vrijdag 15 januari 2016

Fast Forward. Joe Jackson

It was somewhere late summer that a song entered my head that I couldn't get rid off for a while. So much so that after coming home I put on the old LP and played the song (and the rest of the album) exceedingly loud. 'You Can't Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want)' is exemplary for the Joe Jackson that I like most, 'Night And Day' and 'Body And Soul'. After which I sort of lost track of the man. Much like most of the world. Somewhere earlier this century I saw him play with his Band after releasing 'Volume IV' and lost track again. I faintly remembering myself listening to 'Rain' his previously album and not liking it a lot. It seemed over again.

Then Fast Forward was delivered in my inbox. Something stirred within me. Joe Jackson! I put on 'Body and Soul' instead, but now it's time to make amends. Fast Forward shows that the man is in great form here and adds several very interesting songs to his oeuvre that easily compare to some of the ones of his golden age.

Joe Jackson by now is 61, but I only need to look into the mirror to understand that that has to be inevitable. Time flies when you're having fun.

For Fast Forward Jackson took a different approach to making an album, albeit not unique. The album was recorded in four cities, with four sets of musicians. New York, Berlin, Amsterdam and New Orleans. Graham Maby plays the bass in the New York sessions, but not in the others. The sessions all hold four songs each and were once intended to be released as EPs. I'm glad Jackson didn't, as the impact is so much larger now.

For what the New York sessions are concerned they are stunningly good. Catching everything from Joe Jackson style rock to Sinatra style jazz in a modern coating. They sound familiar, they touch my Joe Jackson strings in the right places, they are good. The good thing is that Fast Forward doesn't stop there. The quality is completely kept up throughout the album. Even when a boy singer (Mitchell Sink) moves in, a symphony orchestra or a Caro Emerald like background played by (the Germans of) Dutch band Zuco 103. It fits the melancholy music that Jackson has written for this session. 'Far Away' about leaving England and ghosts underneath a bed. 'So You Say' is another absolute total beauty of a song. One of those songs to fall in love with. 'Poor Thing' is another mid tempo song but the punky sneer shows through in some spots faintly bringing the first incarnation Joe Jackson to mind.

What strikes me (again) is what good a singer Joe Jackson is. And that I love to hear him sing in the right songs. That includes 'San Francisco Fan', e.g. Though he mostly sings in one timbre, he is able to use that timbre in several ways. From a soothing swooning to a punky gnarl, frightening nearly all who listen. I'm not going to claim that Joe Jackson's voice hasn't aged. It has, in a great way, but listening to that beautiful ballad 'The Blue Time' I can hear that his voice reaches a limit in a way that just is different from 1980. The fact that Jackson comes up with a song that is as beautiful as 'Breaking Us In Two', just to give an example, is the fun fact here. Whoever plays that trumpet, it just is so beautiful. Not to forget the interplay with electric guitar and Jackson's piano. High class.

The New Orleans section kicks off like it 1978 all over. Fast, urgent, without returning to punk with a reggae sauce for one second. A top heavy song, without dozens of instruments. The reggae rhythm does return in the second song, 'Satellite'. ("Gravity is going to get you some day", smart.) Again there is a looseness that could not have been on 'Look Sharp' and 'I'm The Man'. A true mix of 1978 with 1982.

For four such different settings Fast Forward is a consistent album. If no one had written about it, would anyone truly have noticed differences? Perhaps in the moods, but even then. The common denominator is quality. All four sessions have yielded great songs. I can't hear a single lapse, with the possible exception of the German cover song, but that is because I don't like that Interbellum sort of music.

Over the years Joe Jackson stepped out in so many directions that I just couldn't follow him. Some of the things he has done are just not the sort of music I enjoy. This daring most certainly has my respect as he followed his heart and mind. Late in 2015 another re-connection took place. Wo. and Joe both in the right position. The songs on Fast Forward have that Joe Jackson class in combination with the intriguing melodies that make me want to listen. This album reaches a level of sophistication which is exceptional, without losing that pop feeling for a second. Fast Forward is Joe Jackson at his very best as far as I'm concerned. A five star album, but my 2015 album list has already been published.


You can listen to 'A Little Smile' here:


or buy on Bol.Com

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