Music Review: Jackson Browne’s ‘Running on Empty’

Jackson Browne's Running on Empty

Deliberately sacrificing some degree of professional polish in order to achieve a more spontaneous, intimate ambiance is a dangerous tactic that has brought success to few other than Bob Dylan. To those few, we should now add the name of Jackson Browne, who has loosened up considerably and produced the most playable album of his career.

The first of his LPs to include songs that he did not author or co-write, Running on Empty attempts to limn life on the road and to suggest what many who have been behind the scenes have long suspected: that some of the best music on a tour happens offstage on the spur of the moment. Recorded largely in backstage rehearsal halls, hotel rooms, and in one case, a moving bus, the set features a strong version of “Cocaine,” a warm rendition of “Stay” (the Maurice Williams oldie), and the evocative “The Road.” Browne’s exuberant title cut is perhaps too closely patterned after earlier work but is nevertheless also irresistible.

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