Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Joe Jackson

  • Look Sharp! [A&M, 1979] B
  • I'm the Man [A&M, 1979] C+
  • Joe Jackson's Jumpin' Jive [A&M, 1981] B
  • Night and Day [A&M, 1982] B-
  • Mike's Murder Soundtrack [A&M, 1983] C+
  • Body and Soul [A&M, 1984] B-
  • Small World [A&M, 1986] B-
  • Will Power [A&M, 1987] C+

See Also:

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Look Sharp! [A&M, 1979]
In which an up-and-coming professional entertainer tricks up Britain's latest rock and roll fashion with some fancy chords and gets real intense about the perils of romance. Well, better "Is She Really Going Out with Him?" than "Sunday Papers," the social-criticism interlude, which inspires fond memories of "Pleasant Valley Sunday." B

I'm the Man [A&M, 1979]
Oh yeah? Then get the knack back. C+

Joe Jackson's Jumpin' Jive [A&M, 1981]
Put this on the shelf in front of Bowie's Pin Ups, Lennon's Rock 'n' Roll, and Costello's Almost Blue. Granted, Jackson doesn't sing as well as any of them, not to mention Cab Calloway or Louis Jordan, who originated most of the '50s r&b novelties here revived. But he obviously gets a kick out of this stuff, and that counts for something. What counts for much much more is that MCA has slipped three budget Louis Jordan compilations into better record stores. B

Night and Day [A&M, 1982]
Every musical era generates its Paul Simon, I suppose, and though this one does avoid that literary patina, his sudden (and no doubt sincere) attraction to salsa has the same secondhand aura. Decent, intelligent sentiments decently and intelligently expressed. B-

Mike's Murder Soundtrack [A&M, 1983]
What a pro. The song side spices up his patented mild satire with more Latin rhythms, a Booker T. Winwood organ part, and the semiclassic "Laundromat Monday." And on the instrumental side, watch out Dave Grusin--Joe was once musical director of the Portsmouth Playboy Club. C+

Body and Soul [A&M, 1984]
Jackson's done it again--fabricated a creditable facsimile of somebody else's music, not jump blues this time but a brassy, Broadway pan-Gotham pastiche, sort of like West Side Story if you correct for talent differential and years elapsed. And because the new-wave Billy Joel is a role model, it's likable enough. But I prefer West Side Story, and I prefer jump-blues more. B-

Small World [A&M, 1986]
He's even more adenoidal than his worthy forebears Graham P. and Elvis C., so how come he's the one with the gold records? Must have something to do with keeping it simple, don't you think? Not that he sticks to simple subjects--the guy actually has a sense of history--but that he makes their ironies seem straightforward. And maybe he's got something--I'm not going to tell you there's any inherent truth value in bitterness or paradox. I just wish he weren't so adenoidal. B-

Will Power [A&M, 1987]
An orchestral album? By Joe Jackson? Sounded like the quickest reject in history, but I should have known better than to expect something so distinctive from this perpetually well-meaning guy. Not terrible by any means. C+

Further Notes:

Everything Rocks and Nothing Ever Dies [1990s]

See Also