Song of the Day #4,686: ‘That Girl Could Sing’ – Jackson Browne

Jackson Browne started the new decade with 1980’s Hold Out, an album considered his first dud by most critics. Nevertheless, it was also his first (and only) album to reach #1 on the Billboard chart, powered by his newfound popularity post-Running On Empty and a couple of minor hit singles.

I remember seeing this album in cut out bins back when I used to spend much of my free time CD shopping. Between that fact, the critical consensus, and the cheap-looking cover art, I did not have high hopes for this record.

I ended up pleasantly surprised. Featuring just seven songs, Hold Out is a solid pop rock collection.

I really like the two hit singles, ‘That Girl Could Sing’ and ‘Boulevard,’ and the other tracks are way more than just filler. The mid-tempo ‘Call it a Loan’ and ‘Hold Out’ might be the best things here, the finest possible example of easy listening.

The album does take a big misstep during its final song, ‘Hold On Hold Out,’ when Browne slips into a spoken-word interlude way too corny to work. Cut out that unfortunate decision, though, and Hold Out is another strong entry in an impressive discography.

She was a friend to me when I needed one
Wasn’t for her I don’t know what I’d done
She gave me back something that was missing in me
She could’ve turned out to be almost anyone
Almost anyone–
With the possible exception
Of who I wanted her to be

Running into the midnight
With her clothes whipping in the wind
Reaching into the heart of the darkness
For the tenderness within
Stumblin’ into the lights of the city
And then back in the shadows again
Hanging onto the laughter
That each of us hid our unhappiness in

Talk about celestial bodies
And your angels on the wing
She wasn’t much good at stickin’ around–but
That girl could sing
She could sing…

In the dead of night
She could shine a light
On some places that you’ve never been
In that kind of light
You could lose your sight
And believe there was something to win
You could hold her tight
With all your might
But she’d slip through your arms like the wind
And be back in flight
Back into the night
Where you might never see her again

The longer I thought I might find her
The shorter my vision became
Running in circles behind her
And thinking in terms of the blame
But she couldn’t have been any kinder
If she’d come back and tried to explain
She wasn’t much good a saying goodbye–but
That girl could sing

4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,686: ‘That Girl Could Sing’ – Jackson Browne

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    I’m quite familiar with and like the two singles, including today’s SOTD. Both received a fair amount of radio play and continue to do so on AOR and mellow rock stations. I doubt I have ever heard the rest of the album, though it sounds like, with the exception of the last track, I would enjoy the record.

  2. Amy says:

    Curious to read what Russ has to say about this final track. I’m not familiar with this album at all.

  3. Russ Paris says:

    Amy wanted to know what I thought about the final track, “Hold On Hold Out.” I assume this is because I commented earlier on the strength of the final tracks of Jackson’s early albums. I believe that in all of Jackson’s albums prior to this one, the final track is one of the strongest in each collection. Maybe he was trying to do that on this album too . . . but I have to agree with Clay that — listening to it today — the spoken-word interlude is “way too corny to work”. I’m not so sure I felt that way at the time.

    Overall, I love this album. I listened to it a great deal when it came out. Today, I think that the first and last tracks are a bit dated, but the rest of the album holds up very well and the whole thing is still a joy to listen to. My biggest complaint at the time was that it was too short.

    If you can get past the kitschy nature of the spoken word part of the final song, it’s still a solid track that at the time would have probably fit along with my beliefs about the solid nature of the final tracks on his early albums. Obviously, if you can’t get past that, then it fails to do so. And should the spoken word part work for you, then the whole song becomes rather epic and passionate.

    To put the final song in context, Jackson was soon to marry his second wife, Lynne Sweeney, and the album is dedicated to her. The song is a very direct “I love you” to his girlfriend. So maybe he can be forgiven for being a little kitschy at the time.

    In fact, the final track was released as a 12-inch single, which was a very popular format for dance records at the time!

    • Amy says:

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I, for one, can forgive a “corny” interlude in a song declaring one’s love to their wife-to-be. 👍🏼💗

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