Friday, July 11, 2008

Review: Joe Jackson - Volume 4

Label: Rykodisc

Released: March 11, 2003

Joe Jackson is a recent discovery for me. It's not that I've just heard his music for the first time, just that I've only recently spent the time to get to know it and really appreciate it. In the midst of my Joe Jackson discovery, I came across 2003's Volume 4 which finds Jackson reunited with the band that gave us Look Sharp, I'm the Man and Beat Crazy, arguably his three best albums. Like Jackson himself, these guys haven't lost much over the years. They have that rare quality of being top-notch technicians that never lost the ability to play from the heart. They're downright inspiring.

Volume 4 goes back to Jackson's punk roots (don't call it new wave, because that's just too watered down for what Jackson does). "Little Bit Stupid" has all the angular bite of 1977, but still shows that Jackson can pretty much write circles around his peers, past and present. "Love at First Sight" hints at Billy Joel much in the way that earlier hits "Is She Really Going Out with Him" and "Steppin' Out" hint at Rick Springfield and Christopher Cross respectively. While Joel is certainly not so bad as the others, the amazing thing about Joe Jackson is that he gets within a stones throw of artists who've done some pretty egregious work, yet his songs ring with an honesty and edge that keep him solidly on the good (actually outstanding) side of the line. The funky "Fairy Dust" stretches out and gets down. Even a lighter song like "Chrome" has a biting intensity beneath its smooth surfaces.

Is Volume 4 every bit as good as the first three albums recorded by this group of musicians? Not quite. You'd be hard pressed to find a moment of weakness on the first three volumes and there are a few here. However, it does live up to the legacy, because Joe Jackson and company never sound like a bunch of old guys rehashing their past. If all reunions were like this, I certainly wouldn't take such issue with them.

The album comes with a bonus EP of the band performing some of their older favorites live. It might not be Live 1980/86, but it rocks with the same spirit if not the incredible ambition.

For another opinion on this album, check out Chuck's review at Pratt Songs.

Satriani: 10/10
Zappa: 6/10
Dylan: 8/10
Aretha: 9/10
Overall: 8/10



If you're curious about my rating categories, read the description.

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Blogger taotechuck said...

Nice review, and thanks for the link. You liked the album a little bit more than I did. "Little Bit Stupid" struck me as one of the weaker songs on the album, but you've got a point about the way he (usually successfully) walks the line between stupid and clever. I wouldn't be surprised if "Stupid" just caught me in the wrong mood, and it's actually a good song.

Neither of us really mentioned it in our reviews, but the first song is awesome. I think it stands almost as tall as his strongest work.

9:48 AM  
Blogger The RIpple Effect said...

Right on. As I said before, JJ is really an amazing songwriter for all styles. It's hard to call him under rated when he's sold millions, but he's never quite received the praise that Costello got. And in the end, I think, JJ wrote more memorable songs over more albums than Elvis did.

4:37 PM  

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