April 08, 2004


Joe Jackson Band -- Afterlife.jpg

Still lots of fight left

Most reunions of notable rock 'n' roll bands are excessively hyped and fall short of expectations; even worse are the ones where the groups trumpet the release of uninspired, forgettable new studio albums. But every so often, there is a reunion that not only comes in under the radar, but produces a recorded effort as good as anything from the band's prime.

That was the case with 2003's Volume 4, the first album by singer-pianist Joe Jackson and his original backing band -- guitarist-vocalist Gary Sanford, bassist-vocalist Graham Maby and drummer-vocalist Dave Houghton -- since 1980's Beat Crazy. Not only did they play with the same sense of purpose on Volume 4 as they did years ago, Jackson's latest batch of tunes was top notch, too. Most notable were the feisty rocker "Awkward Age" (where Jackson's character consoles a teen outcast) and the ballad "Love at First Light" (about the aftermath of a one-night stand).

Those tunes also can be found on the new concert album Afterlife (Rykodisc) -- which, like Volume 4, is credited to the Joe Jackson Band. Recorded in late August 2003 at four consecutive California shows, Afterlife provides further proof that Volume 4 was cut live in the studio, as the songs from that album represented here are very true to the original versions in terms of performance and arrangement.

As expected, Afterlife focuses on the four studio albums Jackson recorded with Sanford, Maby and Houghton, including 1979's Look Sharp! "One More Time" is delivered as though it's an anthem, and "Fools in Love" is stretched out to include a portion of the Yardbirds hit "For Your Love."

The biggest surprise is "Down to London," a song from Jackson's 1989 Blaze of Glory album. Given the full-band treatment, it only contributes to the curiosity regarding why these four guys ever parted ways in the first place.

-- By Chris M. Junior

Posted by medleyville at April 8, 2004 01:29 PM