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Joe Jackson
Night and Day II
Sony Classical


The thing about Joe Jackson that confounds his critics is you never know what the guy's going to do. The musical pundits like to think they can predict the future. They like to think they know what the next release will sound like. Well, after a series of classically-styled albums and a positively stellar live album the man from Trent is back with a sequel (!?). A sequel to what is considered by most to be his best album, Night and Day. Night and Day was Joe's New York album. It was a snapshot of the Big Apple at it's bustling best/worst. Fast forward through nearly 20 years of global homogenization and the near abandonment of pop music by Joe Jackson and what do you get with a sequel? It's not 1982 anymore and that's about the only thing that can be said with any certainty.

Night and Day II has a slow build, beginning with a prelude reminiscent of some of his latter symphonic pieces. "Hell of a Town" is the intro to the journey. New York has everything but you'd better do your business or you might not get to be in it. "Stranger Than You" is a smart and well-written cut. It's fairly standard in it's structure and is a bit of a departure from some of the more experimental pieces we've heard from Jackson as of late. It's one of the few cuts that could stand as a single. "Why" combines a Mid-Eastern feel with the piano/violin work that can be found as the albums common thread. It features vocals by Sussan Deyhim, and those vocals are not necessarily lyrics. She's mostly there for melody, like an instrument. "Glamour and Pain" is another strong song that could stand alone as a single, (although trying to find a radio venue these days could be a daunting task). Like the first Night and Day, this album often flows from track to track without any silence between cuts. Flowing from "Glamour and Pain" is "Dear Mom," a sweet song about someone searching for his sister and gets caught up in the scene and tries it out for himself. The apex might just be the next song, "Love Got Lost." With Marianne Faithful on vocals "Love..." is about someone who is totally crushed with loneliness. It's not your typical blues jam though. Our hero in this song tries to maintain her dignity and place in a society that doesn't really need her anymore, kind of keeping a stiff upper lip. She's hard but she wants love. The problem is she chases it off when it comes around. In "Just Because..." Joe even gives young upstarts a nod when he paraphrases a few lines from Nirvana's "Territorial Pissings" when he sings 'Just because you're paranoid, don't mean they're not out to get you." On "Happyland" is about the tragic night club fire in a New York hotspot of the same name. It's got a sweet Latin beat to go along with its sad story of a one woman's last night in Happyland. "Stay" features some slight reprises from the first Night and Day, this time "Stepping Out." In fact, there are common threads from the first Night and Day throughout this album. Sometimes they surprise you and make you smile because this is a very good album but it is a little on the bleak side.

Fans of Jackson's recent work like Heaven and Hell and Symphony #1 will eat this up like a fat guy at an all out can eat bacon buffet. If you left Joe when he left pop then you might not. Still you should give Night and Day II a chance. It's a fairly complex work, full of good piano work and a very good string section. Night and Day II should put you somewhere between Heaven and Hell and Night and Day. A strange, but interesting, place to be indeed.

--Chadbo

Track Listing:

  1. Prelude
  2. Hell of a Town
  3. Stranger Than You
  4. Why
  5. Glamour and Pain
  6. Dear Mom
  7. Love Got Lost
  8. Just Because...
  9. Happyland
  10. Stay


Mike Doughty



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