Jackson Browne – Saturate Before Using (1972)

FrontCover1.jpgJackson Browne is the eponymous debut album of singer Jackson Browne released in 1972. It peaked on the Billboard 200 chart at number 53.[1] Two singles were released with “Doctor My Eyes” peaking at number 8 on the Pop Singles chart and “Rock Me On the Water” reaching number 48.[2]Jackson Browne is the eponymous debut album of singer Jackson Browne released in 1972. It peaked on the Billboard 200 chart at number 53. Two singles were released with “Doctor My Eyes” peaking at number 8 on the Pop Singles chart and “Rock Me On the Water” reaching number 48.
Browne had been having minor success as a songwriter but was still unable to obtain his own recording contract. He sent a demo of “Jamaica Say You Will” to David Geffen in early 1970 and Geffen began looking for a record deal for Browne. Geffen ended up founding his own label, Asylum Records, instead and signing Browne.
The album was certified as a Gold record in 1976 and Platinum in 1997 by the RIAA.

The album is often mistakenly called Saturate Before Using, because the words appear on the album cover, which was designed to look like a water bag that would require saturation in order to cool its contents by evaporation. For this very reason, Asylum Records executives suggested to no avail that the words be removed from the album Single1cover and nearly rejected the cover art outright. However, the initial pressings not only included the text, but the cover carried a burlap-like feel to further the water bag theme.
The confusion over the title returned when the album was converted to CD format, when the words appeared on the spine of the jewel case as the album title.
Browne told the story of the cover’s creation and spoke of the title’s confusion in an interview with the album designer Gary Burden for his 2002 DVD Under The Covers: “I remember being on the phone with Gary… talking about what the album cover should be, and I happened to be in a room that had a water bag on the wall. It was just one of the things that I collected driving around on trips and stuff. And I was looking at this bag as he was saying ‘what do you think it ought to be?’ I was thinking, ‘well, it could be a water bag.’ … it said ‘saturate before using’ on the front … ‘You know, Gary, on mine, it says this on the back.’ And you said, well, so?’ And ‘if you put it on the front, people are going to think that’s the title.’ And you said, ‘don’t be ridiculous. Who would think that was the title?’ I said, ‘Yeah, you’re right.’ So, not only does everyone think that’s the title of that album, but my record company thinks that’s the title of the album.”

Publicity photo donated to the Rock Hall Archives
Jackson Browne received positive reviews from most critics. In his review for Allmusic William Ruhlmann praised the album as “An auspicious debut that doesn’t sound like a debut” and “the album has long since come to seem a timeless collection of reflective ballads touching on still-difficult subjects…and all with an amazingly eloquent sense of language. Jackson Browne’s greater triumph is that, having perfectly expressed its times, it transcended them as well.” Rolling Stone rated the album 6 of 10 stars and stated “Browne’s debut lays the groundwork for future heart-and-soul excavations. ‘Doctor My Eyes,’ an early hit single, communicates the subdued, subtle power of his half-spoken melodies, while ‘Rock Me On the Water’ and ‘Song for Adam’ foreshadow the free-ranging contemplation to come.”

The original 1972 review in Rolling Stone stated “Jackson Browne’s sensibility is romantic in the best sense of the term: his songs are capable of generating a highly charged, compelling atmosphere throughout, and–just as important–of sustaining that Single2pitch in the listener’s mind long after they’ve ended.” Ed Kelleher wrote in Circus in 1972: “Though others have done him justice, Browne is his own best interpreter. He just eases back and lets the song come. He has the soul of a poet and the stance of a troubadour. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he has not fallen victim to the trap of over-production–the record has been crafted with care and purity.”
Music critic Robert Christgau gave the album a B grade, however, was ambivalent about the whole album, writing, “The voice is pleasant, present, and unpretentious, and when I listen assiduously I perceive lyrics crafted with as much intelligence and human decency as any reasonable person could expect. Unfortunately, only critical responsibility induces me to listen assiduously. It’s not just the blandness of the music, but of the ideas as well, each reinforcing the other.” (by wikipedia)

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One of the reasons that Jackson Browne’s first album is among the most auspicious debuts in pop music history is that it doesn’t sound like a debut. Although only 23, Browne had kicked around the music business for several years, writing and performing as a member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and as Nico’s backup guitarist, among other gigs, while many artists recorded his material. So, if this doesn’t sound like someone’s first batch of songs, it’s not. Browne had developed an unusual use of language, studiedly casual yet full of striking imagery, and a post-apocalyptic viewpoint to go with it. He sang with a calm certainty over spare, discretely placed backup — piano, acoustic guitar, bass, drums, congas, violin, harmony vocals — that highlighted the songs and always seemed about to disappear. In song after song, Browne described the world as a desert in need of moisture, and this wet/dry dichotomy carried over into much of the imagery. In “Doctor My Eyes,” the album’s most propulsive song and a Top Ten hit, he sang, “Doctor, my JacksoneBrowne03eyes/Cannot see the sky/Is this the prize/For having learned how not to cry?” If Browne’s outlook was cautious, its expression was original. His conditional optimism seemed to reflect hard experience, and in the early ’70s, the aftermath of the ’60s, a lot of his listeners shared that perspective. Like any great artist, Browne articulated the tenor of his times. But the album has long since come to seem a timeless collection of reflective ballads touching on still-difficult subjects — suicide (explicitly), depression and drug use (probably), spiritual uncertainty and desperate hope — all in calm, reasoned tones, and all with an amazingly eloquent sense of language. Jackson Browne’s greater triumph is that, having perfectly expressed its times, it transcended those times as well. (The album features a cover depicting Browne’s face on a water bag — an appropriate reference to its desert/water imagery — containing the words “saturate before using.” Inevitably, many people began to refer to the self-titled album by that phrase, and when it was released on CD, it nearly became official — both the disc and the spine of the jewel box read Saturate Before Using.) (by William Ruhlmann)

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Joni Mitchell + Jackson Browne

Personnel:
Jackson Browne (guitar, piano, vocals)
David Campbell (viola)
Jim Gordon (organ)
Leland Sklar (bass)

+
Jesse Ed Davis (guitar on 04.)
Craig Doerge (piano on 05., 09. + 10.)
Jimmie Fadden (harmonica)
David Jackson (piano on 08.)
Sneaky Pete Kleinow (pedal steel-guitar on 08.)
Russ Kunkel (drums, congas on 04. + 07.)
Albert Lee (guitar on 02. + 07.)
Clarence White (guitar on 01.)
+
background vocals:
David Crosby – Graham Nash

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Tracklist:
01. Jamaica Say You Will 3.26
02. A Child In These Hills 4.00
03. Song For Adam 5.23
04. Doctor My Eyes 3.17
05. From Silver Lake 3.52
06. Something Fine 3.49
07. Under The Falling Sky 4.10
08. Looking Into You 4.19
09. Rock Me On The Water 4.15
10. My Opening Farewell 4.45

All songs written by Jackson Browne
Leah Kunkel composed the vocal counter-melody on 05.

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