Joe Jackson Band - "Volume Four" (New album!)

Discussion in 'Music' started by Andrew 'Ange Hamm' Hamm, Mar 11, 2003.

  1. Andrew 'Ange Hamm' Hamm

    Andrew 'Ange Hamm' Hamm Supporting Actor

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    Yes, this is indeed all four members of the original Joe Jackson Band, the group that recorded the albums Look Sharp!, I'm the Man, and Beat Crazy 20-25 years ago.
    • Joe Jackson - vocals, piano, keyboards
    • Graham Maby - bass, vocals
    • Dave Houghton - drums, vocals
    • Gary Sanford - guitar, vocals

    For a change, I am going to resist the urge to be the first one to write a lengthy review, partially because I have a ton of Theatre Historiography homework to focus on this week. In short, I'll say that, on first listen, Volume Four has a lot more in common with those first three albums than with anything else Joe has recorded since; it's almost like he's stepped back in a time machine and grabbed some of that cynical-optimist angry-young-man lover-fighter energy that made him a new wave star in the first place. But he's done it with the wisdom of eld and the maturity of his many years of experimentation.

    If you order from his website, www.joejackson.com , there is also a bonus disc included with the CD featuring the same band playing old classics live at the warm-up gigs they did in England last fall.
     
  2. Andrew 'Ange Hamm' Hamm

    Andrew 'Ange Hamm' Hamm Supporting Actor

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    Well, no one seems to care, but I've finally listened to the album enough to write a review of sorts.

    Joe Jackson Band - Volume 4

    Madonna could take a few lessons in re-invention from Joe Jackson. Starting as a New Wave hit singer-songwriter in the late 70s, Jackson has developed through the pazz-jop of Night and Day and Body and Soul to the concept rock of Big World and Blaze of Glory and even into a strange and hard-to-categorize neoclassical vein with Night Music and Heaven and Hell. Along the way were divergences into jump-swing, film scores, and one pure-pop gem, Laughter and Lust, that was stillborn by Virgin records. His most recent offering, Night and Day II, held a slightly reminiscent feel while still pointing to an interesting future. But just when you think you know where Joe Jackson is headed, he does a 180.

    Volume 4 features a reunion of the original Joe Jackson band, the quartet who recorded Look Sharp!, I'm the Man, and Beat Crazy way back when. And, amazingly, the new album picks up almost exactly where the previous three left off. It's like Jackson has found a time machine or the fountain of youth. Make no mistake, this is still the 40-something Joe Jackson; the structure, harmonies, modulations, chord progressions, and odd time signatures are definitely traits of the older, wiser songwriter, but the energy, arrangements, and tone are seriously retro.

    The opening track, "Take It Like a Man," is my current favorite, a Latinesque piano line and syncopated rhythm section driving some great melodies. "Still Alive" is an enjoyable Beatles tribute, with Gary Sanford's 12-string guitar work reminiscent of the Byrds, but the structure and harmonies are very much Lennon. "Awkward Age" and "Little Bit Stupid" could have been lifted directly from I'm the Man, which is high praise. "Chrome" and "Blue Flame" are a bit disappointing, only because they seem to be the only two songs that are held back by the composition of the band; "Blue Flame" in particular cries out for a more dynamic percussion line. The album's most ambitious track is "Fairy Dust," which deals with gay stereotypes with a rapid-fire 5/4 time signature and machine-gun lyrics. "Dirty Martini" and "Thugs 'R' Us" add some more humor, especially the latter, an anthem for suburban kids acting like gangsta rappers. "Bright Grey," the closer, has the same crazy energy as previous album-enders "Friday" and "Got the Time."

    Another area where Joe has matured tremendously is in his lyric-writing. He's always been snide and self-deprecating, but the tone of this album seems to bring out the most biting humor he can manage. Volume 4 serves up some tender morsels like "You feel her touch / Fingers like icicles / She needs you so much / Like fish need bicycles" and "I should have known you were only just fifteen / You had a scowl like a Klingon beauty queen." "Blue Flame" is a lyrical gem. "Thugs 'R' Us" gives us "We've got beer but we want some crack / We look white but we wanna be black."

    The production of the album is fascinating. It really sounds as if the attempt was to duplicate the sound of the first three albums, with some modern cleaning-up (and of course way too much compression, which almost all modern albums have). Gary Sanford's guitar, in particular, sounds exactly, I mean exactly the same as it did 25 years ago, and his playing is just as minimal; guitar has never really been a primary instrument in Jackson's songwriting. Graham Maby's bass is clean and clear as usual, muddied up with some distortion for "Little Bit Stupid," and very high in the mix (which Jackson fans love). Dave Houghton's drum work is spectacular, much improved in dynamics and mechanics in the past two decades. His snare cuts through the mix in just the right places, and his fills always serve the song. I'd like to have heard more out of him in "Blue Flame," which is my only strong criticism of the album. The piano is part of the mix, rather than being out front, and the vocals are well-balanced and clear, though some higher notes in "Chrome" are fairly weak. The "Band" vibe is enhanced strongly by the production; this is not a Joe Jackson album with a bunch of session musicians, it's the Joe Jackson Band from start to finish.

