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Joe Jackson

Rain | Rykodisc
By BRETT MILANO  |  April 1, 2008
3.5 3.5 Stars

Just as Elvis Costello invariably makes his greatest albums with the Attractions/Imposters, Joe Jackson always sounds best when at least some of his original quartet are on board. He keeps the rhythm section this time, but his own piano replaces Gary Sanford’s guitar as the lead instrument. The recent full-band reunion Volume 4 was a small triumph, but Rain may be even more satisfying, since it’s the best work Jackson has done with a line-up that’s not strict-rock-band. Which isn’t to say this doesn’t rock — it just does so without guitars or anything electric save Graham Maby’s bass. Here’s where Jackson’s early-career bluster finally merges with his latter-day sophistication. Bacharach-style pop is the touchstone, but touches of jazz, classical, and even punk work their way in. And on “The Uptown Train,” he evokes his beloved New York City without having to hire a roomful of percussionists. Long-time fans will be happy to hear him take another jab at the latest crop of popstars (“Good Bad Boy”) and deliver the kind of slightly neurotic love ballad he’s always excelled at (“Rush Across the Road”). And on “The Invisible Man,” he finds a nifty metaphor, equating his post-hit career with the afterlife. When the spooky verse gives way to a fist-waving chorus, it’s a definite Look Sharp! moment.

JOE JACKSON | Somerville Theatre, 55 Davis Square, Somerville | April 7 | 617.931.2000

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  Topics: CD Reviews , Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson
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