Posts Tagged ‘Joe Jackson’

These three British songwriters and frontmen who became famous on the heels of the punk explosion, Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello and Graham Parker although these fellows created music as unfettered as the Sex Pistols and the Damned, they seemed to channel the movement’s angry through gritted-teeth rage with their lyrics more than their music.

Jackson, Costello and Parker not only shared the “angry young man” banner, they also shared a complete hatred for the label and its limitations. It’s no wonder that all three would rebel against their ties to punk, especially Costello and Jackson who would dive heedlessly into excursions into country, jazz, R&B and classical works later in their careers.

But even with his second album, Joe Jackson was already resisting the label stamped on him. I’m the Man was released in October 1979 – only 10 months after his debut LP, Look Sharp! – with Jackson looking anything but sharp on the cover. Sporting a thin mustache and wearing a suit jacket loaded with stolen jewelry, Joe looked like the kind of petty criminal known as a spiv in the U.K. His tongue firmly planted in cheek, he said, “I think people always want to put a label on what you do, so I thought I’d be one step ahead of them and invent one myself – spiv rock.”

Regardless of what you filed it under, I’m the Man packed a wallop of great tunes, edgy vocal performances and cutting lyrics. The album was received by critics almost as positively as Jackson’s debut and performed well on the charts. As with Look Sharp!, the album was recorded with the four-piece Joe Jackson Band featuring Jackson on vocals and piano, Gary Sanford on guitar, Graham Maby on bass and David Houghton on drums – a lineup that initially held for just one more album, because of Jackson’s musical meanderings. (They reunited in the 2000s to record and tour.)

Back then, this foursome was as tight a musical outfit as existed anywhere and I’m the Man provides great evidence of this, perhaps most notably on the title track, the punkiest performance in Jackson’s entire discography. Over pounding drums, charging guitar and an acrobatic bassline, Joe impersonates a salesman who specializes in fads and offers his own commentary on the disposable nature of pop music in the process. He sneers: “I got the trash and you got the cash / So baby we should get along fine.” Maybe he wasn’t kidding about “spiv rock,” after all.

The album also featured Jackson’s biggest-charting hit in his native U.K., “It’s Different for Girls.” Joe said the song came about after he overheard someone use the cliched phrase in a conversation. He then invented his own conversation in the lyrics, turning the cliche on its ear where the female is seeking mere sexual gratification (“She said just give me something, anything / Give me all you got but not love”) and the male pines for something more. It’s a clever piece of work and Jackson’s bellowing vocals gives each line the appropriate amount of acid, but it’s the musical accompaniment (which does not include Jackson’s piano) that creates the tense atmosphere. The throbbing bass line and those stringing strains of guitar set the table for a lovers’ quarrel to explode, as it does in the chorus, and then fade into dismissive dissatisfaction on both sides.

I’m the Man rocks throughout, but it’s also dotted with moments of nuance, from the jazzy bits of piano that spar with jagged guitar riffs on “The Band Wore Blue Shirts” to the reggae feel of “Geraldine and John.” Together, they make I’m the Man the perfect delivery method for Jackson’s witty, and only occasionally angry, songwriting.

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Astonishingly released within months of each other, Jackson’s 1979 debut album “Look Sharp!” and “I’m the Man” are tight and inspired sets of power-pop that feature some of Jackson’s best and most timeless tunes. Radio classics from these two albums include, “Is She Really Going Out With Him?,” “Sunday Papers,” “On Your Radio,” “Kinda Kute,” and “It’s Different For Girls.” Remarkably, this was the last album Jackson would make in this new-wave vein for over 20 years.

Joe Jackson went to New York looking for new inspirations and sounds, and found his greatest commercial and critical success with “Night and Day”, an album redolent of the glitz and glamour of the city. These superbly crafted and arranged pop songs are inspired by the grandeur of Cole Porter and George Gershwin, and confidently infused with elements of jazz, swing and salsa. A genre-jumping crossover hit that virtually no one who heard the edgy power-pop of Jackson’s first 1979 efforts- Look Sharp! and I’m the Man– could ever claim to have seen coming. Perhaps the fearless Jackson’s finest hour in the studio.

“Summer in the City’s” repertoire is an amazing bridge that spans the greatest hits of Jackson’s early canon with stunning new arrangements and covers of other great songwriters. Jackson classics like “Fools in Love,” “You Can’t Get What You Want” and “It’s Different for Girls” meet with covers as diverse as Duke Ellington’s “Mood Indigo,” The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” and Steely Dan’s “King of the World.”

