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Pop - Released December 6, 1977 | Rhino - Elektra

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Pop - Released August 16, 2019 | Rhino - Elektra

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Instrumental and vocal firepower, the considerable ears of engineer Greg Ladanyi, and some magical mixing at the Sound Factory in Hollywood, combined to create the best known album of Jackson Browne's long career, reissued here in gloriously detailed and dynamically thrilling high resolution sound. Russ Kunkel's drum break at the climatic shift of the title track. David Lindley's mournful fiddle in "The Road." Rosemary Butler's soaring vocal solo in "Stay." A song list heavy with covers. Jackson Browne on piano. An extraordinary example of utterly masterful sequencing. Sometimes a band is in such a groove that it demands to be captured live. But making a live album that reflects being on the road, recorded literally on the road? Cutting tracks in a Holiday Inn room in Edwardsville, IL, or on a moving tour bus, complete with grinding gears? Even today with all the digital advances in home recording gear, it still seems like a disaster in the making. In addition, none of the material had ever appeared on a Browne studio record. A shambling cover of Rev. Gary Davis's "Cocaine" and a rendition of Maurice Williams' (The Zodiacs) "Stay"—with David Lindley memorably singing the falsetto part—are both knockouts. "You Love the Thunder," recorded live in Holmdel, NJ, is a classic Jackson Browne love song, one of the last before he turned to political themes. And then there’s the album's heart: the epic Lowell George/Browne/Valerie Carter collaboration, "Love Needs a Heart." It's the one tune worth having the entire record for: "Love needs a heart/And I need to find/If love needs a heart like mine." As this fresh remastering proves again, Browne and his merry band of SoCal pros better known as The Section drew a masterpiece out of the hat with Running on Empty. © Robert Baird / Qobuz
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Pop - Released April 1, 2014 | Rhino - Elektra

Jackson Browne long displayed an aversion to hits collections, releasing his first one 25 years after his debut album. That 1997 disc, entitled Next Voice You Hear: The Best of Jackson Browne, had many hits, yet it was also missing many essential songs, leaving an opening for a collection that had all of Browne's hits and signature songs in one place. Released seven years later, Rhino/Elektra's double-disc The Very Best of Jackson Browne is more or less that collection. Produced by Jackson Browne and featuring 32 songs, this set has all the major songs -- "Doctor My Eyes," "These Days," "Late for the Sky," "The Pretender," "Fountain of Sorrow," "Redneck Friend," "Running on Empty," "Somebody's Baby" -- including songs missing on Next Voice You Hear, such as "Jamaica Say You Will," "Rock Me on the Water," "Take It Easy," "Before the Deluge," "The Load-Out," "Stay," and "Boulevard." However, there are a handful of smaller hits missing -- including "That Girl Could Sing," "Cut It Away," "For a Rocker," "For America," "Chasing You Into the Night," "World in Motion," and "Call It a Loan," the latter of which was on the previous compilation -- which may frustrate some listeners. Nevertheless, this is not a major problem since the collection does contain the great majority of Browne's best and best-known material in an attractive, engaging fashion (although the cardboard packaging may be a bit too flimsy to weather heavy, repeated listening), and for listeners who want a comprehensive overview without purchasing individual albums, this suits the bill nicely. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop - Released October 25, 1990 | Rhino - Elektra

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Pop - Released August 30, 1977 | Elektra Asylum

On The Pretender, Jackson Browne took a step back from the precipice so well defined on his first three albums, but doing so didn't seem to make him feel any better. Employing a real producer, Jon Landau, for the first time, Browne made what sounded like a real contemporary rock record, but this made his songs less effective; the ersatz Mexican arrangement of "Linda Paloma" and the bouncy second half of "Daddy's Tune," with its horn charts and guitar solo, undercut the lyrics. The man who had delved so deeply into life's abyss on his earlier albums was in search of escape this time around, whether by crying ("Here Come Those Tears Again"), sleeping ("Sleep's Dark and Silent Gate"), or making peace with estranged love ones ("The Only Child," "Daddy's Tune"). None of it worked, however, and when Browne came to the final track -- traditionally the place on his albums where he summed up his current philosophical stance -- he delivered "The Pretender," a cynical, sarcastic treatise on moneygrubbing and the shallow life of the suburbs. Primarily inner-directed, the song's defeatist tone demands rejection, but it is also a quintessential statement of its time, the post-Watergate '70s; dire as that might be, you had to admire that kind of honesty, even as it made you wince. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Pop - Released December 28, 1971 | Asylum

