Running on Empty Elektra/Rhino Music •••• DVD-Audio Mix •••½ Extras •••
It's wrong to call Jackson Browne's Running on Empty a live album. Yes, half of its 10 songs were recorded on various concert stages in late summer 1977, but the other half were done backstage, on the tour bus, and in a motel room. This pastiche makes for a varying set of surround mixes that starkly points up the dissimilarities between the stage and the rest of the touring experience - which was precisely Browne's point in the first place. For the live tracks, mixer Greg Ladanyi uses the surround channels for audience sounds and back-of-the-hall echo, and you indeed feel like you're seated in the lively rock arenas of yesteryear. The other tracks use the main channels for a more studied, studio-like experience; check out the background vocals erupting from the rear in "Rosie" and the piercing clarity of the parts in "Nothing but Time." The DVD-A's four- and five-minute montages of tour photographs by Joel Bernstein are a nice departure from the typical video documentary, but the two bonus tracks are throwaways.