He’s The Man and Still Sounds Sharp.
In 1979 I genuinely wore out my first copy of Joe Jackson’s Look Sharp LP and his Jumping Jive album got dusted off earlier this Summer; so I can see I am or at least used to be; a Joe Jackson fan.
When his ‘pop fans’ disappeared in the early 80’s I contrarily loved Night & Day and later Body & Soul; probably because I was going through my own ‘Jazz is Cool’ phase; and it’s a return to those halcyon days we find Joe Jackson thirty years later.
Originally meant to be 4 x 4 track EP’s the songs were all recorded in batches of four in cities as diverse as New York, Amsterdam, Berlin and New Orleans; with each bringing a little of its own soul to the proceeding.
The New York section opens with the sensual title track Fast Forward featuring Jackson’s trademark laconic singing style as he tinkles an exquisite piano ala Nat ‘King’ Cole.
While I see this album fitting into my ‘Dinner Jazz’ section of my collection; it is never Easy Listening, and in the case of If It Wasn’t For You; it’s actually Uneasy Listening, but as a man who has been married for 38 years, sometimes words and tone can be mistaken for something they weren’t meant to be. I love the song; by the way.
For See No Evil, which is TV theme song the pace pick up into Jazz-Rock Lite, with Bill Frisell subtly stealing the show in the background on guitar, while the story neatly unfolds.
The NY section closes with the Scorsese meets Bob Hoskins Kings of the City. Jackson’s quintessentially flat English enunciation merges perfectly with the smoky Big City backdrop for the man who thought he would be 19 Forever but now knows; you have to grow up eventually.
We then move to Amsterdam for four more cosmopolitan songs; beginning with the windswept and interesting A Little Smile; which has some luscious swooping strings and marvelous piano playing throughout.
On Far Away we hear the breathtaking voice of 14 year old Mitchell Sink who will melt hearts throughout music land; with a voice straight from Heaven above; and on Poor Thing, which closes the section Joe also uses his voice to great effect on a really sad tale of hope and regret.
The Berlin section is arguably the most ‘interesting’ section. Don’t think for a second that this is going to be either Bowie or Kraftwerk influenced; but the overall sound of the four tracks is ‘heavier’ and ‘crisper’ than the other three sections, with Junkie Diva having a slight ‘disco/dance’ middle section and on Goodbye Jonny, you will be forgiven for thinking you are listening to a Randy Newman song from a London based musical. The song really is quite theatrical in the deliver; but none the less a lovely way to spend four minutes.
The album closes with the New Orleans section; and again Jackson doesn’t go for the obvious, choosing to use that cities Gothic and Bluesy traditions on Neon Rain and Keep on Dreaming is a jaunty little number masking a dark tale.
Fast Forward closes in New Orleans with Ode to Joy; a Cajun beat, English vocals, Mardi Gras percussion and a universal song of a broken heart – what’s not to like?
Joe Jackson has never sat well in the mainstream; and yet again he has delivered his own take on Adult Orientated Jazz/Rock and he has done it with style and a swagger.
Joe Jackson leads; others follow.
Released October 2nd 2015