Record of the day: Joe Jackson, "I'm the man"

Record of the day: Joe Jackson, “I'm the man”

Joe Jackson
I'm the Man (Cd A&M 393221-2)

Before convincing himself that he was the reincarnation of Mahler and starting to write boring contaminations between rock, film music and chamber music, Joe Jackson was a very good author straddling pop and the New Wave that accompanied his two debut albums, “Look Sharp!” and “I'm the Man”, (both 1979) which still remain his freshest and most convincing works despite the common criticism continuing to put the insipid “Night and Day” in first place, perhaps due to its pseudo-cool air which is fine and does not commit.

With an instrumentation reduced to the bare bones and entirely dedicated to producing excellent rock'n'roll without any pretentiousness, Jackson burst onto the music scene together with Elvis Costello and Willy De Ville but stood out from them, and from the whole environment postpunk crowded by the various grandchildren of the Sex Pistols, for the innate ability to create songs that were imprinted in the memory instantly just like the first successes of the Beatles, Stones and Kinks. Short durations, few solos, powerful rhythmic impact, choruses
memorable, a few breaks for sweet ballads like “It's Different For Girls”, “The Band Wore Blue Shirts” and “Amateur Hour”, and then getting back on the saddle and racing at two hundred an hour in wild pieces such as “Friday”, ” I'm the Man”, “On Your Radio”, passing through the homemade and bouncy reggae of “Geraldine And John”.

The frenetic energy that Jackson created together with his band (where Graham Maby's bass and Dave Houghton's drums stood out in particular) was perfect for the hip musical climate of the time, but it is capable of setting fire to any party today, the important is to turn the volume up to the max and enjoy gems like “Kinda Kute”, “Get That Girl” and the flaying “Don't Wanna Be Like That”.

Unfortunately, Jackson subsequently lost himself in a confused, often watered-down exploration of almost all musical genres, from Latin to pop/jazz, from funky to mambo, passing through the classical platypuses already mentioned at the beginning of the sheet (avoid the album like the plague «symphonic» “Will Power”, the vocal cycle “Heaven and Hell” and the
“Symphony N° 1”, whose numbering appears as a threat). It's a real shame, given the remarkable talent he possesses as a songwriter and singer, when he doesn't wear his Napoleon hat and starts taking himself very (too) seriously.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.