Christopher Owens "Lysandre" Is The Greatest Jackson Browne Album Since "Late For The Sky"! There We Said It!

While I'm not a big Jackson Browne fan by any stretch, I do carry an admiration for the poetic genius of his early work, Late For The Sky in particular.  I often find myself relishing the days when A&R men used to take one look at guys like Browne and see dollar signs.

Need I remind you just how impossible it was to get away from that Hold Out album in 1980?  We had just gotten over "Saturday Night Fever" and all that disco crap.  Whether Browne was a true genius or just in the right place at the right time is debatable, I guess, if you were to just the man based solely on that album alone.

Plus, hey, it was the '80s now.  Everything was done to excess.  Even our folk singers dressed like Beverly Hills non-profit lawyers.  "Boulevard" became the unofficial anthem of the commerce, greed, and overindulgence in L.A. high life.

These days, A&R scouts take one look at "the next Jackson Browne" and you know going in that they're going to lose money.  Still, a certain degree of pop artistry must be respected and preserved at all times.  Doing so preserves the last tiny sliver of a once-thriving industry's soul.  Without it, the entire house of cards upon which the Kanye empire is built will crumble like the cheap facade that it is.

Even so, I found myself wondering if the music industry had finally managed to rid itself entirely of artists that might even accidentally approximate the artistry of Laurel Canyon circa 1970.  I know Jeff Tweedy likes to think he's that guy, but he's not.  For a brief, shining moment, I thought Ron Sexsmith might be, but I was premature in that assessment.

Christopher Owens is that guy.  Of course, the only way for you to know for sure is to hear the album for yourself.  It will alienate you, speak in tongues, but then you'll realize these are just colors you haven't heard in awhile.  Once you adjust, each song takes on a three-dimensional quality.  You can almost feel the shoulders of the sax player brush past your ears on "New York City".  Close your eyes and it's Times Square, 1978.

A couple songs later and the climate is noticeably tropical, a reggae-by-way-of-Memphis "Riviera Rock" makes you reevaluate the whole Jackson Browne thing.  Perhaps, Owens is merely an American version of what Sting could have been if he hadn't been so determined to be seen as the king of white jazz.  As you listen, you can imagine where this song might have fit in thirty years ago, maybe even during that swing resurgence in the late '90s, but it seems like a lost dog now.

Hell, the whole album is full of shaggy, lovable dogs all eager for a loving home.  I have no idea what Owens set out to accomplish on this record, but he definitely succeeded in reviving the sort of devil-may-care, out-of-the-box artistry that used to be everywhere!

This isn't 1973, though.  Or 1987.  Or even 1998.

Those ships have sailed, leaving us marooned in Times Square, 2013.  The neon and the building-size iPhone and Victoria's Secret billboards are blinding.  Is that a Starbucks location right across the street from another Starbucks?  We'd always heard about such things, but had never seen them with our own eyes.  And yet our ears are drawn to a man down in the subway, just him and his guitar, his voice echoing plaintively up the steps and out into the world.  Commuters carry bits and pieces with them as they walk to work.  They whistle the song in the elevator and wonder where it came from.

Chris Owen is the man behind that guitar and Lysandre is the sound your ears are dying to hear, only they don't know it.  That's where you come in.  Feed your ears.  Give them what they crave.  Buy Lysandre.

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