From Rivers To Havens

In last week’s post about Jackson Browne, I noted that I had come across a few intriguing cover versions of some of his tunes, so in the interest of not letting my research molder on the shelf, here are those covers.

The music of Johnny Rivers has been a frequent topic at this blog, with singles, albums and videos having been posted more than twenty times, based on a quick estimate this morning. That’s not surprising, as I’ve long admired Rivers’ abilities. One of the covers I found this week turned out to be – as far as I can tell – the first released recording of Browne’s “Lady of the Well.” Rivers included his version on his 1972 album Home Grown. A year later, Browne included the song on For Everyman.

Maybe the most startling find during this brief bit of digging came from 1972, when the Jackson 5 covered “Doctor My Eyes,” which was on Browne’s self-titled debut (often retitled by fans as Saturate Before Using) that same year. The Jackson 5 version went to No. 9 hit in England. Here in the U.S., it was relegated to the status of an album track on Lookin’ Through the Windows, which – based on the review at All-Music Guide – sounds like a mish-mash of an album. Even if that’s true about the album, the Jacksons’ performance on “Doctor My Eyes” makes one wonder how it would have fared on the charts on this side of the pond.

A cover of “Doctor My Eyes” isn’t surprising – though hearing it done by the Jackson 5 was a little startling – as it’s one of the sturdier songs on Browne’s first album. It’s a little surprising, however, to find a cover of Browne’s’ “Song for Adam.” It’s a fine song, no doubt, but it’s far more personal in its stance and far more subdued than “Doctor My Eyes” (or the other track seen as a major statement on Jackson Browne, “Rock Me On The Water”). But Kiki Dee chose to cover “Song for Adam” on her 1973 album, Loving & Free. No doubt the production by Elton John and Clive Franks helped, but Dee did a pretty good job with the song.

There was one more surprise for me as I dug into covers of Jackson Browne’s tunes, and it shouldn’t have been a surprise at all, for I’ve heard the track in question numerous times and just forgot about it. I wrote in last week’s post that Browne’s two agit-prop albums of the late 1980s – Lives In The Balance from 1986 and World In Motion from 1989 – didn’t interest me much. Part of that was the content, and part of that was Browne’s performance; his rather slight voice didn’t seem up to the challenge of calling for revolution. But take the title tune from Lives In The Balance and hand it to Richie Havens, and you have a different thing entirely. Havens’ stirring cover of “Lives In The Balance” comes from his 1994 album Cuts to the Chase.

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3 Responses to “From Rivers To Havens”

  1. Yah Shure says:

    How about the cover of “Rock Me On The Water” by… Jackson Browne? He redid it from scratch for the 45. Much better than the cut from the self-titled album, IMO.

  2. […] Echoes In The Wind Hear that music in the distance? So do I. « From Rivers To Havens […]

  3. David Lenander says:

    I think LIVES one of Browne’s best albums, I didn’t have the problem with his voice that you did, though I may have had that problem with some of his earlier albums. I’ve listened to LATE FOR THE SKY a zillion times, and still can’t remember much of it, and I think that his singing on the previous two was often rather dull. I saw him at the Guthrie in the early 70s (Linda Ronstadt opened) and was totally blown away, so many of those songs on the first 2 LPs were introduced to me through a live performance with as much talking about the songs, and life, as there was singing. And he was very engaging. I remember “Song for Adam” as a particular standout (and “Red Neck Friend” as boring as I found it on the record). Richie Havens rerecorded the Browne song more recently ( on No Heros Left to Crown, or something like that). Yes, all of CUTS TO THE CHASE is terrific.

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