One of the reasons that Jackson Browne's first album is among the most auspicious debuts in pop music history is that it doesn't sound like a debut. Although only 23, Browne had kicked around the music business for several years, writing and performing as a member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and as Nico's backup guitarist, among other gigs, while many artists recorded his material. So, if this doesn't sound like someone's first batch of songs, it's not. Browne had developed an unusual use of language, studiedly casual yet full of striking imagery, and a post-apocalyptic viewpoint to go with it. He sang with a calm certainty over spare, discretely placed backup -- piano, acoustic guitar, bass, drums, congas, violin, harmony vocals -- that highlighted the songs and always seemed about to disappear. In song after song, Browne described the world as a desert in need of moisture, and this wet/dry dichotomy carried over into much of the imagery. In "Doctor My Eyes," the album's most propulsive song and a Top Ten hit, he sang, "Doctor, my eyes/Cannot see the sky/Is this the prize/For having learned how not to cry?" If Browne's outlook was cautious, its expression was original. His conditional optimism seemed to reflect hard experience, and in the early '70s, the aftermath of the '60s, a lot of his listeners shared that perspective. Like any great artist, Browne articulated the tenor of his times. But the album has long since come to seem a timeless collection of reflective ballads touching on still-difficult subjects -- suicide (explicitly), depression and drug use (probably), spiritual uncertainty and desperate hope -- all in calm, reasoned tones, and all with an amazingly eloquent sense of language. Jackson Browne's greater triumph is that, having perfectly expressed its times, it transcended those times as well. (The album features a cover depicting Browne's face on a water bag -- an appropriate reference to its desert/water imagery -- containing the words "saturate before using." Inevitably, many people began to refer to the self-titled album by that phrase, and when it was released on CD, it nearly became official -- both the disc and the spine of the jewel box read Saturate Before Using.) ~ William Ruhlmann
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Rock - Released October 3, 2014 | Inside Recordings

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Rock - Released May 13, 2008 | Inside Recordings

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Pop - Released May 31, 2004 | Rhino - Elektra

Jackson Browne faced the nearly insurmountable task of following a masterpiece in making his second album. Having cherry-picked years of songwriting the first time around, he turned to some of his secondary older material, which was still better than most people's best and, ironically, more accessible -- notably such songs as "These Days," which had been covered six times already, dating back to Nico's Chelsea Girl album in 1967, and "Take It Easy," a co-composition with the Eagles' Glenn Frey that had been a Top 40 hit for the group in 1972. Browne unsuccessfully looked for another hit single with the up-tempo "Red Neck Friend," reminisced about meeting his wife and starting a family in the coy "Ready or Not," and, at the end, finally came up with a new song to rank with those on the first album in the philosophical title track, which reportedly was his more positive reply to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's "Wooden Ships." (David Crosby sang harmony.) Musically, the album was still restrained, but not as austere as Jackson Browne, as the singer had hooked up with multi-instrumentalist David Lindley, who would introduce interesting textures to his music on a variety of stringed instruments for the next several years. All of which is to say that For Everyman was a less consistent collection than Browne's debut album. But Browne's songwriting ability remained impressive. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Pop - Released October 11, 2005 | Inside Recordings

