|Jackson Browne - Running on Empty|
|Music Disc Reviews DVD-Audio|
|Written by John Sutton-Smith|
|Tuesday, 15 November 2005|
And I called the road my own
I don't even know when that road
Turned onto the road I'm on....
You know I don't even know
What I'm hoping to find
Running into the sun
But I'm running behind.”
Jackson Browne was very much an unsung poet laureate of the heart and soul of young America in the ‘70s, as exemplified by songs like “A Child in These Hills’ and the elegant ecology anthem “Before the Deluge.” Running On Empty, Browne’s fifth album, was in a sense the culmination of his early songwriting burst of brilliance that had started with “These Days” and evolved into remarkable albums like For Everyman, Late for the Sky, and the commercial break-out The Pretender. Here, however, though at the peak of his popularity, he was starting to run a little thin on ideas.
Since his classic paean “Take It Easy,” cowritten with young country buck and fledgling Eagle Glenn Frey, Browne had been writing about the highways and byways of life, so the subject matter of Running on Empty, a collaborative life-on-the-road concept, isn't all that different from his earlier work. The album was recorded on tour, but is not a live album so much as a set of songs that create a documentary-type travelogue about life on the road through the eyes of a band of touring musicians. Indeed, there's "Nothing but Time" on the bus and "Cocaine" in the hotel room, both recorded on location. "Shaky Town" captures the desperate exhilaration of playing "in a thousand bands" on "those one-night stands." And the title track is a latter-day hobo's lullaby that actually retains a remarkable poignancy just shy of 30 years later.
The rousing and memorable finale "The Load-Out" is Jackson’s tribute to the road, from the adulation of the audience to the backstage crew loading up at the end of the night, after everyone has gone home, to the never-ending road heading to the next town. The song climaxes triumphantly into Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs' "Stay," full of camaraderie and communication with the audience, and the perfect concert ender.
Although this was perhaps Jackson’s last album of note, he has nonetheless remained a renowned and respected member of the folk rock fraternity, certainly for his skilled and soulful penmanship, but perhaps more importantly, for his identity and idealism of the common man, and the generosity of spirit displayed herein.
“… We’ve got Richard Pryor on the video…”
Although the CD has been re-mastered and sounds OK, the DVD is far superior in sound due to its DVD-audio format and 5.1 surround sound features, bringing the sense of concert atmosphere to the fore, and the instruments to the right balance with Jackson leading front and center.
The CD has 10 tracks while the DVD has two worthy bonus tracks, “Cocaine Again” and “Edwardsville Room 124,” plus an instrumental medley of songs and a “Running on Empty” montage, plus extensive liner notes written by music critic Anthony DeCurtis and an essay about noted music photog Joel Berstein’s photography (more than 200 taken by him on the tour are here), written by film director/former teenage Rolling Stone correspondent Cameron Crowe. The package also comes with a 16-page booklet of photos by Bernstein.