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Joe Jackson - Look Sharp! [A&M SP 4743] (1979)

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Artist:

Joe Jackson

Title:

Look Sharp!

Released: 1979
Label: A&M
Catalog: SP 4743
Genre: Rock, New Wave
T R A C K L I S T:
01 One More Time
02 Sunday Papers
03 Is She Really Going Out With Him?
04 Happy Loving Couples
05 Throw It Away
06 Baby Stick Around
07 Look Sharp!
08 Fools In Love
09 (Do The) Instant Mash
10 Pretty Girls
11 Got The Time
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Album Review

Steve Huey [allmusic.com]

A brilliant, accomplished debut, Look Sharp! established Joe Jackson as part of that camp of angry, intelligent young new wavers (i.e., Elvis Costello, Graham Parker) who approached pop music with the sardonic attitude and tense, aggressive energy of punk. Not as indebted to pub rock as Parker and Costello, and much more lyrically straightforward than the latter, Jackson delivers a set of bristling, insanely catchy pop songs that seethe with energy and frustration. Several deal with the lack of thoughtful reflection in everyday life ("Sunday Papers," "Got the Time"), but many more concern the injuries and follies of romance. In the caustic yet charming witticisms of songs like the hit "Is She Really Going Out With Him?," "Happy Loving Couples," "Fools in Love," and "Pretty Girls," Jackson presents himself on the one hand as a man of integrity seeking genuine depth in love (and elsewhere), but leavens his stance with a wry, self-effacing humor, revealing his own vulnerability to loneliness and to purely physical attraction. Look Sharp! is the sound of a young man searching for substance in a superficial world -- and it also happens to rock like hell.


Joe Jackson - I'm The Man (A&M SP 4794) (1979)

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Artist:

Joe Jackson

Title:

I'm The Man

Released: 1979
Label: A&M
Catalog: SP 4794
Genre: Rock / Punk Rock
T R A C K L I S T:
01 On Your Radio
02 Geraldine And John
03 Kinda Kute
04 It's Different For Girls
05 I'm The Man
06 The Band Wore Blue Shirts
07 Don't Wanna Be Like That
08 Amateur Hour
09 Get That Girl
10 Friday
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Album Review

by Mike DeGagne [allmusic.com]

Despite Jackson's anxious demeanor and shaky pop/rock presence, I'm the Man holds together quite well as his second attempt. Reaching number 12 in the U.K. and a respectable number 22 in the U.S., the album managed to net him a number five hit in his homeland with the insightful "It's Different for Girls," which revealed Jackson's adeptness at philosophizing and his perception of examining the sexes, a trait which would follow him throughout his career. While this song represents his skill at crafting an effective ballad, the frantic "I'm the Man" showcases Jackson at his most frenzied, as a freight train's worth of lyrics pile haphazardly into one another alongside a wonderfully hysteric rhythm. Not only does the track show off Jackson's free-range ability, but his sense of humor arises once again, following in the footsteps of Look Sharp!'s "Is She Really Going Out With Him." Jackson's new wave tendencies are toned down for I'm the Man, but that doesn't restrain his talent, as songs like "Kinda Kute," "Amateur Hour," and "Geraldine and John" make for catchy side servings of attractive pop. It wasn't until Jackson's next album, Beat Crazy, that he began to expand his musical latitudes into reggae, soul, and later on into jazz and other styles. I'm the Man exposes Jackson in his early stages, but it's evident that his wit and peculiar brand of pop charm is already building up its strength.


