Lives in the Balance

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Lives in the Balance
Jackson Browne - Lives in the Balance.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedFebruary 18, 1986
RecordedLate summer to late fall, 1985 at Sunset Sound Factory and The Outpost (Los Angeles, CA).
ProducerJackson Browne
Jackson Browne chronology
Lawyers in Love
Lives in the Balance
World in Motion

Lives in the Balance is the eighth album by American singer/songwriter Jackson Browne, released in 1986 (see 1986 in music). It reached number 23 on The Billboard 200 chart. The title track as well as "For America" and "In the Shape of a Heart" were released as singles. The album was ranked number 88 on Rolling Stone's list of the best 100 albums of the 1980s.[1] The album reached number 2 in Sweden.[2]


Lives in the Balance was the first album by Browne where overtly political and socially critical songs dominated (three of which were about president Ronald Reagan), although it also included one of his best remembered songs about relationships, the tragic "In the Shape of a Heart", inspired by his relationship with his first wife. The radio play garnered by "For America" and "In the Shape of a Heart", and the use of "Lives in the Balance" in the show Miami Vice, gained him many new fans who later went back and discovered Browne's earlier works.

The lesser commercial success of the album, according to a Rolling Stone November 1989 article, hardly mattered to Browne: "I like this album as much as any I've ever done," Browne said. "And there's a certain comfort, a security that I have, talking about something that I feel this strongly about. And whether or not an album succeeds wildly or not, that's intact."[1]

The album was certified as a gold record in 1986 by the RIAA.[3]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic3/5 stars[4]
Robert Christgau(B)[5]
Rolling Stone Record Guide2/5 stars[6]

Critical press focused on the political direction of Lives in the Balance. Music critic William Rulhmann wrote retrospectively "...if Browne sounded more involved in his music than he had in some time, the specificity of its approach inevitably limited its appeal and its long-term significance."[4]

Critic Robert Christgau also commented in a similar vein: "The difference is that Browne shouldn't be doing this... he's a pop star who's stretching his audience and endangering his market share merely by making such a statement in 1986. And he's thought hard getting here—not only does his way with words render these lyrics somewhat deeper than Holly Near's, but his moralistic put-downs have that edge of righteous anger nobody's yet found the formula for."[5] The Rolling Stone Record Guide wrote that "the title track is a cutting slice of social observation, but the remainder of the album is muddled. For the first time, Browne seems unsure of himself."[6]

However, the original 1986 Rolling Stone review by Jimmy Guterman praised the album over-all in part because of Browne's "new-found ability to link the personal to the political," which "breathes life" into the songs and "prevents them from becoming too didactic. Browne's not just writing about the headlines; he's trying to tell the stories of the people they affect."[7]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks composed by Browne except where noted.[8]

1."For America" 5:13
2."Soldier of Plenty" 4:37
3."In the Shape of a Heart" 5:41
4."Candy"Greg Copeland, Wally Stocker4:12
5."Lawless Avenues"Browne, Jorge Calderón5:40
6."Lives in the Balance" 4:18
7."Till I Go Down" 4:19
8."Black and White" 5:15


The list of contributors is as follows.[9]


  • Producer – Jackson Browne
  • Production Assistant – Steven Landsberg
  • Engineer – James Geddes
  • Assistant Engineers – Tchad Blake, Bill Jackson and Coke Johnson.
  • Technical Engineer – Ed Wong
  • Mixing – James Geddes and Greg Ladanyi
  • Mix Assistants – Murray Dvorkin and Sharon Rice
  • Mixed at The Complex (Los Angeles, CA).
  • Mastered by Doug Sax at The Mastering Lab (Los Angeles, CA).
  • Art Direction – Dawn Patrol and Jimmy Wachtel
  • Cover Artwork – Richard Duardo
  • Back Cover Photo – Basia Kenton


AlbumBillboard (North America)

Year Chart Position
1986 The Billboard 200 23

SinglesBillboard (North America)

Year Single Chart Position
1986 "For America" Mainstream Rock Tracks 3
1986 "For America" The Billboard Hot 100 30
1986 "In the Shape of a Heart" Adult Contemporary 10
1986 "In the Shape of a Heart" Mainstream Rock Tracks 15
1986 "In the Shape of a Heart" The Billboard Hot 100 70
1986 "Lives in the Balance" Mainstream Rock Tracks 33

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Rolling Stone. 100 Best Albums of the Eighties: #88 Jackson Browne - Lives in the Balance. Nov. 16, 1989.
  2. ^ Lives in the Balance
  3. ^ RIAA Gold and Platinum award. Archived 2015-09-24 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved July 20, 2010
  4. ^ a b Ruhlmann, William. "Lives in the Balance > Review". Allmusic. Retrieved July 13, 2010.
  5. ^ a b Christgau, Robert. "Lives in the Balance > Review". Retrieved July 13, 2010.
  6. ^ a b Coleman, Mark. "Lives in the Balance > Review". Rolling Stone.
  7. ^ Guterman, Jimmy. Rolling Stone, Review of Lives in the Balance. April 10, 1986. Accessed July 13, 2012.
  8. ^ Lives in the Balance, overview at AllMusic at AllMusic. Retrieved May 6, 2013.
  9. ^ Lives in the Balance, credits at AllMusic at AllMusic. Retrieved May 6, 2013.