CK Retro Review: Time The Conqueror by Jackson BrownePosted: March 31, 2015
2008’s Time The Conqueror picks up where Jackson Browne’s previous few albums left off, albeit a tad more cheesed off in the political arena this time around. The music is also a bit more restrained and tender on this album, Browne’s band seeming to sink into more of a complimentary role that suits them and the material well. It’s still lacking any stone-cold classics though, a fact which hampers much of the man’s late-period work. Here is a song-by-song review.
10. “Time The Conqeuror”- Browne’s meditations on time seem to ride the fence at best in this song, while the music, driven by a simplistic guitar riff, is less than compelling. Not a really good way to kick things off.
9. “Giving That Heaven Away”- It’s light-hearted enough in an old-fogey kind of way, but it really would have worked better as a three-minute diversion than a six-and-a-half minute slog.
8. “Going Down To Cuba”- The sprightly Latin piano touches are appropriate and fetching, and Browne’s sense of humor makes his beliefs about the titular country go down smoother. The recent news concerning the opening up of U.S. relations with Cuba makes this song sound prescient.
7. “Just Say Yeah”- It’s a song where you keep waiting for a chorus to come around to tie it all together, but one never does. That fault notwithstanding, it has a nice acoustic groove accented by colorful organ and, as a straightforward love song, changes the pace well.
6. “Off Of Wonderland”- This time the riff is much more affecting, setting Browne up to reside in his higher register, which is always lovely to hear. Musing about how the ideals of the 60’s were compromised over time is something that Browne has been doing since The Pretender, but it’s a subject that’s always rife for reexamination.
5. “Where Were You”- Browne’s reportage on the Hurricane Katrina tragedies and resulting injustices is spiced with a decided anti-W. slant (a slant which is also evident on “The Drums Of War.”) The funky grind of the music, leavened by the melodic bridges, helps to make this an exciting listen even when its at its wordiest. And, besides, the words are strong enough that you don’t mind the verbosity so much, even when the point is belabored a tad.
4. “Live Nude Cabaret”- Some nice poetry is spun here. Browne uses a visit to a strip club as a jumping-off point for thoughts on how men use women’s bodies as the cure for all their various ills when those bodies really aren’t theirs to use. The smoky music and delicate melody add to the pretty melancholy.
3. “The Drums Of War”- Whatever you think about Browne’s political beliefs, you can’t deny that he expresses them here with conviction and bite, something that’s seconded by the fiery music and excellent work from his female backing vocalists Chavonnne Morris and Alethea Mills. He sings in the song about “who to trust to identify the enemy”, but he leaves no doubt about the identity of his enemies in this searing track. Perhaps his best current events diatribe since Lives In The Balance.
2. “Far From The Arms Of Hunger”- Backing off some of the specific complaints found elsewhere on the album, Browne uses this closing track as a kind of universal plea for sanity and brotherhood. The music, led by Jeff Young’s keyboards, strikes just the right mixture of hope and sadness. It’s kind of an update on John Lennon’s “Imagine”, and that kind of sentiment is always welcome in the world, especially when expressed in such a lovely, understated fashion.
1. “The Arms Of Night”- Old buddy Danny Kortchmar co-wrote this pretty brooder that’s handled so well by Browne’s back-up band that you’d swear The Section was making a cameo appearance. Those elongated syllables massaged by Jackson’s evocative croon also send us rocketing back to the early 70’s heyday. A gem that those who bailed out after the salad days might have missed.
(E-mail me at email@example.com or follow me on Twitter @JimBeviglia.)