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Late for the Sky is the third album by American singer–songwriter Jackson Browne, released in 1974 (see 1974 in music). It was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1975. It peaked at number 14 on Billboard's Pop Albums chart.

Late for the Sky
Studio album by Jackson Browne
Released September 13, 1974
Recorded 1974, Elektra Sound Recorders – Hollywood Sound Recorders – Sunset Sound Recorders
Genre Rock
Length 40:38
Label Asylum
Producer Jackson Browne, Al Schmitt
Jackson Browne chronology
For Everyman
(1973)For Everyman1973
Late for the Sky
The Pretender
(1976)The Pretender1976



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 Zach. 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.[1]

The title track was used in the 1976 Martin Scorsese film Taxi Driver.[2] "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.[1]

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".[3]

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.

The album was certified as a Gold record in 1974 and Platinum in 1989 by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).[4]


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 a South Pasadena residential street, several miles from Browne's childhood Highland Park, California, home. Designer and front cover photographer Bob Seldemann 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."[5]


Late for the Sky received mixed reviews. Stephen Holden highly praised the album in a Rolling Stone review in 1974, calling it "...his 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."[6] However, music critic Robert Christgau gave the album a B- grade, writing 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."[7]


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."[8]

Rolling Stone rates the album 5 of 5 stars, saying it "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."[9] A 1999 Rolling Stone review of For Everyman called Late for the Sky Browne's "masterpiece".[10]

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."[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[12] and Phil Hartman (by Browne himself at the Hartman service)[13].

Track listingEdit

All tracks composed 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:


Album - Billboard (North America)

Year Chart Position
1974 Pop Albums 14


  1. ^ a b Bego, Mark (2005). Jackson Browne: His Life and His Music. Citadel Press. ISBN 9780806526423. 
  2. ^ "The A.V. Club: Song And Vision No. 1". Retrieved June 4, 2010. 
  3. ^ "Springsteen's induction speech of Jackson Browne". Archived from the original on September 14, 2010. Retrieved June 4, 2010. 
  4. ^ RIAA Gold and Platinum award. Archived 2015-09-24 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved July 20, 2010
  5. ^ "The Design of a Classic Album Cover". Archived from the original on October 10, 2012. Retrieved June 4, 2010. 
  6. ^ Stephen Holden (November 1974). "Late for the Sky > Review". Rolling Stone. 
  7. ^ Robert Christgau. "Late for the Sky > Review". Retrieved August 20, 2010. 
  8. ^ William Ruhlmann. "Late for the Sky > Review". Allmusic. Retrieved June 4, 2010. 
  9. ^ Mark Coleman. "Late for the Sky > Review". Rolling Stone. 
  10. ^ Anthony DeCurtis (1999). "For Everyman > Review". Rolling Stone. 
  11. ^ Gil Asakawa (1996). "Late for the Sky > Review". Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide. 
  12. ^ ""I can see him now rolling down the aisle"". UPI. 
  13. ^ Thomas, Mike (2014). You Might Remember Me: The Life and Times of Phil Hartman. St. Martin's Press. p. 286. ISBN 9781250027962.