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JACKSON BROWNE `LOOKING EAST’ COMING TO S.L.

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A quarter decade ago, a new crop of Southern California songwriters redefined popular music by taking social consciousness out of the coffeehouses and to the top of the Billboard charts.

Among them, Don Henley and Glenn Frey of the Eagles, David Lindley, Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash, David Crosby and J.D. Souther.But perhaps none of the post-1960s crowd of California songwriters was as beloved as Jackson Browne, a sensitive craftsman with a passion for liberal causes and a knack for melodic hooks.

The result was classic albums like "The Pretender," "For Everyman," "Late for the Sky," "Running on Empty" and "Lives in the Balance," the latter named as one of the best 100 albums of all time by Rolling Stone.

Now in his third decade of tweaking Establishment noses, Browne has just released his 10th album, "Looking East."

Browne will be in concert with Vonda Shepherd on Tuesday, Feb. 20, at 8 p.m. at Abravanel Hall. Tickets are available at the usual outlets.

"Looking East" fits comfortably into the pattern of Jackson Browne songwriting before it. It champions the worth of the human soul, the survival that comes with persistence and the wisdom and nostalgia that evolves with growing older.

Throw in some political/social messages, several great melodies and some enjoyable pop-rock riffs and it's hard to find anything negative to say about "Looking East." No, it's not perfect, but neither is the world we live in.

Browne captures that point on "It Is One," where he sings "They shot a man in Africa, at a time of rivalry and war, he had some dreams of a good life, but dreams aren't what they killed him for." And then he adds a slap at the hatred of those who "stand themselves next to the righteous, and they believe the things they say are true, and speak in terms of what divides us, to justify the violence they do."

A Browne trademark, the sermon is never bombastic or caustic. Rather it is couched in a message that we, as a human race, can do better.

Other Jackson Browne masterpieces include "Nino," a tune about "one more kid in L.A., with a hubcap and a stick in his hand, in his own parade, leading the band, his head in the sky, his feet nearly touching the sand."

Particularly good is the title track, an introspective song about standing on the beach watching the sun set and wondering "how long will it take to find the higher power moving in me . . . The power of the sunrise and the power of a prayer released."

For "Looking East," Browne brings together many of his long-time musical chums who have appeared off and on through his other work. Heartbreaker Mike Campbell contributes electric 12-string guitar on "Barricades of Heaven" and regular guitar on "I'm a Cat." David Lindley offers up a great lap steel guitar on "Some Bridges," and on "Baby How Long," Ry Cooder does the guitar honors while Bonnie Raitt contributes backup vocals. David Crosby makes an appearance on "Alive in the World."

The contributions are a nice tribute to Browne's continued relevance as a songwriter. But appropriately they never distract from Browne's central theme that life is a battlefield between right and wrong.

And as citizens of the same planet, we have a moral responsibility to cherish, love and respect the Earth and all its creatures. "With its beauty and its cruelty, with its heartbreak and its joy, with it constantly giving birth to life and to forces that destroy, and the infinite power of change, alive in the world."