Jackson Browne – Late for the Sky

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  • This outstanding pressing of Browne’s third album boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This one was bigger and bolder, with more Tubey Magical richness on Jackson’s voice, than most of what we played
  • We love the rich, smooth, natural sound that Asylum was known for, and this copy has a healthy dose of each of those qualities
  • It’s getting harder and harder to find these in good condition these days – the man has a lot of fans, and they prefer to hear him on vinyl
  • 5 stars from AMG and Rolling Stone calls it the “quintessential Browne album,” saying the “… open-ended poetry achieves power from the nearly religious intensity that accumulates around the central motifs; its fervor is underscored by the sparest and hardest production to be found on any Browne album yet… as well as by his impassioned, oracular singing style.”

This vintage Asylum LP has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings cannot BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.). The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate a solid, palpable, real Jackson Browne singing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of older recordings (this one is now 44 years old), I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played can serve as a guide.

What the best sides of Late For The Sky have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1974
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

It’s not easy to find copies that get the tonal balance right. Most err in one of two ways — either they’re rich, full and a little dull and veiled, or they’re clear and transparent but leaned-out and boosted.

The clear ones, of course, are the ones that initially fool you — they present an illusion of transparency because everything is easy to hear right from the get-go, but they quickly wear out their welcome with their more “modern,” leaner sound. The choruses are telling here. With so many background singers, the size and weight and energy of the singers only comes through on the copies that are full and rich.

What We’re Listening For on Late for the Sky

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Fountain of Sorrow

The vocals on this track are exceptionally dynamic for a ’70s studio recording. JB gets good and loud on the best copies. The chorus that comes in behind him should also sound big and lively.

Also check out the jug on Walking Slow — you gotta love that sound!

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Late for the Sky
Fountain of Sorrow
Farther On

Side Two

The Late Show
The Road and the Sky
For a Dancer
Walking Slow
Before the Deluge

AMG 5 Star Rave Review

On his third album, Jackson Browne returned to the themes of his debut record (love, loss, identity, apocalypse) and, amazingly, delved even deeper into them.

“For a Dancer,” a meditation on death like the first album’s “Song for Adam,” is a more eloquent eulogy; “Farther On” extends the “moving on” point of “Looking Into You”; “Before the Deluge” is a glimpse beyond the apocalypse evoked on “My Opening Farewell” and the second album’s “For Everyman.”

If Browne had seemed to question everything in his first records, here he even questioned himself. “For me some words come easy, but I know that they don’t mean that much,” he sang on the opening track, “Late for the Sky,” and added in “Farther On,” “I’m not sure what I’m trying to say.” Yet his seeming uncertainty and self-doubt reflected the size and complexity of the problems he was addressing in these songs, and few had ever explored such territory, much less mapped it so well. “The Late Show,” the album’s thematic center, doubted but ultimately affirmed the nature of relationships, while by the end, “After the Deluge,” if “only a few survived,” the human race continued nonetheless.

It was a lot to put into a pop music album, but Browne stretched the limits of what could be found in what he called “the beauty in songs,” just as Bob Dylan had a decade before.

More Reviews

Late for the Sky received mainly favorable reviews. Rolling Stone rated the album 5 of 5 stars also and stated it “strengthens and solidifies Browne’s approach; it’s the quintessential Browne album. The metaphorical complexity of “Fountain of Sorrow” and the clear-eyed poignancy of “For a Dancer” would be a tough act to follow… when his songwriting is sharp, the mellowing trend in his music dulls the impact.”

The original Rolling Stone review in 1974 by music critic Stephen Holden highly praised the album, calling it “…his most mature, conceptually unified work to date.” and called it Browne’s best to date, noting that the “… open-ended poetry achieves power from the nearly religious intensity that accumulates around the central motifs; its fervor is underscored by the sparest and hardest production to be found on any Browne album yet… as well as by his impassioned, oracular singing style.”

Wikipedia