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Sunday, 18 April 2021

"Late For The Sky" by JACKSON BROWNE - September 1974 US Third Studio Album (December 1974 in the UK) on Asylum Records – Band Featuring David Lindley, Doug Haywood, Jai Winding and Larry Zack with Guests Don Henley, J.D. Souther, Dan Fogelberg, Terry Reid, Joyce Everson, Beth Fitchet and Perry Lindley on Harmony Vocals and String Arrangements by David Campbell (June 2014 US Asylum/Rhino/Inside Recordings 40th Anniversary CD Reissue and Remaster In Upgraded Environmentally-Friendly Gatefold Card Sleeve Packaging) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Good To See Your Smiling Face Tonight... "

I tried for years to actually love Jackson Browne's first two American studio efforts - January 1972's debut "Jackson Browne" (aka "Saturate Before Using" as it appears on the front cover artwork) and October 1973's second LP "For Everyman" – both on Asylum Records in the USA and UK. They had their moments for sure, but I admired them and not a lot else. All that changed with studio album number three – the mighty and deeply moving "Late For The Sky" issued September 1974 in America and December 1974 in Blighty. 

I loved this record, cried to it, felt uplifted by it and have held a blubber candle for its musical and lyrical brilliance for closing on 50 bloody years now. For sure it is mopey and whiney and misery-indulgent and the lack of lyrics annoyed immensely at the time too (that is fixed here). But I adore the damn thing and will forever feel a tingle of giddiness every time I gaze on its 'Empire Of Light' homage artwork – and I doubt there is a JB fan out there that feels any different. 

But its journey to digital has been fraught with complaints of over-amplification – a ramped-up uber-trebling of a recording that was a teeny-weeny bit muffled and underwhelming in the first place (made matters worse). The most common remaster is the January 2003 version with a silver sticker on the jewel case – preceded by the lesser-seen US DCC Compact Classics Audiophile CD from 1993 (GZS-1036) - long deleted and extortionately expensive ever since.

But now, Browne has wrestled back some of his back catalogue and his 'Inside Recordings Label' (via Rhino) has had another go in June 2014, just in time for the album's '40th Anniversary' celebrations. And it's a quietly beautiful thing – lovely, lovely, lovely – not perfection for sure – but as open and as breathy as we are ever likely to get. You guessed it – I blubbed again. To the Fountain of Sorrow details...

US released 24 June 2014 - "Late For The Sky" by JACKSON BROWNE on Rhino/Asylum/Inside Recordings INR 04191 (Barcode 696751041913) offers his Third Studio Album from 1974 Reissued and Newly Remastered on a '40th Anniversary' Reissue CD in an environmentally-friendly card gatefold sleeve that plays out as follows (41:28 minutes): 

1. Late For The Sky [Side 1]
2. Fountain Of Sorrow
3. Farther On
4. The Late Show
5. The Road And The Sky [Side 2]
6. For A Dancer 
7. Walking Slow 
8. Before The Deluge 
Tracks 1 to 8 are his third studio album "Late For The Sky" – released September 1974 in the USA on Asylum 7E-1017 and December 1974 in the UK on Asylum SYL 9018. All songs written by JB - Produced by JACKSON BROWNE and AL SCHMITT – it peaked at No. 14 in the US LP charts (didn’t chart UK). 

JACKSON BROWNE – Lead Vocals, Piano, Acoustic Guitar and Slide Guitar on "The Road And The Sky"
DAVID LINDLEY - Electric Guitar, Slide Guitar and Fiddle
JAI WINDING – Piano And Organ
DOUG HAYWOOD – Bass And Harmony Vocals
LARRY ZACK – Drums And Percussion 
Don Henley, J.D. Souther, Dan Fogelberg, Terry Reid, Joyce Everson, Beth Fitchet and Perry Lindley on Harmony Vocals
David Campbell – String Arrangements on "The Late Show"

Originally Mastered by Mike Reese at The Mastering Lab, Hollywood, CA – for this 2014 Edition DOUG SAX, ROBERT HADLEY and ERIC BOULANGER have returned to The Mastering Lab, Ojai in California and dusted off the Asylum tapes once again. How would you describe the Remaster – not flashy – not overly done – just amazingly 'there'. Yes, there is the faintest trace of audio hiss (faint), but I would maintain that it actually gives this 2014 rendition a naturality that the others didn't have. And the bass and drums just feel right all of a sudden rather than that previous huddled-together blur 'n muffle. So once I was done with the epic "Before The Deluge" - I wanted to play this CD again – the best compliment surely you can pay any Remaster. To the music...

When that lonely and plaintive slide guitar wafts in on "Late For The Sky" - you hear the piano and that lingering organ in the background as he sings "...trying to understand how our lives had lead us there..." But the wallop that greets you for "Fountain Of Sorrow" will have many old-timers well up - those so-subtle harmony vocals from his pals as he sings "...there was just a taste of sorrow in your eyes..." or "...your perfect lover looks just like a perfect fool..." The Bass is sweet too. His trademark weeping slide guitar begins "Farther On" - in my early years - my dreams like nets were thrown - to catch the love I had heard of. Speaking of looking for beauty in songs, Side 2's "For A Dancer" is one of his all-time masterpieces - a stunning melody married with lyrics that floor you. The previous master had the vocal all echoed and over-egged, killing the beauty - here its calmed down and as it should be. And on it goes to the Violin and Piano epic that is "Before The Deluge" - a song I believe Martin Scorsese once placed in a movie. 

They could have put the actual CD in a protective bag - there could have been maybe an outtake - there could have been new liner notes from the man himself - I know there are niggles. But as it is, this 2014 US version on Inside Recordings is the best I've heard the "Late For The Sky" album. I'd love to hear Jackson Browne's "The Pretender" done this way and many I know would lose it for door number two - "For Everyman" - given such a tasty dust-up.   

"Don't know why I'm happy...I got no reason to feel this good..." - Browne sang on "Walking Slow". Well, now we have...

PS: There is also a UK VINYL LP version for this 40th Anniversary Reissue which was released 2017 on Asylum 081227959074 (No Barcode) and January 2018 in the USA on Rhino/Asylum RR1 1017 (Barcode 8122795907)

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