of loss. Musically the best tracks are the four that start and end sides 1 and 2 of the LP: 'The Fuse', 'Here Comes Those Tears', 'The Only Child' and 'The Pretender'. But there is not a single dud on the album. As it turned out, the album was very FM-friendly.
I'm not usually into lyrics, but this is one of the very few albums that got through to me. Cathartic without ever slipping into self-pity.
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