Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Jackson Browne Hold Out 1980

It occurred to me recently that I write almost entirely about records I like. Well, I am writing mostly about records I own. And if I really don't like them, eventually I sell them or otherwise dispose of them.

But there's always a few in the stacks that even I wonder why I keep. Which brings us to Jackson Browne's Hold Out. Browne has made a few of my favorites (his eponymous debut, Late for the Sky, I'm Alive), but this one is everything wrong about the eighties.

You know you're in trouble when any record opens with a song titled Disco Apocalypse, and it's at least as bad as it sounds. That Girl Could Sing is almost good enough, but it has the same keyboard-driven sheen that hurts the rest of this unusually disastrous LP. Hold On Hold Out may be the worst song he ever wrote, but several others on this record might also qualify. The lyrical awkwardness Browne displays on this record is shocking after his first five records, which all contained great songs.

The attempt to make Browne sound contemporary in the eighties couldn't be wronger. Keyboards abound and the inorganic feel of this music serves Browne particularly badly. But mostly it is the songs. Awkward lyrics hung on melodies that lack, well, melody. About the only thing that might be worse than this would be the rest of Browne's eighties output, his politically charged (but melodically challenged) Lawyers In Love 1983, Lives In The Balance 1986, and World In Motion 1989.

But this one deserves it's place as one terrible Jackson Browne record. The irony is that this was Browne's only record to chart at #1, but that is only because it followed The Pretender 1976 and Running On Empty 1977.

Thankfully Browne recovered in 1993 when he released I'm Alive, an emotional record on the heels of his much-publicized ugly break-up with Daryl Hannah, and a return to form. He came through again in 2002 with The Naked Ride Home, and his recent Solo Acoustic series isn't bad either. All of his first five records are excellent.

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