Our 10 Favorite Jackson Browne Albums

Jackson Browne Albums

Photo: Larry Miller, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Our Top 10 Jackson Browne albums list looks back at the sensational career of the legendary Jackson Brown while attempting to choose our favorite 10 Jackson Browne albums. It’s somewhat intimidating to write about an artist with the stature of Jackson Browne. He is one of the greatest musical artists in classic rock history. So, as we tend to do in most of our articles, we write these lists as fans because, in the end, that’s what we are. We are not judging, we are simply saying “hey these are our favorites, and here’s the reasons why………… ”

# 10 – Downhill from Everywhere

We open our top 10 Jackson Browne Albums list with the legendary artist’s most recent album, Downhill from Everywhere. The album was released in July of 2021. The album’s opening track, “Still Looking for Something,” sounds like it could have been released on any of his fabulous 70s albums. His voice is a little deeper; his spirit sounds just as strong. It’s nice to hear Jackson Browne still composing and singing songs like this fifty years after he first arrived on the music scene in the early 70s. The majority of the songs were written by other writers besides Jackson Browne. One of the album’s standout tracks, “My Cleveland Heart,” recalls his early 80s period. Overall, this was a welcome return by Jackson Browne and a solid album for a man now in his 70s.

# 9 –Looking East

Continuing with our top 10 Jackson Browne Albums list, we look at the great Jackson Browne album Looking East. The album was the artist’s final record of the 1990s. On the record, Jackson Browne returned to societal issues and politics after his emotional album I’m Alive, released three years earlier. While some prefer the heartbroken and romantic voice of Jackson Browne, some missed the grit that he explored in his late 80s records. Looking East was also a star-studded affair with noted musicians such as Bonnie Raitt, David Crosby, and Ry Cooder appearing on the album. All in all, it was a very strong effort.

# 8 – Lives in the Balance

And speaking of fortitude and politics. Jackson Browne’s Lives In The Balance would see Jackson Browne, the artist, making a considerable left turn in his music toward politics. We knew it was there as he was very much involved in the No Nukes Movement of the late 1970s. Nonetheless, the age of Reagan woke up many artists to shout out from their microphones and echo the 60s spirit of protest. From Springsteen to Bono, Bonnie Raitt to Jackson Browne, a generation of artists in their 30s had risen to fight for what they believed in. You can hear it clearly on the fabulous album Lives In The Balance.

# 7 – I’m Alive

The album cover may argue that he was still alive, can you see how the pain in his face still resonated so deeply? How could you blame him? If you were dumped by someone as beautiful as Daryl Hannah, you would probably feel pretty miserable, too, for a very long time. Of course, what happened between them is none of our business, but Jackson Browne makes it all of our business because that’s what the entire album focuses on. At times, it can be tough to listen to because you can feel his pain, but some people find solace in that. Yet, the album is a magnificent collection of songs about love and heartbreak that are as genuine as you can get.

# 5 – Hold Out

At the halfway point on our top 10 Jackson Browne Albums list is the grand album Hold Out. This has always been one of our favorite Jackson Browne albums. One can very easily hear the influence of Bruce Springsteen on the album in the piano arrangements and spoken word interlude on the album’s closing number, “Hold On Hold Out.” Overall, Hold Out was a very commercial-sounding album, which made it the only number-one album of his career. Yet, commercial sounding isn’t bad, although some writers would like to argue the opposite. Hold Out was loaded with great songs like “That Girl Could Sing,” “Boulevard,” “Missing Persons,” and the title track.

# 5 – Jackson Browne

The next set of Jackson Browne albums are considered the classic Jackson Browne albums. So why not start with this legendary artist’s first album release entitled simply Jackson Browne? Also often referred to as  Saturate Before Using because of the cover, Jackson Browne’s first album was released in 1972. The album contained two of his biggest hits in the songs “Doctor My Eyes” and “Rock Me On The Water.” Up to this point in his career, Jackson Browne was primarily known as a songwriter. His debut album gave birth to his own voice in the music business. It was a voice that many fans would prefer over the singers who had previously sung his songs.

# 4 – Running On Empty

One cannot stress the point enough how big Jackson Browne’s Pretender album was in the 1970s. It seemed like a pretty tough challenge to follow that album up. Well, Jackson Browne did a heck of a job stepping up to the challenge when he released the great Running On Empty album. Jackson Browne was on the creative roll of his career in 1977 and Running On Empty was one of it’s peaks. From the roaring title track to the album’s closing combination platter of “The Load Out” and “Stay,” Jackson Browne delivered another masterpiece in 1977 with the grand album Running On Empty. This was indeed an album recorded on the road, and its carefree attitude was its greatest attribute.

# 3 – For Everyman

Landing in the number three spot on our top 10 Jackson Browne Albums list, we present the album For Everyman. The legendary For Everyman album was released in 1973. It’s on this album Jackson Browne comes even more into his own, establishing himself as one of the most influential singer-songwriters of the 70s. Songs like “Take It Easy,” “These Days,” “Redneck Friend,” and just about every other song on the album prove that point easily. Many guest appearances are on the record by some of the biggest names in rock and roll, including Elton John, Joni Mitchell, Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Bonnie Raitt, David Crosby, and others.

# TIE  1 & 2 – Late for the Sky

The number one and two spots are pretty interchangeable between the last two albums on our list. The Jackson Browne album Late For The Sky is a big favorite among Jackson Browne fans, and for good reason; it’s simply a stunning album. Listen to the beauty and heartache in the song “For A Dancer.” It’s how deep Jackson Browne digs into the complexity of relationships and how they get in the way of dreams. Any artist or for that point anyone with goals goes through these issues.

Jackson Browne is writing from experience on this album. With each record he became more experienced, more wiser, even at a young age his writing was now beyond his years, yet he still has that young heart that is super sensitive to everything he had touched and seen,. It’s why the music is so genuine and so heartfelt. David Lindley’s playing makes it all even more emotional. This album and The Pretender go hand in hand on every level.

# 1 Tie 1 & 2 – The Pretender

What Jackson Browne began on Late For The Sky he completes on The Pretender album. It’s hard even to know where to start with this phenomenal album. The same style of songwriting in melodies and lyrics that we heard on Late For The Sky continues on The Pretender. The difference is in the arrangements. The production is bigger sounding because these songs call for it. The album’s hit single, “Here Comes Those Tears Again,” is a grand commercial hit, yet it is full of substance and tender feeling. That’s a hard combination to make work.

On The Pretender, Jackson Browne finds the ability to take all those early 197os soft rock songs and add so much more to them without sacrificing credibility. In the end, it comes down to the songs themselves, and the eight songs on the Pretender album are all gems in their simplest form, yet their core lyrics and melodies carry a heavy emotional punch that just knocks out the listener with an album of five-star production, playing and arrangements.

Top 10 Jackson Browne Albums article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023

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