[Review] Joe Jackson: Body and Soul (1984)

Having discovered Body, we can at last acquit him for the crime of Murder.

Kronomyth 7.0: Blue Night Volume Two

You could make the case that Body And Soul is Joe Jackson’s best album yet. It is his most serious album, from the complex jazz-pop arrangements to the mature subject matter. Now, you might say, “I thought that was what Night and Day was supposed to be,” and it was, but there’s a level of sophistication to songs like Cha Cha Loco and Be My Number Two that was missing from “Cancer” and “China Town.” Even the arrangements are better this time, allowing Jackson to luxuriate in long, instrumentals on Loisaida and most of the closing Heart of Ice.

The album cover, which cops an old Sonny Rollins album, sets a heavy mood that the music and lyrics support. Jackson beefed up the horn section, added female voices (including a nice duet on Happy Ending) and wrote about soured romance from the perspective of soft middle age. In the middle of this mid-life reflection, Jackson has an epiphany on You Can’t Get What You Want that may be the high-water mark in a brilliant career.

Body and Soul is no mere return to Night, it’s the clarity of the morning after. The frequent musical changes have been a source of distraction at times (jive standards, movie soundtracks), yet there’s something authentic about Body and Soul that suggests we might finally be looking at the real Joe Jackson, should such an animal exist. I’m not sure it does. I’m not sure it matters. So long as his musical journey takes us to interesting places like this, I’m happy to tag along for the ride. It’s a very different trip than Jumpin’ Jive and his earlier pop albums, and at least a shade darker. At the heart of it all, though, maybe the author of “It’s Different for Girls” and “Be My Number Two” isn’t so different after all.

Original elpee version

A1. The Verdict (5:31)
A2. Cha Cha Loco (4:47)
A3. Not Here, Not Now (5:27)
A4. You Can’t Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want) (4:50)
A5. Go for It (4:18)
B1. Loisaida (5:33)
B2. Happy Ending (3:39)
B3. Be My Number Two (4:18)
B4. Heart of Ice (6:53)

All songs written and arranged by Joe Jackson.

The Players

Joe Jackson (vocals, piano, sax), Tony Aiello (saxes and flutes), Gary Burke (drums), Elaine Caswell (vocals), Ellen Foley (vocals), Graham Maby (bass), Michael Morreale (trumpet and flugelhorn),Ed Roynesdal (keyboards and violin), Vinnie Zummo (guitar). Produced by David Kershenbaum and Joe Jackson; engineered by Rik Pekkonen; mixdown assisted by Dan Nash; production coordinated by Jeremy Darby.

The Pictures

Photography by Charles Reilly. Layout by Quantum.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette and compact disc in March 1984 in the UK, Israel and the Netherlands (A&M, AMLX/CDA-65000), the US and Canada (A&M, SP/CS-5000), Australia (A&M, RML-53120), Germany and Spain (A&M, 395 000) and Japan (A&M, AMP-28092). Reached #14 on the UK charts and #20 on the US charts.

  1. Re-issued on compact disc in Europe (395 000).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in the US (A&M, CD-3286).

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