Monday, May 19, 2014

Looking Into You A Jackson Browne Tribute Various Artists 2014

Jackson Browne wrote and performed these songs the first time. This time, someone else gets a chance. That's the usual trip on these tribute projects, and it''s the same here. So, how does this one stack up, given the monumental bias against these things?

Only so well. If you generally think that these tribute records are a sorry excuse for the originals, you'll get no argument here. There are, of course, some fantastic versions of a great songwriter's repertoire. There has to be. So we can nit-pick the lesser works, or we can fall head over heals for the fine renditions. Score-wise, this set suffers, and there's more misses than hits, but the high points are probably enough for the faithful.

The big moments are: Don Henley's opening These Days, Indigo Girls' Fountain Of Sorrow, Springsteen's Linda Paloma, Ben Harper's Jamaica Say You Will, And Lucinda Williams' The Pretender. After that, there's eighteen more songs on the two-CD set. How many of those are needed?

I've been waiting for this release. I wanted it to be great. Too many stripped-bare versions soften the impact, and even the one Browne rocker, Running On Empty, gets slowed down for the version here. He may be the last great singer-songwriter, but come on, let's give him some energy. There are too many artists that just do a simple cover of Browne's original, and not enough chances taken. And then when someone has the moxie to reinterpret one of the songs, the result is again disappointing.

There are bright spots. Karla Bonoff puts out a fine Something Fine, and Venice delivers a breathtaking For A Dancer. Shawn Colvin's Call It A Loan is lovely. It's hard not to like Eliza Gilkyson's Before The Deluge, but is it even the equal of Browne's original? Not really.

Are there enough good ones to make it worth it? Not this time.

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