Joe Jackson Band - Beat Crazy [A&M Records SP-4837] (25 October 1980)

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Artist:

Joe Jackson Band

Title:

Beat Crazy

Released: 25 October 1980
Label: A&M Records
Catalog: SP-4837
Genre: Rock, Reggae


T R A C K L I S T:
01 Beat Crazy
02 One To One
03 In Every Dream Home (A Nightmare)
04 Evil Eye
05 Mad At You
06 Crime Don't Pay
07 Someone Up There
08 Battleground
09 Biology
10 Pretty Boys
11 Fit
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Album Review

Beat Crazy is the third album by Joe Jackson, released in October 1980, and credited to the Joe Jackson Band. It was a relative disappointment commercially, peaking outside the Top 40 in both the UK and the United States, with its singles failing to chart. One reason for the reduced sales in the U.S. may have been that the group did not tour to support it there. Nevertheless, the Joe Jackson Band was successful and toured extensively. This would be the last studio album released by the Joe Jackson Band's original line-up until 2003's Volume 4. [wikipedia.org]


Joe Jackson - Night And Day (A&M SP 4906) (1982)

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Artist:

Joe Jackson

Title:

Night And Day

Released: 1982
Label: A&M
Catalog: SP-4906
Genre: Rock / Pop / Eclectic
T R A C K L I S T:
01 Another World
02 Chinatown
03 T.V. Age
04 Target
05 Steppin' Out
06 Breaking Us In Two
07 Cancer
08 Real Men
09 A Slow Song
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Album Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine [allmusic.com]

1982 will forever be known as the year that the punks got class -- or at least when Joe Jackson and Elvis Costello, rivals for the title of Britain's reigning Angry Young Man -- decided that they were not just rockers, but really songwriters in the Tin Pan Alley tradition. (Graham Parker, fellow angry Brit, sat this battle out, choosing to work with Aerosmith producer Jack Douglas instead.) Both had been genre-hopping prior to 1982, but Jackson's Night and Day and Costello's Imperial Bedroom announced to the world that both were "serious songwriters," standing far apart from the clamoring punkers and silly new wavers. In retrospect, the ambitions of these two 27-year-olds (both born in August 1954, just two weeks apart) seem a little grandiose, and if Imperial Bedroom didn't live up to its masterpiece marketing campaign (stalling at number 30 on the charts without generating a hit), it has garnered a stronger reputation than Night and Day, which was a much more popular album, climbing all the way to number four on the U.S. charts, thanks to the Top Ten single "Steppin' Out." Night and Day had greater success because it's sleek and bright, entirely more accessible than the dense, occasionally unwieldy darkness of Imperial Bedroom. Plus, Jackson plays up the comparisons to classic pop songwriting by lifting his album title from Cole Porter, dividing the record into a "night" and "day" side, and then topping it off with a neat line drawing of him at his piano in a New York apartment on the cover. All of these classy tralan_parsonsings are alan_parsonsarent on the surface, which is the problem with the record: it's all stylized, with the feel eclipsing the writing, which is kind of ironic considering that Jackson so clearly strives to be a sophisticated cosmopolitan songwriter here. He gets the cosmopolitan, big-city feel down pat; although the record never delivers on the "night" and "day" split, with the latter side feeling every bit as nocturnal as the former, his blend of percolating Latin rhythms, jazzy horns and pianos, stylish synths, and splashy pop melodies uncannily feel like a bustling, glitzy evening in the big city. On that front, Night and Day is a success, since it creates a mood and sustains it very well. Where it lets down is the sublood_sweat_tearsance of the songs. At a mere nine tracks, it's a brief album even by 1982 standards, and it seems even shorter because about half the numbers are more about sound than song. "A Slow Song" gets by on its form, not what it says, while "Target" and "Cancer" are swinging Latin-flavored jams that disalan_parsonsear into the air. "Chinatown" is a novelty pastiche that's slightly off-key, but nowhere near as irritating as "T.V. Age," where Jackson mimics David Byrne's hyper-manic vocal mannerisms. These all fit the concept of the LP and they're engaging on record, but they're slight, especially given Jackson's overarching ambition -- and their flimsiness is brought into sharp relief by the remaining four songs, which are among Jackson's very best. There is, of course, the breakthrough hit "Steppin' Out," which pulsates anticipatory excitement, but the aching "Breaking Us in Two" is just as good, as is the haunting "Real Men" and the album opener, "Another World," a vibrant, multi-colored song that perfectly sets up the sonic and lyrical themes of the album. If all of Night and Day played at this level, it would be the self-styled masterpiece Joe Jackson intended it to be. Instead, it is a very good record that delivers some nice, stylish pleasures; but its shortcomings reveal precisely how difficult it is to follow in the tradition of Porter and Gershwin.


