Friday, October 23, 2015

Joe Jackson 19: Fast Forward

Never too far from a concept, Fast Forward presents Joe Jackson in four different cities, represented by four songs each, recorded by a unique band in each, originally envisioned as four EPs but approximating four sides. For the most part, the location is moot, since there’s only the occasional arrangement unique to Amsterdam or Berlin that wouldn’t work in New Orleans or New York.
New York was the birthplace of Night And Day and Body And Soul, and echoes of those albums can be detected in this section. Bill Frisell and the great Graham Maby feature in here, the title track and “If It Wasn’t For You” both nice examples of pop-rock. Something of a departure comes in his reworking of Television’s “See No Evil”, which turns the riff on itself and gives Frisell a chance to stretch. “Kings Of The City” brings it back to a cool Steely Dan vibe.
It’s a seamless jump to Amsterdam, where he’s joined by a drummer, a keyboard player and some strings. “A Little Smile” is excellent pop, but a 14-year-old kid sings the first verse on “Far Away”, presumably due to Joe’s addiction to guest vocalists, making an already unsettling song more uncomfortable. “So You Say” doesn’t provide much uplift, but moments of “Poor Thing” in between the horns.
Berlin brought us Rain, so luckily the only track suggesting oom-pah music and Joel Grey is his translation of “Good Bye Jonny”. Or maybe the ECM-flavored intro of “If I Could See Your Face” counts too, but that goes on to a more sinister rock sound complete with F-bomb. “Junkie Diva” suggests the death of Amy Winehouse, without mentioning her directly, while “The Blue Time” is a pretty, seductive ballad.
Rock drums resurface in New Orleans, right away on the alternately galloping and driving “Neon Rain”. “Satellite” seems to stop and start, while “Keep On Dreaming” sports a lot of horns, mostly sounding like side three of Big World. It takes a lot of grapes to end an album with a song called “Ode To Joy”, much less quote the melody, but as far as his finales go, it’s a good one.
Fast Forward is a long album, and there are certainly tracks over which one might feel compelled to fast-forward. But better he writes straightforward songs (for him) than laboring over a Broadway show, pseudo or otherwise.

Joe Jackson Fast Forward (2015)—3

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