Although Jackson Browne may be more visible as a political activist than as a singer/songwriter these days, Browne's latest two discs have given longtime fans a unique glimpse into the artist's creative process.
Sure, Browne still campaigns rigorously against nuclear energy (he is a founder of the Musicians United for Safe Energy organization) and his show Monday at the Mesa Arts Center will benefit World Hunger Year - the singer asks that fans attending the show bring a canned food donation - but from his peak in the early '70s to the mid-'80s, Browne's work has established him as one of the finest singer/songwriters of his generation.
In preparation for his show in Mesa, here's a brief primer on Browne's finest work.
"Late for the Sky" (1974): Not only Browne's best album, one of the best records of the '70s - a gorgeous rumination on disillusion and the death of relationships. The album spawned no charting singles, but was listed at No. 372 on Rolling Stone's 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
"Running on Empty" (1977): Probably Browne's most widely known record (it reached No. 3 on the album chart), this album of tunes not previously released was recorded live on stage, in hotel rooms and on his tour bus. The record yielded hit singles in the title track (No. 11) and "Stay/The Load-Out" (No. 20).
"Jackson Browne" (1972): Browne's debut album firmly ensconced the singer/songwriter in the Southern California "Mellow Mafia" (along with The Eagles and J.D. Souther). The album, sometimes referred to "Saturate Before Using" (which is written on the album cover), contains the Top 10 single "Doctor My Eyes."
"Lawyers in Love" (1983): This disc produced hit singles in the title track (No. 13) and "Tender Is the Night" (No. 18), but is most notable for Browne's shift to a more political lyrical worldview than his previous, more personally introspective records.
"Solo Acoustic, Vols. 1 & 2" (2005, 2008): - Much like the VH1 program "Storytellers," Browne gives fans an intimate look into his songwriting, telling stories of how the songs came to be and playing them on acoustic guitar or piano. The discs span the whole of Browne's career.