The opening 28 seconds of Jackson Browne's Solo Acoustic, Vol. 1 are massive crowd applause. Even its volume level gets boosted the way it did on live albums from the 1970s. Guess he wants you to know he still matters to people -- and it's totally unnecessary. The music here speaks for itself. Whether or not one appreciates Browne's recorded catalog is immaterial; his gift as a songwriter is enigmatic, unassailable, and singular. There are 12 songs here from throughout Browne's career, ranging from "These Days" and "For Everyman" to "Lives in the Balance" and "Looking East" and all points in between. There are numerous spoken and instrumental intros to the material; Browne's a fine and comfortable communicator when it comes to sitting naked and alone in front of an audience, though sometimes his humor is cynical and borders on bitter. The versions of "For a Dancer" and "The Pretender" are deeply moving as are "These Days" and "Too Many Angels." It would be easy to live without all the intros, as they merely point toward Browne and what he has accomplished, when the songs so easily speak for themselves and for him. Perhaps on volume two he'll let that happen. Despite his many asides, this is a fine and necessary addition to Browne's catalog. Still one has to wonder, with the double-disc Rhino set that appeared earlier in 2005 and these live retrospectives, when there will be new material coming from a songwriter who has had something to say that mattered in each of the last four decades. Let's hope it's soon. ~ Thom Jurek
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Pop - Released January 1, 1997 | Elektra Records

Theoretically, assembling a Jackson Browne greatest-hits collection would be easy, but The Next Voice You Hear: The Best of Jackson Browne proves that isn't necessarily the case. Boasting 13 tracks, plus two new songs, The Next Voice You Hear contains some of Browne's biggest hits -- "Doctor My Eyes," "Running on Empty," "Somebody's Baby," "Tender Is the Night" -- but it leaves just as many off, including "Rock Me on the Water," "Here Come Those Tears Again," "Stay," "Boulevard," "Lawyers in Love," and "For America." Of course, singles only told half the story with Browne, and many of his greatest songs were only available as album tracks. Therefore, it makes sense that album cuts like "These Days," "Late for Sky," and "The Pretender" are present, but there are still a number of equally good, if not better, cuts that are left off. As a result, The Next Voice You Hear is merely adequate for casual Browne fans, but it's nowhere near definitive. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop - Released October 25, 1990 | Rhino - Elektra

On his third album, Jackson Browne returned to the themes of his debut record (love, loss, identity, apocalypse) and, amazingly, delved even deeper into them. "For a Dancer," a meditation on death like the first album's "Song for Adam," is a more eloquent eulogy; "Farther On" extends the "moving on" point of "Looking Into You"; "Before the Deluge" is a glimpse beyond the apocalypse evoked on "My Opening Farewell" and the second album's "For Everyman." If Browne had seemed to question everything in his first records, here he even questioned himself. "For me some words come easy, but I know that they don't mean that much," he sang on the opening track, "Late for the Sky," and added in "Farther On," "I'm not sure what I'm trying to say." Yet his seeming uncertainty and self-doubt reflected the size and complexity of the problems he was addressing in these songs, and few had ever explored such territory, much less mapped it so well. "The Late Show," the album's thematic center, doubted but ultimately affirmed the nature of relationships, while by the end, "After the Deluge," if "only a few survived," the human race continued nonetheless. It was a lot to put into a pop music album, but Browne stretched the limits of what could be found in what he called "the beauty in songs," just as Bob Dylan had a decade before. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Pop - Released January 1, 1970 | Elektra Asylum

Usually among the most introspective of songwriters, Jackson Browne cast his gaze on the world outside on Lives in the Balance and did not like what he saw. Beginning with "For America," he lamented his previous indifference to social issues -- "I went on speaking of the future/While other people fought and bled" -- but immediately tried to make up for lost time. The album's context, of course, was five years of Ronald Reagan's presidency, with what the Left saw as an indifference to the plight of the poor at home and a dangerously aggressive policy against insurgent movements in the Central American countries of El Salvador and Nicaragua they feared would lead to a Vietnam-like war. Without naming those places, Browne wrote and sang passionately against poverty in the songs "Soldier of Plenty" and "Lawless Avenues" and against war in "For America," "Lives in the Balance," and "Till I Go Down." Elsewhere, his more familiar themes of romantic ("In the Shape of a Heart") and philosophical ("Black and White"); disillusionment also made appearances. But, from its hard rock sound and forceful singing to its frankly agit-prop lyrics, "For America" remained primarily a political statement, and if Browne sounded more involved in his music than he had in some time, the specificity of its approach inevitably limited its appeal and its long-term significance. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Pop - Released October 5, 1993 | Elektra Records

