Never less than stimulating
Michael Quinn 2008-10-07
Jackson Browne's second release of 2008 (following the second volume of his live back-catalogue reassessment, Solo Acoustic) takes him back into studio for his first set of new material in six years. The result is something ravishingly good – a timely, topical collection of songs fully alive to the here-and-now and packaged in impeccable musicianship.
Time The Conqueror finds Browne's de facto house band of the last decade and a half – all worth a name check: Kevin McCormick (bass); Mark Goldenberg (guitars); Mauricio Lewak (drums); Jeff Young (keyboards) – joined here by vocalists Chavonne Morris and Alethea Mills; all of whom will reach the UK in March next year as part of a worldwide tour.
Expectations are always high with any new offering from one of the consummate singer-songwriters of the last half-century and Browne, in his own understated but precision-tooled way doesn't fail to deliver here. Those coming to his particular brand of potently personal political commentary will find a happy absence of soap-box rhetoric and empty posturing in acutely observed songs such as the title track, the caustic attack on the West’s military-industrial complex, The Drums of War, and the wistful interrogation of sexual politics, Live Nude Cabaret, complete with its subtly telling quoting of Let My People Go.
What is most admirable about Browne is his willingness to admit the complexity behind the seemingly obvious and straightforward, as in the wistful but clear-sighted nostalgia for the Sixties, Giving That Heaven Away, or in the sweetly knowing tale of lovelorn pursuit, Just Say Yeah. In all, Time The Conqueror proves to be a reflective album full of intelligent, self-interrogative stock-taking and reassessment. It has moments of haunting beauty, is never less than stimulating and, in its meticulously manicured way, is an altogether satisfying provocation to return to Browne's back catalogue. For that alone, it deserves recommendation.