Joe Jackson - Mike's Murder (The Motion Picture Soundtrack) [A&M Records SP-4931] (1983)

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Artist:

Joe Jackson

Title:

Mike's Murder (The Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Released: 1983
Label: A&M Records
Catalog: SP-4931
Genre: Jazz, Rock, Pop, Stage & Screen


T R A C K L I S T:
01 Cosmopolitan
02 1-2-3- Go (This Town's A Fairground)
03 Laundromat Monday
04 Memphis
05 Moonlight
06 Zémio
07 Breakdown
08 Moonlight Theme
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Album Review

Mike's Murder is the 1983 motion picture soundtrack album from the film of the same name starring Debra Winger and written and directed by James Bridges. The album features original music by Joe Jackson.

When Jackson was asked to compose a song for the film, he composed several pieces that were released as an album in September 1983. The film was eventually scored by John Barry, with little of Jackson's music retained. The album reached the Top 100 in the United States, and the song ''Memphis'' was released as a single. ''Breakdown'', another song from the album, was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Pop Instrumental Performance category.


Joe Jackson - Big World [A&M Records SP-6021] (1986)

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Artist:

Joe Jackson

Title:

Big World

Released: 1986
Label: A&M Records
Catalog: SP-6021
Genre: Rock, Pop/Rock
Note: Includes lyric booklet


T R A C K L I S T:
01-Wild West
02-Right And Wrong
03-(It's A) Big World
04-Precious Time
05-Tonight And Forever
06-Shanghai Sky
07-Fifty Dollar Love Affair
08-We Can't Live Together
09-Forty Years
10-Survival
11-Soul Kiss
12-The Jet Set
13-Tango Atlantico
14-Home Town
15-Man In The Street
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Album Review

Big World is a 1986 live album of original songs by Joe Jackson. The album was recorded in front of an invited audience at the Roundabout Theatre, East 17th Street in New York City on 23, 24 and 25 January 1986 (except ''Man in the Street'', recorded during rehearsals on 22 January). The songs are loosely linked by lyrics covering a general theme of post-World War II international relations and global travel.

Jackson's intent for the recording was to capture the intensity and spontaneity of a live performance, but without the distraction of noise from the crowd. He requested that the audience remain silent while his performance was recorded. The music was mixed live from microphones on each musical instrument and sent directly to a stereo digital tape recorder. Unlike most live recordings, no post-recording mixing or overdubbing was performed.

Regarding the album, Joe says: ‘I want to clear up two myths about this record which still crop up all the time. Myth 1: During the live recording of the album, the audience was forbidden to applaud. Fact: There was plenty of applause. We were just playing a lot of unfamiliar material, and recording it for an album, so the audience were asked to hold it until they were sure a song was finished. They understood this and there was no problem. Myth 2: It’s a double album with a side missing. Fact: This was my first album to be released on CD, where the running time was not an issue. I was having a hard time deciding what to leave out for the LP, though, and I suggested making a 3-sided one, and selling it for the price of a regular album. Much to my surprise, the record company said yes. So rather than a side missing, you got an extra side. Critics, of course, hadn’t had to pay for it.’ Release

The LP release was a double album, but only three sides had music. The fourth side label stated ''there is no music on this side'', and the record had a groove that quickly led to the inner so no damage could be done to the stylus. The CD release contained the same 15 tracks on one disc.

The front cover of the album features the phrase ''Big World'' in French, Persian, Mandarin Chinese, Greek, Dutch, Korean, Thai, Russian, Irish Gaelic, Armenian, Hindi, Hebrew, Indonesian, Arabic, and Polish. The back cover features the same phrase in Vietnamese, Swedish, Swiss German, Turkish, Spanish, Swahili, Italian, Danish, Finnish, Welsh, and Hungarian.

