Jackson Browne Bud Scoppa - Essay

Bud Scoppa

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

It's not often that a single album is sufficient to place a new performer among the first rank of recording artists. Jackson Browne's long-awaited debut album chimes in its author with the resounding authority of [Van Morrison's] Astral Weeks, [Rod Stewart's] Gasoline Alley, or [Neil Young's] After the Gold Rush. Its awesome excellence causes one to wonder why, with Browne's reputation as an important songwriter established as far back as 1968, this album was so long in coming…. Whatever the reason, Jackson Browne … is more than worth the years it took to be hatched….

The songs themselves reveal Browne as a classic romanticist; they're possessed of that same earnest intensity found in his voice, and their prevailing moods are so strong that singers as diverse as Tom Rush, Johnny Darrell, Nico, and Clarence White can sing them without significantly altering their tone or substance. Browne's songs, no matter who sings them, seem to have a life of their own….

"Jamaica, Say You Will," the opening track, is an exquisite love song, and it perfectly embodies Browne's writing and performing approach. This narrative of the relationship between the singer and Jamaica, the daughter of a long-absent sailor, vividly confirms Richard Goldstein's 1968 perception that "Jackson writes with rocky seacoasts in his head."…

While the music sets the tone, Browne deftly tells the tale, his imagery charged with vivid suggestion….

What's astounding about this record is that there are a half dozen tracks of "Jamaica" beauty ("Song for Adam" and "From Silver Lake" are especially affecting), and none of the ten songs is any less than brilliant and lovely. Each has the immediacy of a touch, due in part to Jackson's first-person approach.

The music is as direct and fluid as the lyrical content….

Jackson Browne's sensibility is romantic in the best sense of the term: his songs are capable of generating a highly charged, compelling atmosphere throughout, and—just as important—of sustaining that pitch in the listener's mind long after they've ended.

Bud Scoppa, "Records: 'Jackson Browne'," in Rolling Stone (by Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. © 1972; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Issue 103, March 2, 1972, p. 58.