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Tonight & Forever - The Joe Jackson Collection

Joe Jackson

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Album Review

Joe Jackson was compared to Elvis Costello more times that either artist would care to count during his first few years of fame in the late '70s, but over the course of his career Jackson would prove to be one of the only songwriters to come out of the new wave explosion who could match Costello in terms of creative ambition and eclectic musical outlook. Jackson's early records were the work of a smugly angry young man with a killer rhythm section and a sharp way with words, but ten years later he was displaying an easy confidence in jazz, Latin, classic pop and even classical idioms, and he somehow managed to hold onto his audience through his various creative detours. Tonight & Forever is a well-programmed overview of Jackson's recordings for A&M Records which covers his first decade in the spotlight: disc one is dominated by the material from his first three albums with the original Joe Jackson Band, Look Sharp!, I'm the Man and Beat Crazy, and it's a fine summation of his years as a sharp-tongued rocker with a combo to match. Disc one closes out with three tunes from Jackson's 1981 album Jumpin' Jive, his first major musical detour in which he covered a handful of tunes by jump jazz legend Louis Jordan (as well as Glenn Miller' "Tuxedo Junction"). Disc two starts with the jazzy a cappella version of "Is She Really Going out with Him" that Jackson had been performing on-stage, and then dives into the more polished and adventurous music he pursued in the '80s on the albums Night and Day, Body and Soul and Big World. While disc two isn't as consistent as disc one, the music is also a great deal more adventurous, and if it's dotted with some failed experiments (most notably the piano exercise "Nocturne"), no matter where Jackson went with his music, he brought his pithy lyrical skills with him, and they help his grandest notions sound down to Earth. Jackson's ambitions began to outstrip his ability to make his ideas work on most of his work of the '90s, and thankfully Tonight & Forever closes out before this dip in his creative fortunes; as an introduction to his best work, it's hard to beat.


Born: 11 August 1954 in Burton-upon-Trent, England

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

In his 1999 memoir, A Cure for Gravity: A Musical Pilgrimage, Joe Jackson writes approvingly 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...
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