Browne's latest tries to pay back loyal fans who have worn out their copies of Late for the Sky and Saturate Before Using while waiting for him to pull back from the political commentary of his '80s albums or sign on as a panelist for CNN's Crossfire.
East is little reward for their patience. Looking and sounding exactly as he did two decades ago—is this ageless wonder the Dick Clark of rockers, or what?—Browne opens with a trio of reflective, radio-friendly, mid-tempo rockers full of taste and tenderness. But afterward, despite All Star support from guitarist Mark Goldenberg, background singers Vonda Shepard and Valerie Carter, and even cameos by Bonnie Raitt, Ry Cooder and David Crosby, there's little to get excited about. Browne can't resist a curmudgeonly critique of the evening news (on the song "Information Wars"); nor can he help strutting on "I'm the Cat," boasting, "Baby I'm allowed to be late when I'm comin' home/ You know I'll be there when I want to." Okay, so this album is more personal, but maybe it's a tad more than we need to know. (Elektra)