Wednesday, October 7, 2015


Yes, that Joe Jackson, the one-time icon of New Wave, who broke through in 1979 with Look Sharp! and Is She Really Going Out With Him. He's recorded regularly since, but you never know quite what to expect. His last outing in 2012, The Duke, was a tribute to Ellington. He's done several different jazz styles, jump blues, full classical, and still returns to piano pop and rock when the mood strikes.

This time, it is on the rock side, although he's found another way to mix things up within the album. It's divided into four parts, or EP's, each one featuring a different group recording four songs in a different city. Pretty clever, you get four distinct styles, lots of variety and license for everybody to loosen up and ignore genres.

The first section comes from New York and features two greats who also refuse to be pigeon-holed, guitarist Bill Frisell and drummer Brian Blade. Joining them are Jackson's longtime bass partner Graham Maby, and the renowned jazz violin player Regina Carter. This gang actually provides some of the most pleasing pop of the disc, including the piano-led title cut, plus the chance to really rock on a cover of Television's See No Evil, Frisell giving us one of those off-kilter, brilliant solos.

Next Jackson decamps to Amsterdam, where he suits up with the Concertgebouw Orchestra. Offering the most diverse set of songs and instrumentation, this set sees him incorporate everything from a light Latin touch to moody, thoughtful lyrics cushioned by strings and soft horn playing.

Crossing the continent, Jackson heads to his second home, Berlin, where he teams up with rock players including Tindersticks drummer Earl Harvin. Junkie Diva could have come from his beloved Night and Day album, with rich keyboard moments in between some pretty/loud playing. And while in Berlin, don't forget to pay respect to that beloved pre-war Cabaret period, as he does with the murder song Good Bye Jonny.

Lastly, Jackson goes back to the States, and New Orleans, this time rounding up members of the local favourite funksters Galactic. I like how Jackson doesn't change his music much in an attempt to blend in to the Crescent City sound, but rather adapts the musician's skills to his songs. The groove of Satellite is clean and sharp, with his classic piano chords, with those familiar New Orleans horns joining in rather than dominating. This section also includes the great starting line, "God must think he's God or something, lording it over us," from Keep On Dreaming. What's not to like here? You get some of the sounds you enjoyed Jackson's early music, and lots of new and different places to visit as well.

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