This seems to have been released in a low-key way. These tribute albums are fairy standard fare by now, and they follow a common pattern. They’re always a mixed bag, but one for Jackson Browne was overdue.
Those who contribute do so out of respect for the original artist, and (probably) an affection for a particular song. I guess there’s a hierarchy at play, and that not everybody gets to record their first choice. I rarely bother downloading a whole one of these, but might pick up on a track that does something original, or just sounds great. I like Miley Cyrus’ recent version of Dylan’s “You”re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go,” for example; and (from a few years back) The Band’s version of Springsteen’s “Atlantic City.”
But who is it really for? Fans of individuals among the various artists might well give at least one track a listen – and maybe, just maybe, get encouraged to listen to the original. This is the Glee syndrome. As to fans of the originals, I’m less sure. For a start, you might end up with two tracks in a row on your iPod and, depending on your mood, might just start skipping one of them.
I’ve only relatively recently started listening to Jackson Browne. I was always saving him up for later on, knowing that I might like a lot of his stuff, but reserving the pleasure for when I wanted something new in my life. I’ve done that with a number of artists over the years.
So given that I’ve barely scratched the surface, I was quite looking forward to this. He writes great melodies, great lyrics, and I was intrigued as to what other people might bring to his songs.
So, as I said, it’s a mixed bag. Most artists try to do something different, rather than a straight cover. This is risky. For example, Bob Schneider takes the up-tempo “Running on Empty” and performs it as a kind of dirge. Well, it almost works. I didn’t really like Lucinda Williams’ gruff (and down-tempo) version of my favourite song “The Pretender” – but then one of my students heard it this morning and actually commented that it was a nice song – a rare occurrence. So then you get Lucinda Williams opening someone’s ears to a wonderful thing.
Out into the cool of the evening
Strolls the pretender
I haven’t heard of a lot of the artists on here, and those I have I’m not particular about. But I like the album. It’s a good listen. The melodies and lyrics shine through. Don’t know how I’ll feel about the iPod clashes to come, though.