Look Sharp!, I’m the Man and Night and Day are sourced from the best-sounding analog tapes currently available, beautifully preserved ½” “safety copies” of the original stereo masters. We were able to maintain the grungy “New Wave” edge of the original LPs, but also restore the driving bass lines and bottom-end foundation on these tapes. The result is the best-sounding versions of Look Sharp! and I’m the Man anyone’s ever heard, with all the drive and pop of the original UK releases, but with superb tonal balance, imaging and clarity. The definitive issues of these iconic New Wave classics! Summer in the City was mastered to vinyl by Kevin Gray at CoHEARent Audio from newly-compiled high-res master files. Summer in the City was recorded live in New York City in August of 1999 by Steve Remote and Co-Producer Sheldon Steiger. Sony’s archivists and Battery Studios’ Mike Piacentini compiled new high-res digital master files from the original DATs with the final mixes, and IR consulted with Remote and Steiger on key aspects of the recording to ensure the best possible source files were used. The result is an absolute sonic stunner, brought to new life on this double LP set!
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Today, Joe Jackson reveals the second song from his upcoming studio album “Fool”. Undoubtedly musical, touchingly beautiful and lyrically powerful, “Strange Land” explores a sense of place in today’s world.

“I never have an overall theme in mind when I start trying to write songs for an album, but sometimes one will develop. In this case it’s Comedy and Tragedy, and the way they’re intertwined in all our lives. The songs are about fear and anger and alienation and loss, but also about the things that still make life worth living: friendship, laughter, and music, or art, itself. I couldn’t have done this in 1979. I just hadn’t lived enough.
The title track Fool is about my favorite super-hero: the one whose special power is to make us laugh. He is immortal and invulnerable – you can’t kill humor. And like Shakespeare’s Fools, he is really no fool at all. I think it’s the title track because in this battle of Comedy and Tragedy, he’s the good guy, the one I’m rooting for.”
Joe Jackson

“Long live the jester!” Joe Jackson crows in “Fool,” the title track for his 20th album. Written as Jackson heads into his fourth decade as a career musician, his tongue is as acidic as it ever was, and it’s hard to tell where the comedy ends and the tragedy begins. “Fool” cribs, appropriately, from Twelfth Night’s “The Wind and The Rain,” but adds a sitar and a punk rock snarl, partially howled through a megaphone like a tea-sipping Tom Waits. It’s a telling homage to snarkier catalogue entries like I’m the Man and Look Sharp, but it’s also the most energetic song on the album. It shouldn’t work—is that a tango I hear?—but Jackson has the marvelous ability to fuse genres without ever resorting to the cliched.

Similarly, “Fabulously Absolute” has the same discordant punk posturing, more John Lydon than the “Steppin’ Out” songwriter we may recall, but the chorus brings that lovely piano back to the forefront, at least for a moment. The clever rage that put him alongside contemporaries like Elvis Costello and Graham Parker has not mellowed with age, but has sharpened to a dagger-like point, a single bullet directly aimed.

It’s easy to fall instantly in love with Jackson’s earlier work, like Night & Day or Body & Soul but Fool is a bit of a commitment. You have to make a dedicated effort to give it a couple of listens; no song immediately jumps out. But like a delicious meal, it’s worth chewing over slowly, savoring what each song brings to the palate, and each listen brings out something new.

“Fool”, the 20th studio album celebrating the artist’s 40th anniversary, is going to be released (incl. 2 previously unreleased songs) on January 18th, 2019 on earMUSIC. The album was co-produced by Jackson and producer Pat Dillett (David Byrne, Sufjan Stevens, Glen Hansard, etc.) The band in question was the same group that Jackson has played live with ever since the release of “Fast Forward”: Teddy Kumpel on guitar, Doug Yowell on drums, and long-time collaborator Graham Maby on bass (Maby was on that first recording session 40 years ago as well). Starting February 2019, Jackson and the band will embark on a new world tour, playing shows throughout the US and Europe and performing material drawn off five albums (“Look Sharp (1979)”, “Night And Day (1982)”, “Laughter And Lust (1991)”, “Rain (2008)” and “Fool (2019)”) as well as a couple of songs from other albums and some new covers.