The album included an eight-page booklet which included the lyrics to all fifteen songs and recording information in English, German, Japanese, French, Italian and Spanish. [wikipedia.org]

Joe Jackson's biography

by William Ruhlmann [allmusic.com]

In his 1999 memoir, A Cure for Gravity: A Musical Pilgrimage, Joe Jackson writes alan_parsonsrovingly of George Gershwin as a musician who kept one foot in the popular and one in the classical realms of music. Like Gershwin, Jackson possesses a restless musical imagination that has found him straddling musical genres unapologetically, disinclined to pick one style and stick to it. The word "chameleon" often crops up in descriptions of him, but Jackson prefers to be thought of as "eclectic." Is he the Joe Jackson he alan_parsonseared to be upon his popular emergence in 1979, a new wave singer/songwriter with a belligerent attitude derisively asking, "Is She Really Going Out with Him?" The reggae-influenced Joe Jackson of 1980's Beat Crazy? The jump blues revivalist of 1981's Joe Jackson's Jumpin' Jive? The New York salsa-styled singer of 1982's "Steppin' Out"? The R&B/jazz-inflected Jackson of 1984's Body & Soul? Or is he David Ian Jackson, L.R.A.M. (Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music), who composes and conducts instrumental albums of contemporary classical music such as 1987's Will Power and 1999's Grammy-winning Symphony No. 1? He is all of these, Jackson himself no doubt would reply, and a few others besides.

The roots of that eclecticism lie in the conflicts of his youth. He was born David Ian Jackson on August 11, 1954 (not 1955, as some references mistakenly state) in Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire, England. His parents had met when his father was in the Navy and his mother was working in her family's pub in Portsmouth on the south coast of England. They initially settled in his father's hometown, Swadlincote, on the border of Staffordshire and Derbyshire, but when Jackson was a year old, they moved back to his mother's hometown, and he was raised in Portsmouth and nearby Gosport. His father, Ronald Jackson, became a plasterer.

Growing up in working-class poverty, Jackson was a sickly child, afflicted with asthma, first diagnosed when he was three and producing attacks that lasted into his twenties. Prevented from playing sports, he turned to books and eventually music. At 11, he began taking violin lessons, later studying timpani and oboe at school. His parents got him a secondhand piano when he was in his early teens, and he began taking lessons, soon deciding that he wanted to be a composer when he grew up. He played percussion in a citywide student orchestra. But his social milieu was more accepting of different forms of popular music than it was of the classics, and he developed a taste for that, too. Becoming interested in jazz, he formed a trio and, at the age of 16, began playing piano in a pub, his first professional gig.

By the early '70s, Jackson, who had paid little attention to rock before, became a fan of progressive rock, notably such British groups as Soft Machine. Meanwhile, in 1972, he passed an advanced "S" level exam in music that entitled him to a grant to study music, and he was accepted at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Rather than moving to the city, he spent his grant money on equipment and commuted several days a week to attend classes while continuing to live at home and play pop music locally. He switched from writing classical compositions to pop songs. Invited to join an established band called the Misty Set, he sang his first lead vocal on-stage. He moved to another established band called Edward Bear (the name taken from a character in Winnie the Pooh, not to be confused with the Canadian band of the same name that recorded for Capitol Records in the early '70s). Deciding that he resembled the title character on a television puppet show called Joe 90, his bandmates began calling him "Joe," and it stuck. After six months, the two principals in Edward Bear decided to retire from music, and with their permission he took over the name and the group's bookings and brought in a couple of his friends, lead singer/guitarist Mark Andrews (later of Mark Andrews & the Gents) and bassist Graham Maby.

