Unlike my last deep dive subject, Browne’s friend and collaborator Joni Mitchell, his music did not fall off a cliff in the 80s. While I struggled with a couple of Browne’s albums due to their didactic political lyrics, the music was almost always spot on. He expertly evolved his sound without losing the earnest romanticism that made his work special out of the gate.
I was critical of Jackson Browne’s last two albums of the 80s, but all is forgiven with the arrival of 1993’s I’m Alive. Inspired by his breakup with actress Daryl Hannah, this record marks a return to the personal, confessional songwriting of his early triumphs.
I’m Alive deserves a spot among the great breakup albums. It is sadly beautiful and beautifully sad, a marvel melodically and lyrically. Browne’s words are heartfelt and perceptive, both raw from the painful separation and wise about the path behind and in front of him.
I like doing the Decades series because it exposes me to new music I’ve missed over the years, but that’s just half the appeal. I’m equally happy to revisit albums I haven’t listened to in ages and remember how much I love them.
Jackson Browne’s I’m Alive has climbed up my 1993 list to #5, after starting toward the bottom half of the top ten when I first started planning these posts. All it took was for me to listen to the damn thing again.
And every year or two I’m reminded what a beautiful and lasting piece of work it is.
Today’s song is particularly lovely, and further proof (like the whole album) that break-ups make for the some of the most emotionally resonant music.
Two things about this song have always struck me as funny. One is the background vocals, which include a man whose voice is so deep he sounds like a holdover from the Oak Ridge Boys.