Joe Jackson - Live 1980/86
This album, a superb collection of live tracks, is just plain and simple brilliance and serves as a reminder to what we are missing in not having enough Joe Jackson in our lives. Jackson takes us on a ride through six years of concerts across the world and displays a musical versatility which matches his lyrical ability. If you are one of those people who think live albums were dull rehashes of studio work, then listen to this. Not a track on it, even the three versions of "Is She Really Going out with Him?" seem out of place. Indeed, the a capella version of the song is quite enchanting in its own way and demonstrates a confidence which few others would match. Joe Jackson may have represented a more thoughtful and introspective side of the new wave, but at heart he was a damn good songwriter and had a backing band of excellent musicians which, when combined, served up some excellent tracks.
There are many outstanding tracks on this album that it is hard to know where to begin. Among the highlights are the way "A Slow Song" builds until it climaxes with the incredible sax solo. Jackson, at a concert in Australia, cheekily commends the Australian rugby team and dedicates a song to them, the anti-homophobic "Real Men", a song which gave rise to considerable speculation regarding Jackson's own sexuality but which stands as a sad commentary on homophobic bigotry and comes across as a very lonely song indeed. Perhaps the highlight is the absolutely amazing version of "You Can't Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want)" which bristles with life and energy.
But why stop there? Every single track on this album is worth listening to over and over again. It is one of the few double albums (I have the original vinyl) that I can play from track one side one right the way through and not feel like wanting to stop. Each song is a joy to listen to and in its own way provokes the joy of anticipation in the listener familiar with it. It is also interesting to listen to how Jackson's style in terms of live performances developed over the years. The tracks from the earlier concerts have a much more aggressive feel to them and while mellow is not a word which can be used to describe any track on the album, the sensitivity as well as the quality of the musicianship improves as the years progress. This was a musician confident in his own ability and that of his band that he was able to experiment with styles as he took his show on the road.
What is remarkable is the way the tracks have, in many cases, changed from the studio originals. This can only be a good thing because it sets the live album apart from merely being a rehash of the studio performances, a problem which bedevils so many live albums. So, by way of example, "Sunday Papers" is given a full jazz makeover while "Jumpin' Jive" becomes a straight-up rock and roll number; "It's Different for Girls" is just vocals and acoustic guitar; while "Breaking Us in Two" is a solo piano track. Indeed, the whole of side two is pretty much new version of older numbers, made possible even essential because the backing band featured no guitarists and relied on additional keyboards and saxophones.
All four sides of the vinyl have their appeal, whether you are listening to the rawness and energy of the early concerts or the 1986 concerts which are as close to live musical perfection as anyone has come since Led Zeppelin. I just love this album and for years I could not get it off my turntable. Such was the appeal, that now it is worn out and I am looking for the CD. I can recommend to anyone who has not had much opportunity to explore Jackson's music that they could do a lot worse than start with this.
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on 2012-07-06 Octone Said:
Incredible Live album indeed, and the recordings are brilliant, the sound is so pure& Its one of my all-time favorite live album.
hurry, listen this genius !