Jackson continued to attend the Royal Academy, where he studied composition, orchestration, and piano while majoring in percussion. He also occasionally played piano in the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. He graduated from the academy after three years in 1975. By then, Edward Bear (forced to change its name to Edwin Bear because of the more successful Canadian band, and then to Arms & Legs) were attracting more attention and acquired management, which in turn signed the band to MAM Records. In April 1976, MAM released the first Arms & Legs single, with Andrews' "Janie" on the A-side and Jackson's "She'll Surprise You" on the B-side. Second and third singles followed in August and February 1977, but the records did not sell. Meanwhile, in October 1976, Jackson quit the band to become pianist and musical director at the Playboy Club in Portsmouth. He was determined to save enough money to record his own album and release it himself. In August 1977, he played his first gigs as the leader of the Joe Jackson Band, singing and playing keyboards, backed by Andrews (sitting in temporarily and soon replaced by Gary Sanford), Maby, and drummer Dave Houghton. At the same time, he quit the Playboy Club job to become pianist/musical director for a cabaret act, Koffee 'n' Kream, that was beginning a national tour in the wake of their triumph on the TV amateur show Opportunity Knocks.

Jackson toured with Koffee 'n' Kream from the fall of 1977 to the spring of 1978, and the money he made enabled him to move to London in January 1978 and continue recording his album in a Portsmouth studio. He began shopping demo tapes to record labels in London without success until he was heard by American producer David Kershenbaum. Kershenbaum was scouting for talent on behalf of A&M Records, and he arranged for Jackson to be signed to A&M on August 9, 1978, after which they immediately re-recorded Jackson's album. They completed it quickly, and at the end of the month the Joe Jackson Band embarked on an extensive national tour.

Despite his classical education and background playing many types of pop music in pubs and clubs, Jackson had become genuinely enamored of the punk/new wave movement of the late '70s in England, especially attracted by the energy and simplicity of the music and the angry, aggressive tone of the lyrics. He had no trouble incorporating these elements into his own music, and if he was, to an extent, using the new wave label as a flag of convenience, the style nevertheless was a valid vehicle of expression for him. Of course, first impressions can be lasting, and to many people he would, ever after, be an angry new wave singer/songwriter, no matter what else he did.

In October 1978, A&M released the first Joe Jackson single, "Is She Really Going Out with Him?," a rhythmic ballad in which the singer ponders why "pretty women" are attracted to "gorillas" and worries about his own inadequacy. The record failed to chart, but Jackson and his band continued to tour around the U.K. and began to attract press attention. Look Sharp!, his debut album, followed in January 1979, again, to no significant sales at first. The LP contained more songs in the vein of "Is She Really Going Out with Him?," many of them uptempo rockers with strong melodies and lyrics full of romantic disalan_parsonsointment and social criticism, bitterly expressed and with more than a touch of self-deprecation. (One, "Got the Time," was sufficiently raucous to be covered by heavy metal band Anthrax in essentially the same arrangement on their Persistence of Time album in 1990.) A&M released "Sunday Papers," an attack on the salaciousness of tabloid newspapers, as a single in February, again without reaction. But in March, Look Sharp! finally broke into the charts, eventually peaking at the bottom of the Top 40. The same month, A&M released the album in the U.S., and it quickly charted, reaching the Top 20 after "Is She Really Going Out with Him?" was released as a single in May (while Jackson toured North America) and became a Top 40 hit; in September, the LP was certified gold in the U.S. In the U.K., "Is She Really Going Out with Him?" was re-released in July and charted in August, making the Top 20. Jackson was nominated for a 1979 Grammy Award for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male, for the single.

Meanwhile, Jackson toured more or less continually, playing dates in Continental Europe in June and then back in the U.K. through August before returning to North America. But he had found the time and inspiration to craft a quick follow-up to Look Sharp!, and his second LP, I'm the Man, was released on October 5. That was a little too soon for the U.S. market, where Look Sharp! had not yet exhausted its run, and while the album made the Top 40, it was a relative sales disalan_parsonsointment, with the single "It's Different for Girls" failing to enter the Hot 100. The story was different in the U.K., however, where I'm the Man made the Top 20 and "It's Different for Girls" reached the Top Five. Critically, the album was considered a continuation of Look Sharp!, an opinion shared by Jackson himself. The first blush of his emergence fading, Jackson was beginning to be viewed by critics as the third in a line of angry British singer/songwriters starting with Graham Parker and continuing with Elvis Costello, and his commercial success created resentment, especially because he was not as forthcoming with the media as the garrulous Costello.