Jackson Browne abandoned politics for the war between the sexes on I'm Alive. "I have no problem with this crooked world," he sang; "...My problem is you." The album detailed the ups and downs of a relationship, starting with the defiant post-breakup title track and then doubling back to describe irritation ("My Problem Is You"), devotion ("Everywhere I Go," "I'll Do Anything"), increasing tension ("Miles Away," "Too Many Angels"), separation ("Take This Rain," "Two of Me, Two of You"), forgiveness ("Sky Blue and Black"), and finally acceptance ("All Good Things"). Longtime fans welcomed the album as a return in style to the days of Late for the Sky, but a closer model might have been Hold Out, a complementary album concerned with the flowering of an affair rather than the withering of one, since Browne eschewed the greater philosophical implications of romance and, falling back on stock imagery (angels, rain), failed to achieve an originality of expression. Just as, in Hold Out, one wasn't so much inspired as informed that Browne had found love, on I'm Alive, one wasn't so much moved as told that he'd lost it. While it was good news that he wasn't tilting at windmills anymore, Browne did not make a full comeback with the album, despite a couple of well-constructed songs. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Pop - Released September 23, 2008 | Inside Recordings

Time the Conqueror is Jackson Browne's first studio offering in six years. The last was 2002's Naked Ride Home for Elektra. Browne established his sound in the '70s and has made precious few adjustments, with the exception of a couple of records in the '80s where the keyboards and drum machines of the period were woven into his heady, West Coast pop, singer/songwriter mix. Whereas his '90s albums I'm Alive and Looking East, as well as Naked Ride Home, mirrored the personal concerns of his '70s records in more elegiac terms, Time the Conqueror returns in some ways to Browne's more overtly political statements from the '80s such as Lives in the Balance and World in Motion and weighs them against the personal, but he's all but forgotten how to write hooks. The title track is as personal as it gets; its breezy, cut-time beat and airy melody signals motion like the white lines clicking by on a highway. They underscore both time and life passing away, juxtaposed against the need to appreciate each moment. Browne accepts the blindness of the future as he does the helplessness of the past, though he doesn't accept aging. The next couple of tracks underscore this. There's the elegy to the '60s in "Off to Wonderland," a paean to the lost innocence of the heady years of idealism betrayed in both the Kennedys' and Martin Luther King's murders. The last line in this midtempo rock ballad is: "Didn't we believe that love would carry on/Wouldn't we receive enough/If we could just believe in one another/As much as we believed in John." It was wonderland, all right; these ideals were not hollow but they had no basis in American reality. The hardest rocking cut is "The Drums of War," which is Browne at his most didactic. It's as much a renewed call to arms as it is an indictment of the Bush years. It's a quickly passing moment, however, in that the very next track, "The Arms of Night," is a spiritual paean urging the listener to seek love in the right places. It's tender, confused, and authentic, but dull. "Where Were You?" has more teeth with its stuttering attempt at 21st century funk. Musically it serves more as a rock track with actual rhythm than it does funk. It's another socio-political indictment of alleged apathy in the post-millennial age. This album goes on, with no real aim other than telling us things that Browne's been thinking about these days (with the exception of the Latin-tinged "Goin' Down to Cuba," the best tune here; it's the only song with something resembling a hook). Browne seems to be speaking to his own generation; he's still trying to make sense of the world he wanted to live in and the one he actually does. Next time out, though, instead of worrying about his "enlightened" perspective, perhaps he should pay more attention to what made his earlier songs feel as if he actually owned one: craft. Most of these songs feel like quickly dashed off poems; it's all "tell" with no "show," because there isn't anything in the music to effectively offer them to the listener as conversation; instead they are on display as mixed-message sermons. ~ Thom Jurek
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Pop - Released September 24, 2002 | Elektra Records