    Fans of Jackson's old work owe it to themselves to pick this album up. It will not disappoint. This is not just another example of an aging rocker trying to keep his career going by kicking it old-school; Jackson has been detatched from this portion of his career for long enough that it really does seem completely fresh. Volume 4 is just a great, smart, fun rock and roll album by four musicians who are clearly having a blast playing together. Fans of Jackson's work who have gravitated toward his more cerebral, experimental work of the past ten years might find Volume 4 a bit of a disappointment, but it's just so darn much fun that it's hard to find fault with it.

    There is a limited edition out now with a bonus CD of six old hits played live from the band's warm-up gigs in England last year. They are essentially by-the-book renditions of "One More Time," "Is She Really Going Out With Him?," "On Your Radio," "Got The Time," "It's Different For Girls," and "I'm the Man," and they, too, sound like they could have come out of a time capsule.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] out of [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  3. Ryan Spaight

    Ryan Spaight Supporting Actor

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    Great review, thanks.

    After listening to it a grand total of once, I'm reacting to it like I did to Beat Crazy -- the ballads grabbed me right away (I liked "Blue Flame" and "Love At First Light" an awful lot, just like "One To One" is one of my all-time favorite JJ tracks), but the more uptempo stuff didn't connect on first listen. Oh, it's good, no doubt, but I need a few more listens to figure out just *how* good.

    The compressed sound is a real downer, though. Everything's nice and crisp and clear, but all mushed together dynamically. Blurgh. I hate the modern mastering style.

    The bonus disc is a lot of fun. Like you say, a time-capsule. I wish I could make it to one of the US shows, but he's not coming anywhere near here.

    Ryan
     
  4. Kirk Gunn

    Kirk Gunn Screenwriter

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    Thanks Andrew - I'm off to the sight to make the purchase !!!
     
  5. Andrew 'Ange Hamm' Hamm

    Andrew 'Ange Hamm' Hamm Supporting Actor

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    I'm actually not that crazy about the bonus disc. It's so by-the-book that I feel like I might as well just listen to the studio recordings. One of the things I love most about Joe is his ability to re-visualize his own music live. Of course, I understand that this is about going back to his roots, but frankly I have live material from 10 different Joe Jackson tours and this is the most boring. Also, the stupid audience singing along--poorly--with "Is She Really Going Out With Him" is incredibly annoying..

    Beat Crazy, huh? I never would have thought of that. My understanding is that BC is the most collaborative of all the JJ Band albums, which is part of why it's the most unremarkable disc in Jackson's entire catalog. To me, the clear hand of Joe's songwriting is on every moment of Volume 4. Personally, I want to see where he was going to go next after Heaven and Hell and Night and Day II, which are two of my favorite albums ever. But this album is just so darn much fun I can't really find fault with it.

    I'm going to see the band in Brooklyn on April 12th. Anyone want to come?
     
  6. Rick Deschaine

    Rick Deschaine Stunt Coordinator

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    I was in Austin this past weekend (SXSW baby!) and caught The Joe Jackson Band at the Town Lake Stage. Pretty good show. His voice is still in top form and the band is tiiight! Will see him again on the 27th in Boulder at the Fox Theatre (if it stops snowing!). Can't wait as it's a pretty small venue.

    Rick
     
  7. Andrew 'Ange Hamm' Hamm

    Andrew 'Ange Hamm' Hamm Supporting Actor

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    Rick,

    What was the set like? Did he only play stuff from the four Joe Jackson Band albums?
     
  8. Rick Deschaine

    Rick Deschaine Stunt Coordinator

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    Andrew,

    He pretty much only played stuff from The Joe Jackson Band repetoire. A couple of songs from the new album and about 5 older songs (it was a pretty short set as he was sharing the stage with a lot of other bands). Should be a pretty good show wherever you see him. I'm looking forward to the show next week as it will be a full show.

    Later, Rick
     
  9. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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    Andrew,

    Thanks - he is very talented - I will put this on my buy list.

    [​IMG]
     
  10. Andrew 'Ange Hamm' Hamm

    Andrew 'Ange Hamm' Hamm Supporting Actor

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    Rick, give us a review, will you?
     
  11. Rick Deschaine

    Rick Deschaine Stunt Coordinator

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    Just got back awhile ago from the Joe Jackson show up in Boulder.

    Fantastic! This being a small venue really made the night special. The band as well as Joe were in top form. His voice is as good as it's ever been. His stage presence was very warm and playful and he had much fun with the crowd while singing 'Is She Really Going Out With Him?' We all loudly joined in with ..'Something Going on Around Here.' He would sing it until the the word here, let us sing it and then sing it himself slightly off the beat. The last part of the song he gave up and just let us sing it to fade out. Much fun for all!

    They played many songs from the first 3 albums, but the highlight for me was when he soloed (just him and his piano)a couple of tunes from 'Night and Day', namely 'Steppin Out' and 'Real men'. During this moment he also sang a song called 'Mayor of Simpleton' originally done by XTC. Very cool.

    Lastly but not least the new stuff was very well done. I especially liked two of the slower tunes called 'Chrome' and 'Love at First Light'. All of the tunes to me, held up surprisingly well with the old standards. I hope this band makes some more music in the future.

    I heartily recommend seeing this show to anyone who is a Joe Jackson fan. Catch it in your town, you won't be disappointed.

    Peace out, Rick
     
  12. Andrew 'Ange Hamm' Hamm

    Andrew 'Ange Hamm' Hamm Supporting Actor

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    Thanks, dude! I'm traveling all the way from Richmond to Brooklyn to see them April 12th!
     

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