The U.S. tour ran into November, followed by more shows in the U.K. in November and December. Jackson went back on the road in February 1980 with a few U.S. dates, followed by some U.K. shows and a European tour that ran from March to May. Like other punk/new wave acts, he had used reggae rhythms on occasion, notably on "Fools in Love" on Look Sharp! and "Geraldine and John" on I'm the Man. In May, he released an EP in the U.K. including a cover of Jimmy Cliff's "The Harder They Come." In acknowledgment of his group's importance to his sound, the disc was billed to the Joe Jackson Band. After dates in the U.K. in May and June, the Joe Jackson Band returned to North America for a tour that lasted into August; they finally took a break after a few more shows at the end of the month.

Beat Crazy, released in October, also was billed to the Joe Jackson Band. The album featured less of the frantic punk sound of its predecessors, instead absorbing the dub-reggae and ska influences that were topping the British charts just then in the music of bands like the Specials and the English Beat. But it was a relative disalan_parsonsointment commercially, peaking in the 40s in both the U.S. and U.K., with its singles failing to chart. One reason for the reduced sales in America may have been that the group did not tour to support it there. The Joe Jackson Band played a monthlong tour from October to November in the U.K., followed by a month in Europe from November to December, after which it split up, according to Jackson because Houghton no longer wanted to tour. Sanford became a session musician, while Maby stuck with Jackson.

Jackson, in ill health following more than two years of continual touring, retreated to his family home, where he became increasingly immersed in the jump blues of 1940s star Louis Jordan. He organized a new band in the style of Jordan's Tympany 5 featuring three horn players (Pete Thomas on alto saxophone, Raul Oliveria on trumpet, and David Bitelli on tenor saxophone and clarinet) along with pianist Nick Weldon and drummer Larry Tolfree, plus Maby and Jackson himself, who played vibes and sang. The group, dubbed Joe Jackson's Jumpin' Jive, played a collection of swing and jump blues standards such as "Jumpin' with Symphony Sid," "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby," and "Tuxedo Junction." The resulting Joe Jackson's Jumpin' Jive LP, released in June 1981, was a hit in Britain, where it reached the Top 20. In the U.S., the album was not so much 35 years behind the times as 15 years ahead of them; had it alan_parsonseared in the mid-'90s, it would have fit right in with releases by the Brian Setzer Orchestra and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy as part of the neo-swing movement. As it was, America circa 1981 was baffled, but Jackson's core audience was sufficiently curious to push the album into the Top 50 while he toured the country with the band in July in between British dates in June and from August to September.

Jackson went through more personal changes over the next year. He and his wife divorced, and he moved to New York City, where, true to form, he began to immerse himself in new musical genres, particularly attracted to salsa and the classic songwriting styles of Gershwin and Cole Porter. The result was Night and Day, released in June 1982, Jackson's first album to put his keyboard playing at the center of his music, with percussionist Sue Hadjopoulas also given prominence. Jackson seemed to have abandoned new wave rock for a catchy pop-jazz-salsa-dance hybrid, and he backed the release with a yearlong world tour as A&M put considerable promotional muscle behind the LP. "Steppin' Out" became a multi-format hit, earning airplay on album-oriented rock (AOR) radio before spreading to the pop and adult contemporary charts, placing in the Top Ten all around and eventually earning Grammy nominations for Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male. With that stimulus, the album reached the Top Ten and went gold, spawning a second Top 20 single in "Breaking Us in Two."

