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Pop - Released January 1, 1984 | Virgin EMI

Body and Soul has Joe Jackson playing both hot- and cool-styled jazz songs, getting some worthy help from producer David Kershenbaum, who also lent Jackson a hand on his I'm the Man album. This is Jackson at his smoothest, from the fragility of "Not Here Not Now" to the earnestness of "Be My Number Two." While both this song and "Happy Ending" charted fairly low in the U.K., the explosive "You Can't Get What You Want" went to number 15 in the United States, thanks to the brilliant horn work and colorful jazz-pop mingling of all the other instruments, not to mention Jackson's suave singing. But the album's energy isn't spent entirely on one track. "Cha Cha Loco," "Losaida," and the cheery yet stylish "Go for It" carry Jackson's snazzy persona and enthusiasm even further, laying claim to how comfortable he really is at playing this style of music. Sometimes sounding preserved and entertaining in the same light, Body and Soul uses some of the character of 1982's Night and Day album, but instead of splitting up the music into mild jazz, pop, and modern R&B, he decided to tackle one of the genres wholeheartedly, and in doing so he came up with a truly impeccable release. ~ Mike DeGagne
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Rock - Released January 1, 2001 | A&M

A brilliant, accomplished debut, Look Sharp! established Joe Jackson as part of that camp of angry, intelligent young new wavers (i.e., Elvis Costello, Graham Parker) who approached pop music with the sardonic attitude and tense, aggressive energy of punk. Not as indebted to pub rock as Parker and Costello, and much more lyrically straightforward than the latter, Jackson delivers a set of bristling, insanely catchy pop songs that seethe with energy and frustration. Several deal with the lack of thoughtful reflection in everyday life ("Sunday Papers," "Got the Time"), but many more concern the injuries and follies of romance. In the caustic yet charming witticisms of songs like the hit "Is She Really Going Out With Him?," "Happy Loving Couples," "Fools in Love," and "Pretty Girls," Jackson presents himself on the one hand as a man of integrity seeking genuine depth in love (and elsewhere), but leavens his stance with a wry, self-effacing humor, revealing his own vulnerability to loneliness and to purely physical attraction. Look Sharp! is the sound of a young man searching for substance in a superficial world -- and it also happens to rock like hell. ~ Steve Huey
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Pop - Released March 8, 2019 | Sheer Sound

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Pop - Released January 1, 2003 | A&M

1982 will forever be known as the year that the punks got class -- or at least when Joe Jackson and Elvis Costello, rivals for the title of Britain's reigning Angry Young Man -- decided that they were not just rockers, but really songwriters in the Tin Pan Alley tradition. (Graham Parker, fellow angry Brit, sat this battle out, choosing to work with Aerosmith producer Jack Douglas instead.) Both had been genre-hopping prior to 1982, but Jackson's Night and Day and Costello's Imperial Bedroom announced to the world that both were "serious songwriters," standing far apart from the clamoring punkers and silly new wavers. In retrospect, the ambitions of these two 27-year-olds (both born in August 1954, just two weeks apart) seem a little grandiose, and if Imperial Bedroom didn't live up to its masterpiece marketing campaign (stalling at number 30 on the charts without generating a hit), it has garnered a stronger reputation than Night and Day, which was a much more popular album, climbing all the way to number four on the U.S. charts, thanks to the Top Ten single "Steppin' Out." Night and Day had greater success because it's sleek and bright, entirely more accessible than the dense, occasionally unwieldy darkness of Imperial Bedroom. Plus, Jackson plays up the comparisons to classic pop songwriting by lifting his album title from Cole Porter, dividing the record into a "night" and "day" side, and then topping it off with a neat line drawing of him at his piano in a New York apartment on the cover. All of these classy trappings are apparent on the surface, which is the problem with the record: it's all stylized, with the feel eclipsing the writing, which is kind of ironic considering that Jackson so clearly strives to be a sophisticated cosmopolitan songwriter here. He gets the cosmopolitan, big-city feel down pat; although the record never delivers on the "night" and "day" split, with the latter side feeling every bit as nocturnal as the former, his blend of percolating Latin rhythms, jazzy horns and pianos, stylish synths, and splashy pop melodies uncannily feel like a bustling, glitzy evening in the big city. On that front, Night and Day is a success, since it creates a mood and sustains it very well. Where it lets down is the substance of the songs. At a mere nine tracks, it's a brief album even by 1982 standards, and it seems even shorter because about half the numbers are more about sound than song. "A Slow Song" gets by on its form, not what it says, while "Target" and "Cancer" are swinging Latin-flavored jams that disappear into the air. "Chinatown" is a novelty pastiche that's slightly off-key, but nowhere near as irritating as "T.V. Age," where Jackson mimics David Byrne's hyper-manic vocal mannerisms. These all fit the concept of the LP and they're engaging on record, but they're slight, especially given Jackson's overarching ambition -- and their flimsiness is brought into sharp relief by the remaining four songs, which are among Jackson's very best. There is, of course, the breakthrough hit "Steppin' Out," which pulsates anticipatory excitement, but the aching "Breaking Us in Two" is just as good, as is the haunting "Real Men" and the album opener, "Another World," a vibrant, multi-colored song that perfectly sets up the sonic and lyrical themes of the album. If all of Night and Day played at this level, it would be the self-styled masterpiece Joe Jackson intended it to be. Instead, it is a very good record that delivers some nice, stylish pleasures; but its shortcomings reveal precisely how difficult it is to follow in the tradition of Porter and Gershwin. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop - Released January 1, 1986 | A&M

Joe Jackson crafted his most labored, serious album in 1984's Body and Soul, so it's no surprise that he made a complete turnaround for its follow-up, Big World. Instead of delving deeper into jazz, Jackson pared his lineup down to a basic guitar, bass, and drums rock combo and recorded all of Big World live in front of an audience in a move to avoid the over-production that bogged down records of its period. Interestingly, Jackson insisted the audience not make a sound during the recording, so this doesn't sound like a live album, except in the spots where Jackson's voice wears a bit thin. And, running over 60 minutes and across three record "sides," Big World is a sweeping album, shifting from a more accessible first side to an experimental middle and closing out with a more aggressive third side. It works, since Big World is the most raw and immediate record of the middle part of Jackson's career. But listeners expecting another Look Sharp! won't be impressed, as this is still a much more serious, concerned Jackson than before. As the title of the album suggests, Jackson is tackling big issues, such as global cultural differences, Reagan-era politics, yuppies, and relationships -- from romantic ones to those you hold with your roots, as on the reflective "Home Town." At times, it works marvelously, and at times the songs are too ponderous and minimal to make any impact. But the best moments, like "Right and Wrong," "Tonight and Forever," and "Home Town," establish Big World as one of the best and most overlooked records of Joe Jackson's career. ~ Jason Damas
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Rock - Released January 15, 2001 | A&M

Spanning two discs and 38 songs, A&M's 2001 release Steppin' Out: The Very Best of Joe Jackson provides about as complete an overview of Joe Jackson's prime years as most listeners could want. Sure, this will not have everything that a hardcore fan loves, but it will have everything that a serious fan, who doesn't want to buy actual albums, needs: all the hits, plus most of the significant album tracks. For a while, Jackson was one of the most vital singer/songwriters around, testing his limits with each album and writing fine songs along the way. This album collects them all, proving that he was a formidable talent at the peak of his powers. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Classical - Released May 29, 2000 | Sony Classical

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Rock - Released January 28, 2008 | Rykodisc

Joe Jackson's 2003 album, Volume 4, found the songwriter reunited with his original backing band for the first time since 1980, and it was his best and best-received effort in years, with Jackson stepping away from the grander conceits of his work as a "serious" composer and turning back to the pithy but literate pop tunes that had long been his forte. Jackson promised that the reunion with his original band would be a one-off, and technically he's kept his word on Rain -- this album was cut as a trio, with Jackson backed by bassist Graham Maby and drummer Dave Houghton from the original Joe Jackson Band, but without the presence of guitarist Gary Sanford. Minus Sanford, Rain is a bit smoother and more refined than Volume 4, and it's a far cry from the scrappy new wave-inspired rock of Look Sharp! and I'm the Man, but it does show that Jackson learned something from his experience with Volume 4 -- he's better with clever pop songs than trying to write orchestral pieces, and Rain balances sophistication and edgy smarts with a winning mixture of grace and confidence. Jackson's melodies recall the polish and imagination of his work on Night and Day, and his piano work is exceptional here, but the compact arrangements keep the music from getting too florid for its own good, while Maby and Houghton add just the right amount of color and keep the songs moving at a brisk but comfortable pace. Jackson also supplies much of his usual tart wit as a lyricist, pondering his own retreat from A-list stardom in "Invisible Man," taking on photogenic "non-conformists" with "Good Bad Boy," and examining the ups and downs of hedonism in "King Pleasure Time," but Jackson also allows his romantic side to surface here, and "Wasted Time," "Rush Across the Road," and "Too Tough" contemplate love and relationships with a perspective that's mature and honestly heartfelt at the same time. There's less of an air of willful nostalgia about Rain than Volume 4 and the live set Afterlife, but it's still a potent reminder of Joe Jackson's lasting strengths as songwriter and bandleader, proving he hasn't run short on ideas nearly 30 years after releasing his debut. ~ Mark Deming
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Rock - Released July 17, 2006 | Ryko - WEA

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Pop - Released January 1, 2007 | A&M Records

Before exploring jump blues and early R&B on 1981's Jumpin' Jive and later jazz and Latin styles on 1982's Night and Day, Joe Jackson expanded his power pop and punk m.o. with this, his reggae-tinged third album. Jackson sticks with the short songs and punk feel of his first two releases, but strategically adds rocksteady and jazz elements here and there. A direct reggae influence is heard on such dub-style cuts like "In Every Dream Home," while more of a pastiche approach is evident on tracks like "Mad at You." Jackson even riffs off of Linton Kwesi Johnson's dub poetry sides with the dancefloor politics of "Battleground," while also laying down some straight ska on "Pretty Boys." One also gets intimations of the sophisticated jazz-pop songwriting of Night and Day with torching gems like "One to One." As is the case on most of his albums, Jackson covers a wide array of topics here, including modern relationships, feminism, club life, and the social fringe. A solid effort. ~ Stephen Cook
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Rock - Released May 7, 1996 | A&M

A&M's 1996 collection Greatest Hits contains many of the basics in Joe Jackson's catalog, and that may be enough for some fans -- after all, it has "Is She Really Going Out With Him?," "Look Sharp!," "Sunday Papers," "I'm the Man," "You Can't Get What You Want (Til You Know What You Want)," "Breaking Us in Two," "Steppin' Out," and "Nineteen Forever." The problem with the record is what lies around them. What's there isn't particularly bad, although inclusions like a live version of "Memphis" are fairly puzzling, but it isn't representative of Jackson's best, and it doesn't result in a great listen. It may satisfy those looking for just a handful of hits on one disc, but there are better Jackson compilations on the market. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop - Released January 1, 1990 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

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Pop - Released January 1, 1991 | Virgin Records

After the inappropriately bombastic arena rock of Blaze of Glory, Joe Jackson returned (somewhat) to his roots to deliver the most straightforward pop album in his career in Laughter & Lust. While Jackson's late-'80s output is composed of intelligent, if often forgettable, adult pop/rock, Laughter & Lust feels almost like a snotty declaration of Jackson's pop skills. He's "been there, done that" with pop music, and with Laughter & Lust he shows off just how effortlessly he can construct a commercially viable pop album. Nowhere is this more present than on the bitter "Hit Single," a tirade about the disposability of pop music and the public's inability to digest more than "just the hit single." But Jackson saves this inscrutable slap in the face of his fans by setting it to -- surprise -- a massive pop hook. And it's that paradox that exists all over Laughter & Lust; songs like "Stranger Than Fiction" and "When You're Not Around" sound so effortless, so catchy, so made for radio -- and yet you know that Joe Jackson constructed these songs just because he could, not necessarily because he wanted to. It's a testament as much to Jackson's abilities as it is to his ego, and Laughter & Lust became his not-so-subtle goodbye to pop music, as he would continuously foray into "serious" music from here on out. Still, for a fan who can see past the attitude, Laughter & Lust does deliver more bang for the buck than any Jackson album since Night and Day, simply because Jackson really does know how to construct a good pop song, even if he's condescending while doing it. ~ Jason Damas
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Rock - Released January 1, 1999 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Jumpin' Jive proved to be one of Joe Jackson's most adventurous projects as he tries his hand at covering a bunch of Louis Jordan and Cab Calloway tunes, ranging from the extravagance of big band to bop to vibrant swing music. The album broke the Top 50 in the U.S. and made it to number 14 in England, with the title track peaking at number 43 over there as well. Jackson sounds extremely fresh and vivacious throughout all of the tracks, with Calloway's "We the Cats" and "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby" demonstrating how easily his persona adapts to this particular style of music. Jackson doesn't just sing the music here, he actually role-plays to some extent to make the songs sound that much more genuine and timeless, giving tunes like "Tuxedo Junction," "What's the Use of Getting Sober," and the hip-cat composure of "Jumpin' Jive" some modern flash and color. The horn work is dazzling as well, especially Dave Bitelli's alto sax and Pete Thomas' clarinet contributions. Not only was Jumpin' Jive a novel idea, but it reveals Jackson's musical dexterity and desire to further his interests into other avenues aside from pop and mainstream ballads. Although he touched on reggae with 1980's Beat Crazy, Jumpin' Jive fully uncovers his musical astuteness and remains one of his best albums. ~ Mike DeGagne
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Pop - Released October 2, 2015 | SHARP PRACTICE PRODUCTIONS, LLC

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Film Soundtracks - Released January 1, 2014 | Polydor Associated Labels

Recorded about the same time as Night and Day, his most popular releaseJoe Jackson's brilliant soundtrack to the movie Mike's Murder is consistent in quality to that 1982 pop music masterpiece. Side one contains five pop gems which could have easily fit nicely on the Night and Day album. Side two contains three instrumental tracks. Unfortunately, the movie stiffed, so the record company did not back the record. It's a great album, though. ~ Tim Griggs
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Classical - Released October 30, 2000 | Sony Classical

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Rock - Released September 25, 2001 | A&M

20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Joe Jackson gathers career highlights spanning the uptight new wave of "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" and "It's Different for Girls" to sophisticated pop singles like "Steppin' Out." Other highlights include "Be My Number Two," "Beat Crazy," and "Sunday Papers." It's certainly not the most comprehensive Joe Jackson retrospective available, but the tracks The Millennium Collection does include are among his very best. ~ Heather Phares
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Rock - Released January 1, 2001 | A&M

Despite Jackson's anxious demeanor and shaky pop/rock presence, I'm the Man holds together quite well as his second attempt. Reaching number 12 in the U.K. and a respectable number 22 in the U.S., the album managed to net him a number five hit in his homeland with the insightful "It's Different for Girls," which revealed Jackson's adeptness at philosophizing and his perception of examining the sexes, a trait which would follow him throughout his career. While this song represents his skill at crafting an effective ballad, the frantic "I'm the Man" showcases Jackson at his most frenzied, as a freight train's worth of lyrics pile haphazardly into one another alongside a wonderfully hysteric rhythm. Not only does the track show off Jackson's free-range ability, but his sense of humor arises once again, following in the footsteps of Look Sharp!'s "Is She Really Going Out With Him." Jackson's new wave tendencies are toned down for I'm the Man, but that doesn't restrain his talent, as songs like "Kinda Kute," "Amateur Hour," and "Geraldine and John" make for catchy side servings of attractive pop. It wasn't until Jackson's next album, Beat Crazy, that he began to expand his musical latitudes into reggae, soul, and later on into jazz and other styles. I'm the Man exposes Jackson in his early stages, but it's evident that his wit and peculiar brand of pop charm is already building up its strength. ~ Mike DeGagne
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Pop - Released January 1, 1989 | A&M Records