Joe Jackson

Big World

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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.

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