Jackson finished the Night and Day tour in May 1983. He had been asked to contribute a song to Mike's Murder, a film written and directed by James Bridges (The China Syndrome, Urban Cowboy) and starring Debra Winger (Urban Cowboy, An Officer and a Gentleman). He ended up writing both a handful of songs and a few instrumental pieces that were released on a soundtrack album in September. Unfortunately, the film itself was not ready for release then, since it was the subject of a dispute between Bridges and the movie studio that had financed it, the result being reshooting and re-editing, such that the film did not open until March 1984, by which time it had a score by John Barry and only a little of Jackson's music remaining, and then it earned only one million dollars during a few weeks of theatrical showings, making it a disastrous flop. The orphaned soundtrack album, however, managed to get into the Top 100 and even spawned a chart single in the Jackson composition "Memphis," while "Breakdown" earned a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Instrumental Performance.

Jackson returned to the studio and emerged in March 1984 with Body & Soul, an album with a cover photograph showing him clutching a saxophone in the style of the 1950s LP covers of Blue Note Records. The disc inside was a follow-up to Night and Day in style, however, with a bit more of an R&B tilt, and it was another commercial success, if a more modest one, reaching the Top 20 and spawning a Top 20 single in "You Can't Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want)." After the four-month Body & Soul world tour concluded in July 1984, Jackson retreated. The tour had been, he later wrote, "the hardest I ever did; it came too soon after the last one, and by the end of it I was so burned out I swore I'd never tour again." He re-emerged after 18 months in January 1986 for a series of live recording sessions at the Roundabout Theatre in New York conducted for his next album. Audiences were invited to attend, but instructed to hold their alan_parsonslause as the performances were cut direct to a two-track tape recorder. The resulting album, Big World, released in March, had a one-hour running time, making it an ideal length for the new CD format, though it had to be pressed on two LPs with the second side of the second LP left blank. Press reaction to these two aspects of the album tended to overshadow consideration of the material, which ranged from politically charged rockers like "Right or Wrong," a direct challenge to the Reagan administration, to heartfelt ballads like "Home Town," a reflection on memory and loss. Jackson undertook another extensive tour lasting from May to December (one he reported enjoying much more than the last one), and the album spent six months in the charts, but only peaked in the Top 40.

In the winter of 1985, Jackson had been commissioned to write a 20-minute score for a Japanese film, Shijin No Ie (House of the Poet), and the orchestral piece was recorded with the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra. He adapted it into "Symphony in One Movement" and added a few other instrumental pieces to create his next album, Will Power, his first disc to reflect his classical background. A&M gave the LP a surprising promotional push that included releasing the title track as a single, and Jackson fans were sufficiently intrigued to push the album into the lower reaches of the pop chart upon its release in April 1987. But his increasing desire to include classical elements in his popular work and to issue outright "serious" compositions tended to put him in a no man's land where reviewers were concerned, since rock critics were for the most part incapable of judging such works and preferred that he stick to rock-based music, while classical critics simply ignored him. Had they been paying attention, however, they might not have alan_parsonsroved of what they heard, anyway. An unrepentant Beethoven fan, Jackson had disliked his exposure to serial music and other contemporary trends in classical music when he encountered them in college; his serious compositions tended to reflect his taste for conventional concert music of the romantic and classical periods.

While staying off the road, Jackson had two albums in release in 1988. In May, he issued the double-disc set Live 1980/86, chronicling his tours over the years. It reached the Top 100. In August came his swing-styled soundtrack to the Francis Ford Coppola film Tucker: The Man and His Dream, an effort that probably would have attracted more attention if the film had been more successful (it grossed less than $20 million). Nevertheless, the album earned a Grammy nomination for Best Album of Original Instrumental Background Score Written for a Motion Picture or TV. His next LP, released in April 1989, was Blaze of Glory, another modest seller with a peak only in the Top 100 despite radio play for the single "Nineteen Forever." Jackson, who felt the album was one of his best efforts and toured to support it with an 11-piece band in the U.S. and Europe from June to November, was disalan_parsonsointed with both the commercial reaction and his record company's lack of support. He parted ways with A&M, which promptly released the 1990 compilation Steppin' Out: The Very Best of Joe Jackson, a Top Ten hit in the U.K.

