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September 18, 1989 - Image 11

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1989-09-18

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Joe Jacksor
BY MICHAEL PAUL FISCHER Night and Day's "Breaking Us In
Think of some words to describe Two." His return to the monitor is
Joe Jackson - "integrity", the brilliantly ironic clip for
"eclectic," I don't know... "balding "Nineteen Forever," Blaze of Glory's
- somehow you'll only end up de- paean to the Peter Pans of rock-and-
scribing why this guy's impossible roll. "We can do magic in these
to classify. Blaze of Glory, his latest times," suggest the lyrics as Jackson
studio LP, is the most comprehen- himself graphically ages to a
sive album to date from an artist who rocking-chair collapse, "be what we
has got to be pop's most unique per- want to be/ We'll all be rock n roll
former - in the sense that he can The comprehensive approach of
only be described, in a music world Blaze of Glory's pop songs comes as
of ready-made distinctions, as a particularly satisfying full-stop to
theanti-label himself. Heavy metal, Jackson's mad travels, and invites
fusion, classic rock, hip-hop/funk, retrospect in light of his output's
singer/songwriter, etc., and the whole recent variety - after the key-
spectrum of demographic radio for- board/guitar/bass/drums live set-up of
mats designed to match - Jackson his Big World record in 1986, Jack-
stands at the outskirts of all these son in 1987 released the classically-
formulas as pop's champion of the styled Will Power album of
who's made a brilusive maverick instrumental compositions, followed
who's musical chairs, where some by the jazzy period-piece soundtrack
playing , chas here st to Francis Ford Coppola 's Tucker:
(Neil Young, perhaps) have just The Man and His Dream, a work
come off as stylistic chameleons. The ands e ork
All the more enigmatic is the reg- which recalls the be-bop covers of
ularity of commercial acceptance Blaze combines the finest
which has accompanied Jackson's
artistic successes. No one has, as strengths built out of Jackson's pre-
often as Joe Jackson, given the finger vious nine studio albums, but con-
to the music industry - pressing to centrates on the lively Broadway
release a regular-price, three-sided LP melodies, elegant keyboard textures,
and later an orchestral all-instrumen- and big-band arrangements of the
tal album, and since 1983, refusing records he's made since his biggest
to shoot videos - and emerged with hit, "Step ping Out," from 1983's
his dignity (and their balance sheets) Night and Day, and the songs are
intact. But Blaze of Glory is, finally, peppered with the frantic energy of
Jackson's straightforward pop record his earlier punk-pop platters and fil-
- no gimmicks, stylistic forays or tered through the immaculate dynam-
strange recording techniques. Instead, ics of Big World's spacious four-
the album is a definitive statement, square sound. "Me and You (Against
the musical sum of the places where the World)" is a euphoric rocker
Jackson has gone in his genre-hop- wrapping the explosive horn bits of
ping travels. the invigorating "You Can't Get
At long last, it seems impossible What You Want ('til You Know
to guess where Joe Jackson could go What You Want)" from 1984's retro-
next to top this, especially following styled Body and Soul around a chim-
up his last album - the ingenious ing U2-ish guitar figure sped up to a
double-set Live 1980-86, which breakneck dance pace; "Down to
chronicles four tours over as many London" and "The Best I Can Do" re-
sides. And Blaze marks a conclusive call Soul's boy/girl vocal pieces
turning point. The concert Jackson (here, Joy Askew sings accompany-
plays tonight at Hill Auditorium, ing leads).
characteristically starting without . "Sentimental Thing," in the most
opening support, is a visit along his intoxicating Hollywood ballad tradi-
first tour since the Big World shows tion, combines the romantic vocals
three years ago. of Askew and Drew Barfield with the
Jackson has also finally rescinded gorgeous orchestral arrangements of
the anti-video vow he swore in 1983 Will Power's "Solitude," and then
(at the time joining in abstention segues neatly - as do all the pieces
The Smiths' Morrissey, who has on Blaze of Glory, giving the album
also come to his senses lately), a unique continuity - into the in-
which ironically following his mak- strumental "Acropolis Now" (!),
ing one of the greatest videos ever - where the basic Big World lineup

goes where

no

one...

