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September 2003


H.E.A.R. Honors Joe Jackson

JOE JACKSON has spent the better part of his career keeping one jump ahead of his audience; so successfully that many of his fans have given up the chase. But now, after a musical odyssey that has taken him into classical, jazz and Latin music, he has returned to his point of departure with spectacular results. Having reconvened the Joe Jackson Band, with whom he recorded his first three albums between 1979 and 1980, he has released a new album, Volume 4, featuring a fresh batch of songs written and recorded in the snappy, new-wave pop vein of his earliest work.

Coming 25 years after Jackson's debut, "Look Sharp," the man has reassembled the original band who played on his first three records [Graham Maby, Gary Sanford, and Dave Houghton], and it doesn't sound like they've missed a beat. Right off the bat, the album jumps into the rock foray with "Take It Like A Man," a drum-driven piece with stacatto piano riffs peppered throughout. The song really gets your blood pumping. The next two tracks, "Stay Alive" and the single "Awkward Age" showcase Jackson's uncanny ability to write a damn good pop song. The former will remind you of the Beatles, while the latter will make you think of the aforementioned Mr. Costello. Joe brings the band down for "Chrome" and "Love At First Light," showcasing the quiet side of his songwriting abilities. The album continues to jump back into "rock" mode, though, so don't fret if ballads aren't your thing. "Fairy Dust," with it's wah-wah guitar and 5/4 time signature sounds a bit like modern jazz, but there's too much edge here to dare let you lump it in those quarters. Album closer "Bright Grey" is one of the punkest songs- this new crop of nu-pop-punk bands could take a lesson from this master. And let's not forget what could be the comedy hit of the year - Jackson's hilarious sendup of hip hop poseurs in the song "Thugz 'R' Us." All in all, this is a fantastically solid album, and it will surely please anyone who was ever a fan of his older work from the late 70s/early 80s. The first pressing of the album comes with a bonus disc containing 6 Joe Jackson classics being performed live last fall.


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