Late for the Sky

Late for the Sky is the third studio album by American singer–songwriter Jackson Browne, released by Asylum Records on September 13, 1974. It peaked at number 14 on Billboard's Pop Albums chart.

Late for the Sky
Studio album by
ReleasedSeptember 13, 1974
ProducerJackson Browne, Al Schmitt
Jackson Browne chronology
For Everyman
Late for the Sky
The Pretender
Singles from Late for the Sky
  1. "Walking Slow"
    Released: January 1975
  2. "Fountain of Sorrow"
    Released: 1975

In 2020, the album was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry.[1]


Browne was still living in his childhood home, The Abbey San Encino, where he began writing the songs for his third album. Because of the high costs of recording his previous album, Asylum Records founder David Geffen required him to complete this next album quicker and at less cost. Browne decided to use his touring band of David Lindley, Doug Haywood, Jai Winding, and Larry Zack. It was also decided that Al Schmitt, an engineer on For Everyman, would co-produce to aid in the album being completed on time. The album was completed in six weeks and at half the cost ($50,000) of For Everyman. Numerous friends of Browne's, including Dan Fogelberg, Don Henley, and J. D. Souther contributed harmony vocals. There were only eight songs on the album, five of them longer than five minutes.[2]

The title track was used in the 1976 Martin Scorsese film Taxi Driver.[3] "Before the Deluge" was later covered by Joan Baez on her 1979 album Honest Lullaby; Baez and Browne performed the song together on her 1989 PBS concert special. "Walking Slow" and "Fountain of Sorrow" were released as singles but both failed to chart.[2]

In his speech inducting Browne into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Bruce Springsteen called Late for the Sky Browne's "masterpiece" and referred to the car doors slamming at the end of "The Late Show".[4]

In 2000 it was voted number 594 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums.[5]

In 2003, the album was ranked number 372 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, Browne's highest ranking. In a 2012 update it ranked at 377.[6]

The album was certified as a Gold record in 1974 and Platinum in 1989 by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).[7]


Browne has publicly acknowledged that the cover art for Late for the Sky was inspired by the 1954 painting L'Empire des Lumieres ("Empire of Light"), by Belgian surrealist René Magritte. The album itself contains the credit, "cover concept Jackson Browne if it's all reet with Magritte". The original photograph was shot on South Lucerne Avenue just south of West 2nd Street in Windsor Square,[8] about 10 miles southwest of Browne's childhood home, the Abbey San Encino, in Highland Park, California. Designer and front cover photographer Bob Seidemann said, "I spoke to Jackson in 1980 and he told me he thought it was his favorite cover. Lest the jacket appear too funereal, a mood-defusing photo of a relaxed Jackson, almost smiling and looking as though he has a surprise to share, occupies a small square of the back cover."[9]


Retrospective professional reviews
Review scores
AllMusic     [10]
Christgau's Record GuideB−[11]
The Encyclopedia of Popular Music     [14]
Tom HullB[15]
MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide4/5[12]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [13]

Reviewing for Rolling Stone in 1974, Stephen Holden highly praised the album, calling it Browne's "most mature, conceptually unified work to date" and saying that the " poetry achieves power from the nearly religious intensity that accumulates around the central motifs; its fervor is underscored by the sparest and hardest production to be found on any Browne album yet... as well as by his impassioned, oracular singing style."[16]

In a retrospective review for AllMusic, William Ruhlmann describes the themes of the album as "love, loss, identity, apocalypse", similar to Browne's debut album, feeling that Browne "delved even deeper into them...Yet his seeming uncertainty and self-doubt reflected the size and complexity of the problems he was addressing in these songs, and few had ever explored such territory, much less mapped it so well."[10]

According to The Rolling Stone Album Guide, Late for the Sky "strengthens and solidifies Browne’s approach; it’s the quintessential Browne album. The metaphorical complexity of 'Fountain of Sorrow' and the clear-eyed poignancy of 'For a Dancer' would be a tough act to follow...when his songwriting is sharp, the mellowing trend in his music dulls the impact."[13] A 1999 Rolling Stone review of For Everyman called Late for the Sky Browne's "masterpiece".[17]

Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide call it "a bit mopey, but it hangs together as Jackson Browne's strongest and most melodious album, with a couple of rockers thrown in to perk up the listeners."[12] Robert Christgau was more critical in Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981), saying that Browne's "linguistic gentility is inappropriate, his millenarianism is self-indulgent...This, of course, rather conveniently forgetting that artistic criticism is also highly self-indulgent, as is art."[11]

In popular cultureEdit

"For a Dancer" has a unique connection to Saturday Night Live. The song was played at memorial services for both John Belushi[18] and Phil Hartman (by Browne at the Hartman service).[19]

The title track appears in a scene in the movie Taxi Driver.[20]

The title track is included as essay twenty in Songbook (published in the United Kingdom as 31 Songs) by Nick Hornby.

Track listingEdit

All tracks are written by Jackson Browne.

Side one
  1. "Late for the Sky" – 5:36
  2. "Fountain of Sorrow" – 6:42
  3. "Farther On" – 5:17
  4. "The Late Show" – 5:09
Side two
  1. "The Road and the Sky" – 3:04
  2. "For a Dancer" – 4:42
  3. "Walking Slow" – 3:50
  4. "Before the Deluge" – 6:18


Production notes:



  1. ^ Schuessler, Jennifer (March 24, 2021). "Janet Jackson and Kermit the Frog Added to National Recording Registry". The New York Times. Retrieved March 24, 2021.
  2. ^ a b Bego, Mark (2005). Jackson Browne: His Life and His Music. Citadel Press. ISBN 9780806526423.
  3. ^ "The A.V. Club: Song And Vision No. 1". Retrieved June 4, 2010.
  4. ^ "Springsteen's induction speech of Jackson Browne". Archived from the original on September 14, 2010. Retrieved June 4, 2010.
  5. ^ Colin Larkin (2000). All Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd ed.). Virgin Books. p. 199. ISBN 0-7535-0493-6.
  6. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time Rolling Stone's definitive list of the 500 greatest albums of all time". Rolling Stone. 2012. Retrieved September 5, 2019.
  7. ^ RIAA Gold and Platinum award. Archived 2015-09-24 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved July 20, 2010
  8. ^ Mary (2014-04-10). "Vintage Photo Shoot: Windsor Square Home in Classic Jackson Browne Album Cover". Larchmont Buzz - Hancock Park News. Retrieved 2021-07-27.
  9. ^ "The Design of a Classic Album Cover". Archived from the original on October 10, 2012. Retrieved June 4, 2010.
  10. ^ a b Ruhlmann, William. "Late for the Sky > Review". AllMusic. Retrieved June 4, 2010.[dead link]
  11. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: B". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved February 22, 2019 – via
  12. ^ a b Asakawa, Gil (1996). "Late for the Sky > Review". Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide.
  13. ^ a b Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian, eds. (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide: Completely Revised and Updated 4th Edition. New York, New York: Fireside. pp. 112–113. ISBN 978-0-7432-0169-8.
  14. ^ Larkin, Colin (2007). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195313734.
  15. ^ Hull, Tom (April 1975). "The Rekord Report: Third Card". Overdose. Retrieved June 26, 2020 – via
  16. ^ Holden, Stephen (November 1974). "Late for the Sky > Review". Rolling Stone.
  17. ^ Anthony DeCurtis (1999). "For Everyman > Review". Rolling Stone.
  18. ^ ""I can see him now rolling down the aisle"". UPI.
  19. ^ Thomas, Mike (2014). You Might Remember Me: The Life and Times of Phil Hartman. St. Martin's Press. p. 286. ISBN 9781250027962.
  20. ^ "Song And Vision No. 1: "Late For The Sky" and Taxi Driver". The A.V. Club.
  21. ^ "Jackson Browne Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved December 13, 2021.
  22. ^ "Top Billboard 200 Albums – Year-End 1975". Billboard. Archived from the original on November 8, 2021. Retrieved December 13, 2021.