CK Retro Review: Lawyers In Love by Jackson Browne

The early 80’s were a rough time for a lot of heritage rockers, so it’s understandable that Jackson Browne’s entry into the MTV arena was marked by a stumble or two. But even if 1983’s Lawyers In Love is a bit of a mixed bag, with the non-singles ranging from OK to forgettable, it showed Browne lightening up slightly and rocking more freely, which was a necessary career correction after so many consecutive somber affairs. And, in the title song, he delivered one of the most stinging critiques of the era in a glistening pop-rock package. Here is a song-by-song review:

TWO STARS

8. “Knock On Any Door”- Musically, it has the same strutting-down-the-street vibe as Browne’s soundtrack smash “Somebody’s Baby.” It doesn’t have nearly the same hooks though and it gets repetitive fast.

7. “Say It Isn’t True”- The anti-war, pro-sanity sentiment is admirable, but it’s also obvious. For a song like this to work, the music and the message have to somehow transcend the common sense of it all like a prayer would, a la “Imagine.” “Say It Isn’t True” wants to be a slow-building anthem, but it doesn’t justify repeated listens with any new insight or musical potency.

THREE STARS

6. “Cut It Away”- As if reacting to Craig Doerge’s too-prominent synthesizer part, Browne sings part of this song in a robotic monotone. Luckily the choruses open up to provide the kind of sympathetic spotlight the anguished lyrics need before things get too synthetic.

5. “On The Day”- The Walking Dead chanting and the Blue Oyster Cult-style riffs would seem to run counter to what Browne’s all about, but his musings on love sound surprisingly fresh in the new setting. With no David Lindley on the album, Danny Kortchmar and Rick Vito add the era-appropriate pyrotechnics on guitar.

4. “Downtown”- The synths are integrated a bit more seamlessly here, adding color to a gritty rocker about the ups and downs of urban life. Browne’s narrator revels in the squalor but has his eyes wide open: “Darkness falls on the vast machine/Where the future stalks the American Dream.”

FOUR STARS

3. “Tender Is The Night”- Even at a measured tempo, this one offers up enough musically to be engaging even before you add in Browne’s wonderful lyrics. He utilizes F. Scott Fitzgerald’s phrase as a kind of contrast to the acrimony between two lovers. “The benediction of the neon light” is one of my favorite phrases in the whole Browne catalog.

2. “For A Rocker”- Yet another in a long line of Browne tributes to those who have passed on, although you’d never know it here unless you guess from the title or analyze those lyrics real close. The music is too fiery and attention-grabbing to let anybody wallow in sadness. Browne wants us to party “Till the morning comes, till the car arrives/Till we’ve killed the drums, till we lose our lives.” That’s the kind of send-off a rocker can appreciate.

FIVE STARS

1. “Lawyers In Love”- Right off the bat, Browne lets us know how the 80’s are treating him: “I can’t keep up with what’s going down.” Designer jeans, Russians, and TV dinners only add to his incredulity, to the point that his Tarzan yells seem like the only sane response. It’s as funny as anything he’s ever written, even if the humor flew over everybody’s heads at the time. Even those missing the joke could understand the dynamism of the music, which updated Browne’s mid-tempo rock with glossy production sheen that vivifies everything without overdoing it. Top-notch.

(E-mail me at countdownkid@hotmail.com or follow me on Twitter @JimBeviglia.)

http://www.amazon.com/Counting-Down-Bruce-Springsteen-Finest/dp/1442230657

http://www.amazon.com/Counting-Down-Bob-Dylan-Finest/dp/0810888238

 

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