If you are looking for an album that will slow your heart rate and leave you feeling tranquil and satisfied, look no further than Jackson Browne’s sophomore album, For Everyman.
This multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter followed up his stellar self-titled debut with an album that continued to produce beautiful and mellow songs. Browne enlisted a huge staff of musicians, including friend and Eagles’ frontman Glenn Frey, David Crosby, Joni Mitchell and Don Henley to assist in the recording. With a style like a more homey, blues and folk-inflected Billy Joel, Browne lets steel guitar, acoustic picking and dominating piano cater to his strong and sought after songwriting. His voice can’t be neglected though. With a soft, serene tone and subtle tremor, his vocals complete the mellow sound of the album.
That mood of the album is best displayed in the song, “These Days.” Originally written by Browne as a teenager, the song was covered by Nico and Gregg Allman before he released it himself. Between the weeping steel guitar and the regret in Browne’s voice, this slow paced confessional showcases what Browne does best. That sunshine-through-the-clouds type sentiment is expressed through many songs on For Everyman.
Browne takes steps of expanding beyond slow, moving tunes with “Redneck Friend,” which stands out amidst the quiet crowd. With rockabilly guitars and jamming keys, “Redneck Friend” is Browne’s venture out of his niche of music. This niche is something he doesn’t often wander from. Most of the songs on For Everyman are soft and sweetly sung folk rock. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing, though. Try listening to the album and not feel lifted.
There is no rockstar complex in Browne’s music. The songs on For Everyman are therapeutic for the stressed and hopeful for the grief-stricken. If you’re ever feeling down, start humming the chorus of “Take It Easy.” The song was co-written with Glenn Frey and earlier released and popularized by the Eagles, but Browne’s delivery of it is much more rootsy and humble, which makes it that much more relaxing. “Take It Easy” and “These Days” both became popular when others released them. But the fact that Browne had a huge part in writing these songs is a testament to the strength of his songwriting.
Where people have those inward feelings they can’t put to words, Browne does just that. He’s adept at construing pain, and then the silver lining. Songs like “The Times You’ve Come” express this dynamic with lines like, “When you went away. Taking all that I’d built my false road on. I dropped my life and couldn’t find the pieces,” and then at the end he concludes, “You know I’ve loved these times you’ve come.”
Throughout the album are lines of heartache and closure. Once again, very therapeutic. “Ready Or Not” is another standout. As far as love stories go it’s as authentic gets. He narrates about how he and his lover meet, and then how they get pregnant. The storytelling is sweet with none of the sappy and trite qualities of many love songs. All of the elements of Browne’s masterful songwriting come together in this record. Browne is also credited with producing the album. Each song succeeds as being stripped-down and intimate, without sounding raw and disconnected. There may be drums, piano, steel guitar and acoustic in many songs, but it doesn’t sound crowded. Browne’s vocals are flawless, as well as the simple, yet powerful harmonies.
The melodies of each instrument flow gently alongside each other. At certain points, such as the first and the last two songs, the album literally flows track to track without break. For Everyman as a whole serves as a beautiful sedative to the anxious. From the lively opening track to the happy groove closing the track, Browne indeed wants you to take it easy.
For Everyman boasts simple but powerful emotions from beginning to end. It sounds like a lovechild of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Billy Joel (although both contemporaries to Browne). Equal parts bluesy folk rock and piano-driven ballads.
Highlights include the aforementioned “Take It Easy,” “These Days,” “Redneck Friend,” and “Ready or Not,” although that’s not to say the other 6 tracks aren’t wonderful. Each song has a peacefulness about it, even when the lyrics lack hope. “Take It Easy” is a song with an irresistible allure to it. Its windows-down groove and carefree lyrics make it stand out among the rest. “These Days” is the other heavy hitter. For anyone who relates, which is probably not a small number, it hits right in the gut. And although both songs have been released by others, Browne’s sincerity and authenticity make them incomparable. “Redneck Friend” is the one single to make it onto the charts, reaching 85th on the Billboard Pop Chart.
For Everyman was merely the tip of the iceberg for Jackson Browne. Though its critical success paled in comparison to his other releases, this album set Browne up to become one of the most respected songwriters of his time.
His next four studio albums would chart in the top 15 of the Billboard 200. Beyond that he continued to experience moderate chart success. His latest 2008 release, Time the Conqueror, got to 20th on the charts.
In 2004 Browne was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Three years later he was inducted into the Songwriter Hall of Fame. His legacy is one of powerful songwriting and serene music. For Everyman, while not the most critically successful, is recognized by critics and fans alike to be a classic. The sincerity and bittersweet mood of this album give it a rightful place in the history of influential singer/songwriter rock.
Reviewer: Ryan Glaspell
IRC: Bill Pulice
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