Monday, August 19, 2013

Joe Jackson 14: Summer In The City

With his classical experiments seemingly pleasing nobody but himself and a handful of diehards, it was amazing to see that Joe Jackson still had the support of a major label like Sony. (Not only that, but they gave him his own imprint, though why he chose Manticore, previously the domain of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, remains a mystery.) The bean counters would have been very pleased indeed to see the contents of this live album, recorded at a few club shows with Joe on piano, backed by only Gary Burke on drums and the stalwart Graham Maby on bass. Summer In The City delivers an hour’s worth of music, pulled from his “pop” years, alongside some covers given his own reverent stamp, just to prove that he’s not a complete snob.

The title comes from the Lovin’ Spoonful classic, so it’s only right that the album begins with a run through that song. Some meandering sets up “Obvious Song”, his last near-hit from nearly a decade before. “Another World” is taken pretty straight, except for a bass solo; Joe even remarks that he usually doesn’t go for those, but Graham’s never one to abuse that power. A lengthy, non-reggae “Fools In Love” shows off its debt to the Yardbirds’ “For Your Love” via an interlude, just as “The In Crowd” sets up “Down To London”. (This after a reverent “Mood Indigo”, in tribute to Duke Ellington.)

The next handful of tracks are listed as a “medley”; basically that means he played them all in a row without much gap. Otherwise, there’s not much in common between “Eleanor Rigby”, “Be My Number Two”, “Home Town” and “It’s Different For Girls” except for the fact that he does them seamlessly. (Oh, and that they’re all excellent performances of good songs.) However, Steely Dan’s “King Of The World” proves to be an excellent model for his own “You Can’t Get What You Want”. If this worldwide stardom thing didn’t work out, he could easily make a living doing such covers in any number of piano bars around the world. The closing take on “One More Time”, the guitar-heavy opener to his debut, even works in this format.

Summer In The City provides a nice reminder to fans and detractors just what a fine performer he is, proving that when he deigns to, he can really give the people what they want. This was a nice carrot to dangle the business, especially since he was about to go back to the well again.

Joe Jackson Summer In The City: Live In New York (2000)—4

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