Joe Jackson Reissues From Intervention Records
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.
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)."
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.