Thursday, 26 July 2018
Joe Jackson - Live 1980-1986
Live recordings from tours between 1980 and 1986
This is a excellent live album covering live recordings from Joe Jackson’s tours between 1980 and 1986. It misses out the punky gigs played in the late seventies, but a fair amount of material from that era is played here in the 1980-81 tracks, featuring the original, “new wave” four piece Joe Jackson Band, (Dave Hamilton, Gary Sandford and Graham Maby) which certainly had its appeal. Another album, “Joe Jackson At The BBC” does, however, contain tracks from February 1979 and January 1980.
The album begins with the evocative, stark and wryly amusing “One To One”, played by Jackson solo at the piano, before the band kick in to a breakneck “I’m The Man”. The sound is a bit raw around the edges, as you would expect from this period, but it has a “live” atmosphere. It lacks a little in volume, but if you turn it up a bit more you get more of that live gig buzz. “Beat Crazy”, with its rumbling bass and white reggae undertones, has a definite appeal. The first six tracks are from this early eighties period, 1980’s “Beat Crazy” tour, and make me very nostalgic. The album covers several distinct periods in Jackson’s changeling career, but this always remains one of my favourites. The big hit single, “Is She Really Going Out With Him” is performed initially with only a bass and some light percussion and with help from the audience (whom Jackson berates for their awful braying singing, which is an amusing change from “you’re the best audience etc”). I can’t help feeling that the crowd would have wanted to hear the track as it originally sounded though. It ends up with a lot of electric guitar feedback too. Joe always enjoyed throwing a few curveballs.
“Don’t Wanna Be Like That” is played literally at 110 miles per hour and is totally exhilarating. “Got The Time” is the same, with a great bass, organ and guitar intro and some excellent live improvised parts. “On Your Radio” is from a different tour, 1982-83’s “Night And Day” tour, and, while it is still a track from that new wave era, the band sounds slightly fuller on it, with some Attractions-style organ breaks. “Fools In Love” is the first to show the clear change in era/mood tracks. It now utilises that more accomplished percussion sound (from Sue Hadjopolous) that would come to dominate later albums such as “Night And Day”. The sound is louder now so you need to turn it down again! It has an impressive bass solo passage on it too. The cynically amusing “Cancer” really exemplifies that “Night And Day” Latin-influenced percussion rhythm and the jazzy piano. The next version of “Is She Really” now goes the whole hog and does it completely a cappella, apart from a tambourine. The new, expanded band’s take on 1978’s “Look Sharp” is jazzy, funky and exciting, including a drum/bongos solo.
The second disc is from the “Body And Soul” tour from 1984 and the “Big World” tour from 1986. The 1984 band features a full, almost “big band” brass section and the punchy, jazzy kick they give to a new wave rocker like “Sunday Papers”, together with some jazzy drumming and keyboards is interesting and invigorating to listen to. Jackson always pushed his own boundaries which made him an enjoyable artist to investigate.
“Real Men” is beautifully delivered, with strings and that big, clunking piano. The third ”Is She Really” is a strange staccato piano and plucked strings over a waltzy beat concoction. It doesn’t really do it for me, I’m afraid. “Memphis” is a pounding bluesy rocker with some Duane Eddy-style guitar in places. “Slow Song”, with its tinkling piano and mournful vocal delivery is a melodramatic classic. The piano ballads of “Be My Number Two” and “Breaking Us In Two” segue beautifully into each other, while the old new wave hit single “It’s Different For Girls” is given an acoustic guitar-driven makeover.
“You Can’t Get What You Want” is an extended funky rendition and the lively, jazzy “Jumpin’ Jive” utilises the jazzy horns to their utmost. The iconic single “Steppin’ Out” is given a lengthy, almost classical piano intro and is considerably slower to the laid-back easy groove everyone knows. Again, I would have preferred the original.
Overall, though, his is an enjoyable document of Joe Jackson’s live performances over a six year period, but it does not play as a whole concert, which is a shame. I tend to dip in and out of it.