The Pretender was another step in Jackson Browne’s transition from singer/songwriter to rocker. From the opening lines of “The Fuse”—his observation on the movement of time and the limits of life itself—on out, it’s clear that his wife’s suicide haunts this record. Browne worries for his son (“The Only Child") and wonders how he himself will soldier forth (“The Pretender”). In the end, his poetic lines beautify the truth, while the full band gives him a hopeful edge. The Pretender is a world of consequence—a heavy but deeply rewarding listen.