Joe Jackson

Rain
(Rykodisc)

The first two lines on Joe Jackson's new album are: "Hey, can you hear me now, as I fade away and lose my ground? Maybe you'd like to know what I'd have to say, if I was still around." Are the words merely song lyrics or is ol' Joe wryly commenting on his own career? Those who've followed Jackson on his road — from angry young man of late '70s New Wave through forays into jump blues, jazz, salsa, film scoring, and even symphonic music to arrive in the new millennium as something of an elder statesman of pop — know the answer is surely a little of both. On Rain, Jackson works with only piano, bass, drums, and vocals to give his new compositions an elegant simplicity that belies their musical complexity. Of course, it helps that sidemen Graham Maby and Dave Houghton are both longtime collaborators. Two decades removed from bothering the charts with his biggest hit singles, Jackson's artistry is as sharp as ever, even if far fewer people are noticing. As he sings in the chorus of the aforementioned tune, "You can't stop the invisible man."

 
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