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Daryl Hannah says she can at last put the past to rest. Hannah, 46, reckons she's lived most of her life in a vacuum because of crippling shyness.
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By his 20th birthday, the baby-faced songwriter had already been linked romantically to chanteuses Nico, Joni Mitchell, and Laura Nyro; by age 23, he had three critically acclaimed solo albums, a couple of radio hits (“Doctor My Eyes,” “Rock Me on the Water”), and stars like Ronstadt, The Eagles, The Byrds, and Joan Baez clamoring to record his songs. After an ugly breakup with Mitchell, Browne met the beautiful but troubled model Phyllis Major.
Tabloidy footnote: In 1994, Joni Mitchell revived old wounds with her acidic song “Not To Blame,” reportedly a takedown of her ex-paramour that included what listeners thought were bitter references to Major and their son Ethan (“His mother had the frailty you despise/And the looks you love to drive to suicide”). Signature Tracks“Your Bright Baby Blues” – Little Feat chieftain Lowell George contributes a crying slide-guitar solo to this barroom lament with gospel underpinnings.
(Fun fact: Browne is the godfather of George’s singer-songwriter daughter, Inara.) “Linda Paloma” – A lovely detour into Mexican music, thanks in part to Roberto Gutierrez’s willowy , this song was purportedly based on a ballad played by mariachis at Browne and Major’s favorite Mexican restaurant.
Nobody but Browne could make the apocalypse so personal, yet the lyrics are cryptic enough to carry more universal precepts.
According to Browne, the elegiac piano ballad “Sleep’s Dark and Silent Gate” is the only song on the album to be directly influenced by Major’s suicide.
Although many critics consider it Browne’s masterpiece, a few derided producer Jon Landau for drowning the power of its lyrics in uninspired, factory-precision yacht rock.
(Yes, a future member of Toto plays on this record.) Still, one can hear this album’s DNA in the music of Ryan Adams, Wilco, Lucinda Williams, and Dawes.
Recipient of numerous awards, Jackson Browne has received an honorary Doctorate of Music, among other esteemed laurels.
He is also an ardent environmental activist and anti-nuclear activist.
From the ominous opening chords of “The Fuse” to the closing prayer for “The Pretender,” Browne evokes the burnt-orange haze of Los Angeles at dusk, when the sun has gone but the sky is still lit up like a kiln and the hills morph into giant dark shoulders. A.’s contradictions: The front cover shows Browne on a downtown street (it looks like Broadway), his spotless white tee the only thing distinguishing him from the gritty frieze around him; the back cover shows Browne’s son Ethan frolicking innocently in the Pacific surf, framed by a translation of Pablo Neruda’s “Brown and Agile Child.” Like all of Browne’s albums from this period, the guest musicians are a who’s who of denim-clad, countrified Cali rock: J. Souther, David Crosby, Bonnie Raitt, Graham Nash, David Lindley, Don Henley, Lowell George.