April 18th / O2 Birmingham Institute / Birmingham, UK

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Joe Jackson announced the release of his 20th studio album on January. 18th, 2019. The eight-track LP is named Fool and follows 2015’s Fast Forward. Next year also marks the 40th anniversary of his debut album, Look Sharp.

“When it looked like I’d be recording in late July and mixing around my birthday, in August, it struck me that the only other occasion that had happened was while making my first album,” Jackson said in a statement. “It still took a while for it to sink in: This would be 40 years since my debut album release.

Jackson noted that the “road to this album is littered with the wrecks of songs and half-songs that didn’t make the grade. There are eight survivors, which I think is enough. … I never have an overall theme in mind when I start trying to write songs for an album, but sometimes one will develop. In this case it’s Comedy and Tragedy, and the way they’re intertwined in all our lives. The songs are about fear and anger and alienation and loss, but also about the things that still make life worth living: friendship, laughter, and music, or art, itself. I couldn’t have done this in 1979. I just hadn’t lived enough.”

You can watch the video for the first single, “Fabulously Absolute,”

The album was produced by Jackson along with Pat Dillett, who’s previously worked with David Byrne, Sufjan Stevens and others. Joe Jackson and his band – Teddy Kumpel, Graham Maby and Doug Yowell – launch a North American tour on February running until Mar. 9, with dates in Europe and the U.K. to follow.

Analog Planet’s Michael Fremer reviewed our trio of Joe Jackson reissues and came away impressed: “As we’ve come to expect from Intervention, the Tip-on packaging is first rate as is Kevin Gray’s mastering from analog tape, pressed on 180 gram vinyl at RTI.” But wait there’s more!  On “Look Sharp!” .. you’ll love the reissue, which offers sharper, cleaner transients, improved transparency and focus and greater dynamics. It preserves a pulsing energy the original softens and diminishes.” I’m the Man: “ … this Intervention reissue smokes the original in all of the ways that matter on a drum’n’bass’n’guitar driven record: sharper, cleaner transients, greater dynamic slam, and bass that digs all the way down.Night and Day”… The Intervention reissue again beats the original A&M Records release in every way .

Joe Jackson’s “angry young man” stance came late in the cycle and so at the time was less than fully convincing. Elvis and Graham had already been there and done that. The picture of Jackson on the back cover of his debut Look Sharp (IR-005) just wasn’t convincing.

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More importantly, the music and especially the lyrics seemed derivative but boy, could the band play and cut those sharp-edged rhythms! Songs like “Sunday Papers” covered familiar territory but the hook on “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” dug in and the songs were generally tightly sprung and well crafted though “Happy Loving Couples” sounded way too much like “Less Than Zero”. On the Reggae rhythmed “Fools in Love” Jackson is a cynical outsider looking at love from a particularly jaundiced and needy point of view. Overall, his social commentary lacked focus and bite, while his relationship songs came across as bitter. Jackson knew how to modulate the dynamics and exhibited a musical sense that indicated he was low-balling his abilities to fit the time’s stripped down ’50’s derived musical fashion.

Look Sharp! was simply but cleanly recorded in what sounds like mono. If you like the original, you’ll love the reissue, which offers sharper, cleaner transients, improved transparency and focus and greater dynamics. It preserves a pulsing energy the original softens and diminishes. Cymbals chime smartly, Graham Maby’s bass lines are tautly drawn, and Dave Haughton’s drum kit produces slam the original blunts. Plus the pressing quality helps produce blacker backgrounds.

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Jackson’s follow-up “I’m The Man” features a cover showing Jackson as consummate flim-flam man and while the title song is about a material goods salesman, it can also be seen as Jackson getting ready to slough off the Get Sharp! “musical hula-hoops” image, though the title tune may be Jackson’s pinnacle as a hard rocker.

The album opens with “On the Radio”, a sweet revenge song that also indicates the production has softened and warmed somewhat the debut album’s hard and bright edges. In “Geraldine and John” Jackson cynically observes a cheater and a break-up. “Kinda Cute” again cuts too close to the bone of an Elvis Costello song. Later on “The Band Wore Blues Shirts”, which has in parenthesis (a true story), Jackson paints an empty picture of being a musician in a nightclub house band. In “Don’t Wanna Be Like That”, Jackson paints a negative picture of the L.A. scene from his particular point of view, again as an outsider. At the end his bitterness sharply pokes through his observational stance as he hints at his own predicament: “And the Playboy centerfold leaves me cold/And that ain’t ’cause I’m a fag”. The album’s final few songs are lyrically unfocused, or rather, inconsequential relationship observations as if Jackson’s attention span on the subject was spent—though “Amateur Hour” features a lovely melody.