Jackson Browne was so much the archetypical L.A. singer/songwriter of the 1970s that it's tempting to view him as a man out of time on his 2002 album The Naked Ride Home, but while some will dismiss him as a fossil from the days when the Mellow Mafia ruled, that's not really where Browne's first album of the 21st century goes wrong. For the most part, The Naked Ride Home devotes itself to Browne's two favorite themes -- the slightly melancholy recollections of relationships either failed or failing which dominated albums like The Pretender and Late for the Sky, and socio-political observations of an increasingly chaotic world in the manner of Lives in the Balance and World in Motion. But the problem is that Browne hasn't come up with any stories about his personal battle of the sexes that sound especially fresh or compelling on The Naked Ride Home, and while his songs about post-Y2K America are stronger (particularly "Casino Nation"), most of the time he doesn't appear to have a specific axe to grind or causes to speak either for or against beyond the growing ugliness of our culture. The craft of Browne's songwriting is still strong, and his performances are pin-sharp and passionate, but unfortunately the very real strengths of The Naked Ride Home only make its flaws all the more glaring -- namely, that Browne's muse hasn't taken him anyplace new and interesting in some time, and even though it's clear he still takes the arts of songwriting and recording very seriously, the results lack the depth or the impact of his earlier work. Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and Joni Mitchell have all proven it's possible for a veteran songwriter to gain a second wind and remain fresh and relevant; one can only hope the same will be true of Jackson Browne someday, but that new breeze did not arrive in time for The Naked Ride Home. ~ Mark Deming
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Pop - Released October 13, 2009 | Elektra Records

Jackson Browne begins his most Los Angeles-oriented album standing in the Pacific Ocean "Looking East" across the country and, as usual, doing so without much approval, but with a persistent hope. After reflecting on his youth in "The Barricades of Heaven," he compares the rich and poor in "Some Bridges" and takes time out to watch a little television in "Information Wars," before considering romance in "I'm the Cat," "Culver Moon," and "Baby How Long" and childhood in "Nino." He then decides he would like to be "Alive in the World," as opposed to inside his head or "behind some wall," and declares of that world, "It Is One." Thus, listeners are taken on another of Jackson Browne's tours, which manages to travel to outer and inner space without leaving the county of Los Angeles. After 24 years of record-making, he remains puzzled by the same personal and philosophical issues, and he approaches them in the same way, alternately hopeful and pessimistic, but more often than not ending up determined to persevere. He now uses fewer words, such that the songs sometimes seem no more than sketches, and he continues to set them to loping rock rhythms played against slabs of ringing guitar with traces of world music. Here, he co-credits eight of the ten songs to his backup musicians, yet the haunting, long-line melodies remain familiar from his earlier work. But then, Looking East is a highly referential work from an artist who started where most end and has been earnestly seeking the right direction ever since. Looking East finds him in his own backyard, still searching. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Pop - Released July 26, 1983 | Elektra Records

Jackson Browne's messages had always seemed so important that one tended to overlook the sheer songwriting craft that went into his work, craft that was apparent, for example, on his 1982 single "Somebody's Baby," which became his biggest hit ever (and which appears on none of his albums, only being available on the soundtrack to Fast Times at Ridgemont High), and on songs like "Downtown," a street-life portrait on his seventh album, Lawyers in Love. The craft seemed all the more important because Browne was so intent on turning his back on the conundrums that had obsessed him in the past. On "Cut It Away," he sang of his desire to remove his "desperate heart" (a phrase he had used before), to rid himself of "this crazy longing for something more/This question that I don't have the answer for." In place of such ambitions, Browne substituted the beginnings of social concern ("Say It Isn't True") and, most imaginatively, a humorous look at contemporary trash culture in the title track, one of the more exhilaratingly silly moments in Browne's generally dour catalog. But the craft, and the familiar tightness of Browne's veteran studio/live band, couldn't hide the essentially retread nature of much of this material. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Rock - Released October 3, 2014 | Inside Recordings