rough a fiery swirl them what to do.") But for all the I'm gonna be my only slave," con- build a ship to take us there!... We'll
gs. And the memo- grave sociological insight of "Evil tinues the vocal, as music switches live on power from the sun." "Hey,"
Glory," Jackson's Empire," in which JJ turns the suddenly to a wine-cooler-smooth sings Askew, "do you remember that
sweet eulogy to a table's on Mr. Reagan's ridiculous "soft-rock" instrumental it la Anita rocket they blasted into God knows
tter-to-burn-out imagery, Jackson still exudes the Baker, "put on my CD of the sound where/ With the chemical symbols
ni star of the '50s, sense of humor of the guy who of waves/ and drift away." Then the saying Hi, how you doin' to the
~arted sweep of its shoved a pillow under his shirt on martial beats return - it's a bril- folks out there/ Yeah," responds
it of simple guitar the last tour, to emulate the ugly liantly hilarious moment. The man Jackson, "- they put the Bach mu-
American traveller in Big World' s knows how to keep you honest. sic in, left all the shit behind." But
ics offer the kind of "Jet Set." But on a song like "Tomorrow's an enthusiastic sense of anticipation
commentary we'vye "Discipline" is a sardonically World," another upbeat, galvanizing convinces you that he's not really
from Jackson, but satiric rip on the self-help New-Agers rocker with a fasten-your-seat-belts making fun of the Voyager mission:
f Joe's beguiling of the Oat Bran Generation: "I'm chorus, it does get a bit frustrating "Sometimes I think we should be

rocks joyously th
of Greek flavorin
rable "Blaze of
heroically bitter;
suicidal, be
Elvis/James Dea
builds the big-he
"tragic story" ou
strums.
The song's lyr
challenging social
come to expect
with the irony o
synthesis of sarca
Here, it's all the lC
in contrast to the
of "Nineteen Fore
be a drag to be
down and having

ism and sympathy.
atter, convincingly,
comic protagonist
gver" ("Wouldn't it
like you/ Settling
kids/ and telling

gonna pump it up/ gotta keep my
body from falling apart," whines
Askew's vocal over a gangantuan
hip-hop beat, as "subliminal" mes-
sages ("You can't fight city hall")
hum in the background. "But tonight

trying to tell if Joe's being authenti-
cally optimistic, as he has un-
abashedly proven to be in the past
(1984's "Go for It"), or just a wise
guy when he sings "We're gonna live
in tomorrow's world/ They're gonna

sending out an SOS/ But mostly I
just think of all the things that I
can't wait to see."
Perhaps the only way to figure it
See JACKSON, page 12

(A)Iive and dead

0

IN

IL

Vibrations not under the
weather
With their energetic performance at the Union
Ballroom Saturday night, Nicaraguan reggae group
Soul Vibrations proved that Jamaicans aren't the
only ones who can jam. The performance, which
was a benefit to aid reconstruction on the hurri-
caine-devastated Atlantic coast of Nicaragua, was
the final stop on Soul Vibe's first U.S. tour.
In addition to aiding hurricaine relief, the band
hopes to increase Black awareness in the oft-
ignored Bluefields region of their homeland. The
ahnd's muic i is aln intearaI to the cnnflict which af-

\.
i( '
* '
j
1
* ; <"

Commander Cody
Friday, Blind Pig
Love & Rockets
Saturday, Fox Theater, Detroit
It's all the Beatles' fault. They were the ones who first retreated from en-
tertaining live to create their art exclusively in the comforts of a recording
studio. Since then many artists have created some incredible pieces in the
studio, but few have been able to resist the various temptations to tour. For
some reason the music industry has decided that every album it releases must
be 'supported' with a tour. In fact, many bands now make the majority of
their income merchandising their various logos on badges, posters, stickers,
and T-shirts at mega-inflated prices. Yet amidst this pressure, artists lose
sight of the fact that their work might not be suited to live performance
without some effort/guts on their part.
The flip side of this problem are the musicians who are too busy playing
in the band to worry about all that stuff. For them entertaining each night's
audience is the goal; and that is the way it should be if one expects people to
pay money to watch one play music. Commander Cody learned this a long
time ago; Love & Rockets don't seem to care.
The Commander returned to Ann Arbor for two shows at the Blind Pig
last Friday, and he did not disappoint his many long-time fans in the audi-
ence. But he did surprise newcomers to his live show such as I with a tight
band that was basically an R&B outfit stripped to the bare essentials, rather
than a countrified group (he didn't bring a steel guitar player with him this
time) one would expect from his Airmen dayz or even his last studio album,
1986's Let's Rock. The band consisted of Peter Walsh on lead guitar, Keith
Crossan on sax, Tim Eschliman on bass, Jim Sanchez on drums, and Cody
on the ivories. Oddly, his long-time lead guitar player, former Airman Billy
C. Farlow, stuck to a successful lead vocal role.
With the exceptions of Cody and Farlow, this band plays together regu-
larly in the San Francisco area - and their experience showed. Sticking to
bar classics such as the opening "Rockin' at Midnight," the band kept the
dance floor packed. The Jerry Garcia Band standard "Don't Let Go" introduced

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