Top Ten Joe Jackson Albums You Should Own
Please don't criticize me too harshly; top ten lists are awesome quick-and-dirty filler posts for someone who is typically crazy-verbose but is trying to post one-a-day posts for a particular month. Besides, they're fun to see where they compare next to the same list you would make for yourself. (And I reserve the right to post twice in one day if the mood so strikes me...)
Joe's got a great catalog, but these stand up as essentials:
- Laughter And Lust (1991) -- This was actually my point-of-entry to becoming a fan. While he continues on in the same well-crafted pop vein of his previous Blaze Of Glory, he doesn't need to wed it to a concept like his previous album had. The result are some wonderful songs like "Obvious Song", "Stranger Than Fiction", "It's All Too Much", and even an excellent cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well". All killer, no filler, and a cool place to start.
- I'm The Man (1979) -- For JJ's second album, he avoided the sophomore slump by delivering a set of tunes arguably stronger than those on his debut, Look Sharp. Think about it; how many artists can you think of who follow up their debut with an excellent follow-up IN THE VERY SAME YEAR?? Not a whole lot. Definitely a keeper.
- Look Sharp (1979) -- There's a reason his debut album is so damn popular: it's got great, tight pop songs on it. I'm just gonna assume that if someone is so inclined to delve deeper into the catalog of JJ, that this is going to be one of the first CDs they're gonna get. And I say wholeheartedly to run with that assumption; you will be rewarded with a killer batch of songs.
- Night & Day (1982) -- This album early on established JJ as a sort of a musical Renaissance man. Gone are the wiry, punchy songs of the first three albums. In its place are jazzy, Latin-inflected, sophisticated, and mature compositions. Most artists take time to build up to masterworks like this album; Joe just seemed to punch out excellent works as if it were of no consequence. Although you probably know the hits off this one, be sure to pay attention to the album cuts like "Another World", "Real Men", and the amazing "A Slow Song". The out-of-print MFSL gold disc has great sound, but the 2-disc Deluxe Edition is going to be a great way to collect a lot of otherwise hard-to-find JJ rarities.
- Big World (1986) -- For some ungodly reason, this album has always been hard to find. It wasn't in print very long during its initial release period, and subsequent reissues have been in non-USA territories. If you want JJ at the top of his form, go with this one. Not many of the songs are well-known, but nearly all of them are excellent. (Extended review from me is here.)
- Body & Soul (1984) -- Joe recorded this mostly-live-without-an-audience in a gloriously echoey room, lending its wonderful songs a majestic hue.
- Volume 4 (2003) -- Joe reunited with the band of his first three albums, and the resultant album sounds as if time hadn't passed. JJ doesn't repeat himself here, yet most of the songs recapture the fire and magic of those initial bursts of energy. Make sure you listen to "Awkward Age", "Chrome", "Love At First Light", and "Still Alive" (which has an embedded reference to Steely Dan's "Barrytown", which I hope is intentional) The tour behind this album was cool as hell, too.
- Night Music (1994) -- While I don't recommend this album to neophytes, it is a wonderful, nuanced album full of its own quiet glories. Don't let the bad reviews fool you; this album has some truly great songs, like "The Man Who Wrote Danny Boy", "Ever After", and "Nocturne #1".
- Blaze of Glory (1989) -- This is a neat collection of pop songs segueway'ed together into two suites of songs which are loosely autobiographical. Strong points are "Nineteen Forever", "Rant 'n Rave", "Down To London", and "Tomorrow's World".
- Night & Day II (2000) -- A worthy sequel to the first one. While the first one is split into "Night Side" and "Day Side", this one is one long suite of individual segued songs. There's a lot of looking back, both musically and lyrically, and it's a wonderful listen. This was another great tour.