During the 1970s, Jackson Browne had staked out a great reputation for himself as one of the elite poets of rock. His often introspective (some would say self-absorbed) songwriting propelled him to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. It’s one of the selections that I agree with wholeheartedly.
Hold Out, Browne’s first album of the new decade is considered one of his minor efforts. This disc was his immediate followup to Running On Empty (1977) and it was released around turning points in both the singer-songwriter’s personal life and his career. It was an album that discussed his brand new marriage (which unfortunately failed quickly) several years after the suicide of his first wife. It was also the last one with the same band he had used for most of his career. His main sideman, David Lindley, would never again be a permanent member of his group although the two would remain great friends and continue to work together often throughout the years. Also, to many in the critics circle, Hold Out began the rocker’s artistic slide even though he would retain his popularity with fans for a few more years.
Browne’s last record of the LP era opened with “Disco Apocalypse,” a commentary of the times highlighted by a great solo featuring backup singer Rosemary Butler. “That Girl Could Sing” (No. 19 on Billboard) is a song about another woman Browne loved and lost, supposedly singer-songwriter Valerie Carter. “Boulevard,” (No. 22) discussed the hedonistic lifestyles and the disillusionment of those who stroll along Hollywood Boulevard and its environs. The title track tells his lover to hold out for somebody new because he traded “love for glory.”
Side two opened with “Of Missing Persons” a thoughtful song written for musician Inara George (later with the duo The Bird and the Bee) who was the daughter of Brown’s good friend and Little Feat founder, the late Lowell George, who had recently died from the usual rock ‘n roll excesses. On “Call It A Loan,” co-written with Lindley, Browne wonders what it will cost both parties stuck in an affair who need each other desperately and can’t break away. He closed the record out with an eight-minute love song to his new dearly beloved, “Hold On, Hold Out,” whose centerpiece was an almost schmaltzy spoken passage in the middle that was very much not the kind of thing Browne normally put on vinyl.
Hold Out isn’t a classic, but it’s still a fine collection of tunes. Unfortunately, despite the fact that it reached No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 charts and spawned two hit singles, the album receives very little attention today.
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