Staying in New York City for the nonce, Joe’s next move was to make an album that embraced digital technology while staying true to the more organic elements of the instruments. Simultaneously looking forward and back, Body And Soul was even packaged like an old Blue Note album, complete with vintage typography and heady liner notes (most likely penned by the Artist).
“The Verdict” crashes out of the speakers with a grand horn theme; while it’s only tangentially related to the film of the same name, there’s a grandeur of sorts that infuses the narrator. “Cha Cha Loco” rehashes the Latin experiments of the last album over a piano line that doesn’t do much, but a nice big ballad comes in “Not Here, Not Now”. Over a sad melody, the lyrics detail a crumbling relationship kept afloat by a desire to not to “make a scene” amongst friends—the narcissism of the ‘80s made clear. With the unwieldy title “You Can't Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want)”, that song wasn’t the most likely candidate for a hit single, but once you get past the horns and enjoy the bridge, even the bass and guitar solos start to make sense. The optimism continues on “Go For It”, an oddly encouraging sentiment coming from his mouth. Or maybe he was being ironic?
His fascination with the metropolitan melting pot culminates on “Loisaida”, its title a phonetic translation of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. It’s designed to be an impressionistic journey through the neighborhood, something of a cousin to “Harlem Nocturne”, and at that level it works, even if the sax part reminds us of “No Anchovies, Please” by the J. Geils Band. The liner notes helpfully point out the harmonic juxtapositions of “Happy Ending”; while the “Be My Baby” drum part is always welcome, the Night Court fan in us wishes backup singer Ellen Foley could have sung the female half of the duet. There’s time for another big ballad, the wondrous “Be My Number Two” that manages to sound romantic despite its undercurrent of selfishness. Predominantly voice and piano, it breaks through at the end by adding drums, violin and horns. Another tone poem of sorts, “Heart Of Ice”, is used to bookend the album. For the first part of it, it almost sounds like a Pat Metheny album, and that’s not meant as a slam.
Body And Soul was not a huge hit, but when heard back to back with Night And Day, it emerges as the superior album. The steps taken to provide optimal sound comes through on the vinyl, while the breadth of musical styles makes it excellent pop.
Joe Jackson Body And Soul (1984)—3½