Again, this Intervention reissue smokes the original in all of the ways that matter on a drum’n’bass’n’guitar driven record: sharper, cleaner transients, greater dynamic slam, and bass that digs all the way down. The perspective is again nearly if not fully mono, which increases the importance of the instrumental separation and clarity.

I’m the Man came across then and now as a “bridge” album to either more of the same next time, which would have been a career-stall, or something new demonstrating musical and personal growth. Still, probably few fans were prepared for Night and Day, where Jackson basically said “fuck this angry young man shit, here’s who I really am (musically and otherwise).”

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On the front cover Jackson is seen at the piano (where he dared not previously go) in a Hirschfeld-like pen and ink sketch, looking very much like the Cole Porter toward which the album’s title points. The newly liberated Jackson is shown in the gatefold “deal with it” photo standing before a plethora of keyboard and mallet instruments—all percussion—plus a couple of bass guitars. Not an electric guitar in sight but plenty of latin rhythms packed into the grooves.

The album opens with Jackson stepping into a rhythmically sophisticated “Another World” backed by congas and xylophone. Jackson’s liberation continues song by song as he’s moved beyond “boy/girl” to more sophisticated fare. “Stepping Out” presents the newly liberated Jackson in full sophisticated flower but not before the embarrassing Talking Heads rip-off “T.V. Age”, which I bet Jackson wishes he could take back.

“Real Men” gets to the heart of where Jackson’s been heading—the sexual liberation and another dose of tearful bitterness because he’s not one of the pretty boys he’s observing and in any case, liberation is leading to confusion. It’s a powerful song and worlds away from “Is She Really Going Out With Him?”. It’s Jackson being really tough but without shouting and on the final tune you hear Jackson finally singing satisfied about his relationship instead of observing others—though he’s still got a bitch, but it’s about the club D.J..

The Intervention reissue again beats the original A&M in every way as above. I think Mobile Fidelity once issued this years ago and I had it but got rid of it I can’t remember why, but probably because the old Mo-Fi regime laid on the excess bass and muddied the middle.

Fans of these records will want all three but more casual fans looking for one should get Night and Day both for the music and far more sophisticated ‘recorded in New York City’ sound.

As we’ve come to expect from Intervention, the Tip-on packaging is first rate as is Kevin Gray’s mastering from analog tape, pressed on 180 gram vinyl at RTI.

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This year Pixx is gearing up to release her first full-length debut album, but in the meantime she’s shared a live cover of Joe Jackson’s ‘It’s Different For Girls’.

At first, the lyrics Jackson’s 1979 song might sound as if he was singing about a man who goes out looking for sex, while his partner is in search of love. But in fact it’s actually the opposite way around. That switch-around of stereotypical gender roles seems almost the perfect fit for Pixx’s thoughtful, and thought-provoking, pop.

She turns the post-punk tune into a vintage guitar-led number that occasionally bursts forth with clashing cymbals. The floaty melodies means that Pixx’s voice is at the forefront, so if you didn’t get the twist when Jackson told it, you certainly will here.

Listen to the cover of ‘It’s Different For Girls’ below.

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so good live and a great songwriter

500 Reasons Why The 80's Didn't Suck

What a shame Elvis Costello and Graham Parker released stellar albums at the same time Joe Jackson released Look Sharp!, his debut, in 1979. Parker unleashed Squeezing Out Sparks, arguably his finest, and Costello published Armed Forces, also arguably his finest. But Jackson, the quintessential angry young man and every bit their equal, should never be forgotten as one of the classics, and his albums from 1979-1983 are documents that prove he should have been more revered/popular than he was/is.

look sharpStarting with the debut, then: Look Sharp! was my introduction to Jackson when I was but a wee lad, and the track Sunday Papers is the reason I started playing the bass guitar. Rife with cod reggae, humor, punk anger, plenty of pop hooks (like the massive hit Is She Really Going Out With Him?,One More Time, Look Sharp and Pretty Girls, and all the rest, really) and…

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