Jackson wrote his third movie score for 1991's Queens Logic; no soundtrack album was issued. Signing to Virgin Records, he released his next album, Laughter & Lust, in April 1991. Here, he expressed some of his frustration with the record business in the alan_parsonsropriately catchy, '60s-styled "Hit Single," while the socially conscious "Obvious Song" and a percussion-filled cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well" attracted radio attention. But the album continued his gradual sales decline, failing to reach the Top 100 in the U.S. Another world tour stretched from May to September, after which Jackson was not heard from on record for three years. In the interim, he wrote music for two movies, the interactive film I'm Your Man (1992) and the feature Three of Hearts (1993), neither of which produced soundtrack albums featuring his music. He realan_parsonseared in record stores in October 1994 with Night Music, a low-key album that attempted to fuse his pop and classical styles, including instrumentals and guest vocals by Máire Brennan of Clannad. The album, which did not chart, was supported with a world tour that ran from November to May 1995. After it, Jackson left Virgin and signed to Sony Classical, a label more accepting of his musical ambitions. In September 1997, it released Heaven & Hell, a song cycle depicting the seven deadly sins, billed to Joe Jackson & Friends; the friends included such guest vocalists as folk-pop singers Jane Siberry and Suzanne Vega and opera singer Dawn Upshaw. The album reached number three in Billboard's Classical Crossover chart. A tour ran from November to April 1998.

Jackson worked on two projects in the late '90s, both of which alan_parsonseared in October 1999. Sony Classical issued his Symphony No. 1, which was played not by an orchestra, but by a band of jazz and rock musicians including guitarist Steve Vai and trumpeter Terence Blanchard, and it won the 2000 Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Album. And publishers PublicAffairs came out with Jackson's book, A Cure for Gravity: A Musical Pilgrimage, in which he wrote about his love of all kinds of music and recounted his life from his birth up to the point of his emergence as a public figure in the late '70s. Bringing his story up to date, he wrote, "So I'm still making music, no longer a pop star -- if I ever really was -- but just a composer, which is what I wanted to be in the first place."

Having released only semi-classical works on his last three recordings, Jackson was thought to have abandoned pop/rock music completely, but that proved not to be true. The early years of the 21st century found him in a flurry of activity, much of it returning him to the pop music realm. In June 2000, Sony Classical, through Jackson's imprint, Manticore, issued Summer in the City: Live in New York, an album drawn from an August 1999 concert that featured him playing piano and singing, backed only by Maby and drummer Gary Burke, performing some of his old songs along with covers of tunes by the Lovin' Spoonful, Duke Ellington, and the Beatles, among others. Four months later came Night and Day II, a new set of songs in the spirit of his most popular recording. Touring to promote the album in Europe and North America from November to April 2001, Jackson recorded the concert CD Two Rainy Nights: Live in the Northwest (The Official Bootleg), released in January 2002 on his own Great Big Island label through his website, www.joejackson.com. (The album was reissued to retail by Koch in 2004.)

Later in 2002, Jackson surprised longtime fans by reuniting with the original members of the Joe Jackson Band, Graham Maby, Gary Sanford, and Dave Houghton, to record a new studio album, Volume 4 (the first three volumes having been Look Sharp!, I'm the Man, and Beat Crazy), released by Restless/Rykodisc in March 2003, and to embark on a world tour running through September 2003 that resulted in the live album Afterlife, issued in March 2004. As he made television alan_parsonsearances to promote the latter, he insisted that the reunion had been a one-time thing. Meanwhile, his recording of "Steppin' Out" was being used in a television commercial for Lincoln Mercury automobiles, and he was preparing to score his next film, The Greatest Game Ever Played, for a 2005 release. Jackson released a new studio album, Rain, in 2008, followed by 2011's Live Music: Europe 2010, which was recorded live in Europe during his 2010 Joe Jackson Trio tour with Dave Houghton and Graham Maby.
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