CK Retro Review: Hold Out by Jackson BrownePosted: October 9, 2014
Go figure: After an amazing five-album run to start his career, Jackson Browne finally stumbled a bit with 1980’s Hold Out, and yet it became his first ever #1 album. To be fair, Browne manages to rock a bit more convincingly here on a few songs than he ever had in the past. Ironically, it’s the slower, more contemplative stuff, usually right in his wheelhouse, where he trips up. Here is a song-by-song review:
7. “Disco Apocalypse”- Perhaps the only thing more tired than the disco scene by 1980 were the rockers who felt compelled to comment on it. Nothing to hear here.
6. “Hold On Hold Out”- What’s meant to be the grand closing statement falls surprisingly flat. The music is ambitious but uninspiring; not even the usually impeccable David Lindley can set it alight with his slide work. And, for once, Browne’s advice to a hurting soul seems more condescending than inspirational. He was clearly trying for something big here, but it just doesn’t come together.
5. “Of Missing Persons”- The intent of this song, to mourn the passing of buddy Lowell George and find words of comfort for his grieving daughter, is so honorable that it’s hard to fault it for being maybe a tad too earnest. Still, when you compare it to more level-headed and affecting songs about death in Browne’s back catalog, it can’t quite hang.
4. “Hold Out”- Browne’s attempt at a soul ballad is undercut somewhat by a humdrum melody that makes the slow pace seem crawling at times. Luckily, there is a lovely chorus to help compensate in this tale of an amicable parting between two lovers.
3. “Call It A Loan”- This one falls just shy of four stars because the music doesn’t have a lot of bite to it, falling dangerously close to easy listening territory. Lindley, who co-wrote, provides some dreamy guitar and Browne mines the matters of the heart with his typical tenderness and honesty.
2. “That Girl Could Sing”- As usual, Browne aligned himself with the cream of the crop of West Coast session men on the album, and their efforts really shine through on the harder-rocking songs. This one achieves an itchy tension and leaves enough open spaces to make the heavier moments really impactful. Tough guitar work from Lindley in the break dovetails with Browne’s unsentimental yet ultimately admiring portrait of an elusive friend and lover.
1. “Boulevard”- Starting off with a guitar riff that sounds like it was loaned by Keith Richards, this song has the kind of electric muscle not usually associated with Browne. He seems to revel in it, spitting out perceptive lyrics about streetlife that cut even deeper when accompanied with the unsparing grind around them. This one has had a healthy afterlife on radio, which, considering its eternal subject matter and timeless rock heft, isn’t too surprising.
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