DVD Review: Jackson Brown "Going Home"

DVD Review: Jackson Brown "Going Home"
Eagle Vision
All Access Review:  B+

In the basement of his house, there are stacks of unopened boxes everywhere. Jackson Browne walks through it in one of the scenes from “Going Home,” saying into a camera he’s always had a place like this in just about every place he’s ever lived – be it a garage or even an otherwise empty living room. Somewhat sheepishly, the legendary artist admits he’s just never been able to figure out what to do with it all, and so there this stuff sits, closed up to the world and a mystery to it owner.

As for Browne, the singer-songwriter is an open book in “Going Home,” a scrapbook of memories and live performance clips – some of it fantastic vintage material – that makes up the recently reissued video biography that the Disney Channel originally broadcast in 1994. A long time in coming, this re-release is a beautifully edited, heartfelt look at the career of one of the most enduring artists to emerge from the Seventies singer-songwriter boom.

The concert material, both from Browne’s glorious past (the rousing closer “Running On Empty”) and his more recent 1990s’ resurgence, is seamlessly and artfully melded together, especially on the classic “Doctor My Eyes,” for a nostalgic and timeless document of his ability to recreate his richest songs in a live setting. A horde of rare home-movie footage, from little pieces of backstage and rehearsal room jams to snippets of private conversation and a piece that shows Browne with Graham Nash and Bonnie Raitt on an airplane talking about the horrors of nuclear waste dumping, fleshes out the tale and reveal much about Browne’s offstage personality. Going further afield, a variety of interviews with David Crosby, David Lindley, Don Henley and others, including Browne himself, dig deeply into Browne’s politics and his artistry. And all of it is pieced together so professionally that it doesn’t feel as fragmented or awkward as it could, which is sometimes the case with such documentaries.

The glue that holds everything together is the richly filmed 23-song concert – featuring cuts like “World in Motion,” “All Along the Watchtower,” “The Pretender,” and a host of others, culled mostly from 1993’s I’m Alive album – from the Nineties that is a simply magical, nuanced performance that speaks to that hauntingly melodic quality that pervades Browne’s best work. Watching Browne and Lindley play “Lives in the Balance” with Crosby and Nash is at first a funny little interlude of friends joking around, but then it grows into something that is particularly moving and inspiring, and the wonderful interplay of vocals is mesmerizing.

What we get from “Going Home” is the good stuff. The bad, in particular the troubling domestic violence episode between Browne and Daryl Hanna that happened around the time of this film, is not addressed here, and perhaps this is not the venue for that sordid affair, though it feels like an opportunity was missed to put that matter into perspective. Still, this is a celebration of Browne the songwriter and the activist, the poet who articulates matters of the heart with great sincerity, humanity and passion, and the friend, the band mate and the performer who is as smart as anybody in the room and an artist of inestimable talent.
-         Peter Lindblad

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