Isn’t the “first album phenomenon” fascinating? How many fabulous artists do you know whose number one disc is also their greatest one? Two come to mind quickly, John Prine and Jackson Browne.
I was reminded of the essential nature of the latter’s 1972 LP, commonly known as “Saturate Before Using,” when I heard a new tribute to this wonderful songwriter called “Looking Into You: A Tribute to Jackson Browne.”
I don’t think Browne was out of his teens when he wrote songs like “My Opening Farewell,” Jamaica Say You Will,” “Doctor, My Eyes” and “These Days.” The last one isn’t on the album (actually, it’s just “Jackson Browne”), but he’d already penned it. Before he could grow a proper mustache Browne had already a) had an affair with German chanteuse Nico, who may have been the first to record “These Days”; and b) given voice to some very adult emotions in songs that have sturdily endured for more than 40 years.
I’d say that was a good excuse for a tribute album, wouldn’t you? The album works as a whole, from Bonnie Raitt with David Lindley reggae-ifying “Everywhere I Go” to Lucinda Williams making “The Pretender” into a poignant ballad. These songs have good bones.
Don’t read that book about Laurel Canyon; it will sour you on all these LA dudes (especially, for me, J.D. Souther). But the music endures.
Browne got a bit didactic for me later on, but he never turned out a bad song. Long may he wave over Laurel Canyon or wherever he is now. Here’s Browne performing songs from “Satura…,” no, from “Jackson Browne”: