Great Rock Albums of 1986: Jackson Browne- Lives in the Balance


One tightrope that many rock artists from the 1970s had to walk in the 1980s was the one between what their traditional rock sound was and the new synth pop sounds of the new decade. If they were too rock, the top forty brigade would accuse the artist of becoming too heavy metal. Believe me, that happened! On the other hand, if the artist went more towards the trendy pop sound, the artist was in danger of being accused of selling out by his more loyal fans. However, there was one artist who walked that tightrope as if he was the Great Walenza himself, Jackson Browne. His 1986 album, “Lives in the Balance” is proof of that.

The very first track of “Lives in the Balance” gives all the clues needed that Jackson Browne was continuing to do what he had done so successfully for over a decade prior. “For America” opens with a great guitar solo intro and holds the interest with some good guitar hooks, similar to his previous album, “Lawyers in Love.” For me, it’s the best track on the album. “Soldier of Plenty” follows on with some intricate guitar playing while “In the Shape of Your Heart” is a bit more tender but the Jackson Browne stamp is definitely on the song. This song suits me more in my more melodic older age and the bass line is pretty good as well as the decent guitar solo and keyboard interlude. If I wasn’t so obsessed with power chords back in 1986, I would have appreciated this track more.

“Candy” is probably the most 1980s track on the album because of the synth hook on it but the guitar hooks works well with it too. It’s a cool combination. In contrast, “Lawless Avenues” is the biggest straight ahead rocker on the album. Not hard enough to head bang but definitely one you can bob your head along to.

Then we come to the title cut. It is this song where Jackson criticized for his naive political lyrics. As I was becoming more politically aware then, these lyrics weren’t naive for me. They were warning about possible US war in Central America, which was something I was opposed to. Therefore, they spoke to me on a personal level and they were sung to a pretty good tune. Penultimate track, “Till I Go Down,” is done in a reggae type vibe but Jackson makes it sound good. Then things finish on a good traditional Jackson Browne sounding closer in “Black and White.”

Track Listing:

  1. For America
  2. Soldier of Plenty
  3. In the Shape of Your Heart
  4. Candy
  5. Lawless Avenues
  6. Lives in the Balance
  7. Till I Go Down
  8. Black and White

Jackson Browne

Jackson Browne- lead and harmony vocals, guitar, piano

Jorge Calderon- bass, harmony vocals (track 5)

Phil Chen- bass (track 7)

Jennifer Condos- bass (track 1)

Enrique ‘Quique’ Cruz- zampona (track 6)

Debra Dobkin- harmony vocals (track 6)

Craig Doerge- synthesizer (track 3)

Kevin Dukes- guitar (track 8)

Bob Glaub- bass (tracks 2,3,4,6,8)

Doug Haywood- harmony vocals (tracks 3,4,7,8)

Jim Keltner- drums (track 5)

Phil Kenzie- alto saxophone (track 1)

Danny Kortchmar- guitar (track 5)

Ross Kunkel- drums (tracks 2,4,6,8)

Bernie Larsen- guitar, clavinet (track 7)

David Lindley- guitar (tracks 5,7)

Steve Lukather- guitar (tracks 2,4,8)

Stan Lynch- drums (track 3)

Kevin McCormick- guitar, harmony vocals (track 7)

Ian McLagan- organ (track 7)

Gary Myrick- guitar (track 1)

Bill Paine- synthesizer (tracks 2,4,6) piano (track 8)

Hugh Pedroza- charango, tipple (track 6)

Bonnie Raitt- harmony vocals (track 4)

Walfredo Reyes Junior- congas (track 5)

Mindy Sterling- harmony vocals (track 6)

Jorge Strunz- acoustic guitar (track 6)

Rick Vito- guitar (track 3)

Ian Wallace- drums (track 1,7)

Waddy Watchel- guitar (track 5)

Jai Winding- synthesizer (tracks 1,4,5,6,8) piano (tracks 1,5)


If I wasn’t so caught up in metal in 1986, (I don’t regret that), I would have appreciated “Lives in the Balance” more. It’s a good album from Jackson Browne, who knows how to use the hooks well.

Next post: Rolling Stones- Dirty Work

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7 Responses to “Great Rock Albums of 1986: Jackson Browne- Lives in the Balance”

  1. I only know the songs from the 2CD compilation I have, but Shape of a Heart is really good. Browne adapted to the 1980s better than most 1970s artists – ‘Somebody’s Baby’ is like his best pop song, and ‘Lawyers in Love’ is weird and brilliant.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. […] Source: Great Rock Albums of 1986: Jackson Browne- Lives in the Balance | 80smetalman’s Blog […]

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Is there anything Steve Lukather wasn’t on in the 80’s?

    Liked by 2 people

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