On Jackson Browne's first studio recording since 2008, the man who defined the '70s singer/songwriter generation finds a fresh way of dealing with the world as it is both personally and politically -- by going back to his own roots. Lyrically, Browne is inspired in a way he hasn't been since 1976's The Pretender, and this recording's production aesthetic adheres closer to that of even earlier records. His core accompanists are guitarists Greg Leisz and Val McCallum, with an all-star cast. Socio-political songs are plentiful, but these come from an intimate -- and therefore more appealing -- perspective; he often uses personal memory to frame his concerns. The opener is a (finally) finished version of "The Birds of St. Marks," a song begun in 1967 and performed live intermittently but never recorded in a studio. Its sound harkens back to the the Byrds. Jangly guitars and an electric 12-string solo frame its introspective lyrics. "Yeah Yeah" borrows the changes from Lou Reed's "Sweet Jane" and pulls them off anew in a love song: "And you paid for the love that we've got, you paid/And you made for the heart when we fought and you stayed…" "Leaving Winslow" is a West Coast country song whose locale was namechecked in "Take It Easy," yet this isn't an exercise in nostalgia but a solid, and sometimes humorous, paean to acceptance and the desire to disappear. Few writers could deliver a poignant song where surfing transitions to environmentalism and the historical consequences of empire. Browne can, and does -- with obvious melodic inspiration from Paul McCartney -- on "If I Could Be Anywhere," where step by step, the political is equated with personal responsibility. There are two exceptional covers that introduce the record's latter half. Both are stellar love songs that are nonetheless topical, and both are by true song poets. The first is a stunning folk-rock arrangement of Woody Guthrie's "You Know the Night," while "Walls and Doors" is a translation of Cuban songwriter/guitarist Carlos Varela's "Las Paredes y Puertas," and features him and his trio. The latter is a lilting romantic ballad, arranged to underscore both the composer's and Browne's personas. Only "Which Side Are You On" sounds "preachy," but that's because it is; it employs the same gospel-blues lyric scheme Bob Dylan did on "You Gotta Serve Somebody" but to secular ends. The title track, led by the songwriter and his piano, is a testament to the power of irrepressible hope and resilience: "Though the world may tremble and our foundations crack/We will all assemble and we will build them back." Closer "Her" is one of Browne's classic broken love songs; its sadness echoes long after the album whispers to a close. Standing in the Breach is a back to the basics Browne album, and is all the better for it. He's no longer speaking at anyone, but conversing from the well of his own experience. ~ Thom Jurek
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Pop - Released November 11, 1986 | Rhino - Elektra

If Jackson Browne had convincingly lowered the bar set by his first three albums on his fourth and fifth ones, his sixth, Hold Out, found him once again seeking some measure of satisfaction, albeit in reduced circumstances. His songs were less philosophical, but they were also more personal. In "Of Missing Persons," he once again took on a eulogy as his subject, but unlike "Song to Adam" or "For a Dancer," there the song was directed to his late friend's daughter and encouraged her recovery: it was more a song for the living than for the dead. Newly aware of the world around him ("Boulevard"), he was also newly sensitive to others, notably on the mutual dependency song "Call It a Loan." But the personal tone sometimes made him less sure-footed as a performer; "Hold on Hold Out," the traditional big, long, last song on the album, was awkwardly, not winningly, intimate, just as the attention-grabbing lead-off track, "Disco Apocalypse," was merely foolish instead of whatever it may have been intended to be (satire? drama?). If Browne was still trying to write himself out of the cul-de-sac he had created for himself early on, Hold Out represented an earnest attempt that nevertheless fell short. ~ William Ruhlmann