Friday, July 23, 2010

391. The Pretender- Another album what's the guy's name...sorry I'll have to go look it up.

Album: The Pretender
Artist: Jackson Browne
Year: 1976
Genre: Folk

1. The Fuse
2. Your Bright Baby Blues
3. Linda Paloma
4. Here Come Those Tears Again
5. The Only Child
6. Daddy's Tune
7. Sleep Dark and Silent Gate
8. The Pretender

Here's another Jackson Browne album for you which means another casual meander into forgettable musical territory. Inoffensive songs with pleasant melodies, forgettable riffs and an attitude so laid back it needs to look up to see it's own feet. Rock and Roll without the urgency. Country without the swagger. Pop without the hooks. Folk without the whine. It's a wonder they managed to imprint this music onto vinyl because it failed to make any impression on me.

While I don't have much that's nice to say about Jackson Browne I'm certainly not brave enough to say anything nasty about him for fear that his friends will beat me up. Browne has a lot of friends. Some people allow one or two of their close colleagues to appear on their album but Browne appears to just fling open the doors and let whoever is passing drop on in. The Roll call for The Pretender contains some pretty impressive names: David Crosby and Graham Nash, Bonnie Raitt, Albert Lee, Lowell George, Bill Payne and Fred Tackett from Little Feat, Don Henly from the Eagles, John Hall (who is currently a Congressman in NY), Jim Gordon (sadly still serving time in prison) and Gary Coleman (presumably not the cute kid from Diffrent strokes who died recently). It's a big roll call but for some reason the talents of most of those people just don't add to the album. Rather than adding the sort of fiery licks that Raitt, Lee and George are capable of they get sucked into the middle of the road feeling that Browne is famous for. Just like his last album (For Everyman Number 457) it's not offensive or bland it's just a bit dull and nothing I can get excited by. Browne has a really nice voice but I think I'd rather hear it introducing music on a radio station than on the tracks themselves. He'd make a good DJ on a late night station somewhere playing tunes for shift workers, as long as they weren't his own songs which might have a tendency to make them nod off at their heavy machinery.

This is probably a good time to discuss two of Browne's collaborators who deserve a mention which they might not otherwise get. The first is Jim Gordon who plays drums on this album and deserves a paragraph of his own because he possibly appears on this list more than any other session musician. His drumming or organ playing is on Pet Sounds (The Beach Boys), The Notorious Byrd Brothers (The Byrds), Layla and other assorted love songs (Derek and the Dominoes), All things must pass (George Harrison), Imagine (John Lennon), 12 songs (Randy Newman), Back to Mono (Phil Spector) and Pretzel Logic (Steely Dan). He's can also be found on albums by BB King, John Lee Hooker, Frank Zappa, Barbara Striesand, the Muppets and dozens of others. You know you're a good drummer when your skills are called on by half the Beatles, two blues Legends, Frank Zappa and Jim Henson. Sadly Gordon would probably be present on a dozen more top 500 releases if he wasn't currently serving a prison sentence for murdering his own mother with a hammer back in 1983. He's due for parole but I'd be surprised if we see him on the streets anytime soon. Apparently Gordon destroyed a prison mess hall recently when he saw footage on television of Clapton performing an acoustic version of Layla (which Gordon co wrote) and had to be heavily sedated. He's been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and is not a well man.

The other person I'd like to mention is Lowell George who along with Fred Tackett and Bill Payne played in legendary Rock outfit Little Feat who I think deserve a place in this countdown. While their studio output might not be the greatest music ever committed to vinyl their live album Waiting for Columbus is a magnificent collection of fantastic tracks. They're nothing short of brilliant and this list would get a lot more respect from me if it had more love for the Feat.

Sorry I've forgotten who I'm meant to be reviewing. Whoever it is they're not nearly as memorable as Little Feat. Let's hope I never have to review them again.

Highlight: Dixie Chicken (although it's on Waiting for Columbus by Little Feat)
Lowlight: The end of side one when you realise it's not worth the effort turning over and you might as well just play the first side again

Influenced by: Easy Listening.
Influenced: Even Easier Listening.

Favourite Amazon Customer review Quote: "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."

-I love reviews that completely disagree with everything I've said.

So is Jackson Browne a Pretender to the throne of rock god or does he deserve his place? Let me know below.

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