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Years later, Joe Jackson remains the man

Paradise, Boston, April 5, 2003

By Jeffrey B. Remz

BOSTON - Not a whole lot has been heard from Joe Jackson in years.

A few generally under the radar screen albums were released. Very few live shows from an artist who had his heyday almost 25 years ago with New Wave, post-punky sounds with a pop edge and hits like "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" and later "Steppin' Out," a very catchy, piano-based, jazzy tune.

So, it could be with some skepticism that one greets the return of Joe Jackson with his original backing trio with a new album, "Volume 4" (Rykodisc) and a concert tour. The tour celebrates the group's 25th anniversary of its creation and release of "Look Sharp."

Save for seven warm-up gigs in England last fall, the current tour is the first for the quartet since December 1980.

Bottom line - Joe, it's great to have you back, and time hasn't changed you.

First off, the new disc maintains the same level of energy that Jackson had a generation ago. And while he may not necessarily have any big hits now, there are enough quality songs and barebones contemplations of life to maintain the listener's interest.

But seeing Jackson live - the second of two-sold out shows - was proof enough that Jackson's abilities circa 2003 are not limited to the studio.

Jackson smartly started off with a familiar oldie, "One More Time," with its fast and furious start. It made one think, somewhat paraphrasing the song, "yeah Joe. We do love you. We do need you."

For the next 100-minutes or so, Jackson moved between older hits and the new album. In concert, "Volume 4," stood up stronger than it did on the silver platter. Of course, that's the way all music should be - an artist breathes life into a stereo creation.

Jackson's voice has aged quite well, showing no signs of wear or tear at all.

And the band - bassist Graham Maby, guitarist Gary Sanford and drummer Dave Houghton - were top notch. Perhaps a tad loud at times, but overall they know how to propel the songs along or take it down a notch, making for welcome changes of paces throughout.

And several reggae-based songs, like "Fools in Love," worked exceedingly well, showing off the different musical chops of Jackson.

By the time, Jackson closed with the energetic "I'm the Man," one may have indeed felt like a yo yo, but in a positive, pushed up and down by a fine musician, but always for a good cause.

As Jackson said in introducing the song, "Whoever thought this would happen?"

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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