[Review] Joe Jackson: Night and Day (1982)

Sophisticated Latin jazz and smartly executed pop music meet in the middle on this wonderful album.

Kronomyth 5.0: Step into another world.

It’s tempting to see this as another reinvention (I usually do), but it’s more about Joe Jackson taking himself seriously as an artist. Jumpin’ Jive was a reinvention; Night and Day is a refinement. The person who wrote “(Do The) Instant Mash” is the same one singing T.V. Age. And Jackson had already introduced his softer side on the second album: “It’s Different for Girls,” “Amateur Hour.” So the difference here isn’t the muse, it’s the music.

There’s no guitar on this album and the bass is subdued. The real action occurs between the piano and the percussion. The result is sophisticated pop music with a Latin flavor, a complex cabernet next to the overcaffeinated soda pop of Look Sharp! In case you missed the sophistication, you’re reminded of it by the cover, the interior gatefold photo, the Duke Ellington quote at the end. Jackson seems to enjoy role-playing as much as writing, but maybe that helps inspire him. And Night and Day is an inspired record: Breaking Us In Two and Steppin’ Out are two of his best, A Slow Song, Real Men and Another World just a notch below.

At the time of its release, Night and Day was almost as much of an anomaly as Jumpin’ Jive. Popular music was becoming increasingly electronic, and here was Joe Jackson producing defiant, handcrafted melodies that our parents would probably like. It wasn’t an instant with me. Instead, Night and Day waited patiently for me to come around to its way of thinking. It succeeded in winning me over because of the quality of the songs, and for a time it seemed that Joe Jackson was destined to lead a charmed life. With each new twist and turn, however, Jackson has lost some followers.

Today, this artful anachronism isn’t heard as a reaction to anything. Whatever the imaginary battle lines being drawn by Jackson, Night and Day survives not because it is a valiant effort against the crushing forces of complacent pop music, but because great music is timeless.

Original elpee version

Night Side
A1. Another World (4:00)
A2. Chinatown (4:08)
A3. T.V. Age (Joe Jackson/Steve Tatler) (3:45)
A4. Target (3:52)
A5. Steppin’ Out (4:34)
Day Side
B1. Breaking Us in Two (4:57)
B2. Cancer (6:06)
B3. Real Men (4:05)
B4. A Slow Song (7:13)

All songs written by Joe Jackson unless noted.

Deluxe Edition bonus disc
B1. Steppin’ Out (demo)
B2. Target (demo)
B3. Cancer (demo)
B4. Real Men (demo)
B5. Breaking Us in Two (demo)
B6. Chinatown (demo)
B7. Cosmopolitan
B8. 1-2-3 Go (This Town’s a Fairground)
B9. Laundromat Monday
B10. Memphis
B11. Moonlight
B12. On Your Radio (live)
B13. Fools in Love (live)
B14. Cancer (live)
B15. Is She Really Going Out with Him (live a capella)
B16. Look Sharp! (live)

The Players

Joe Jackson (piano, Fender Rhodes and Yamaha electric pianos, Hammond organ, Gem organ, Prophet-5 and minimoog synthesizers, alto saxophone, vibes, lead vocals, arrangements, orchestration), Sue Hadjopoulos (congas, bongos, timbales, orchestra bells, xylophone, miscellaneous percussion, flute and vocals), Graham Maby (bass, vocals, percussion), Larry Tolfree (drums, timbales, percussion) with Grace Millan (background vocals), Ed Rynesdal (violins, synthesizer programming), Richard Torres (bongos, cowbell and clave on A4/B2), Jack Waldman (synthesizer programming), Al Weisman (background vocals). Produced and mixed by David Kershenbaum and Joe Jackson; engineered by Michael Ewasko.

The Pictures

Art direction by Joe Jackson. Artwork by Philip Burke. Photo by George Dubose.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and cassette in June 1982 in the UK and the Netherlands (A&M, AMLH/CAM-64906), the US and Canada (A&M, SP/CS-4906), Australia (A&M, L/C-37857) and Japan (A&M, AMP-28059) with gatefold cover. Reached #3 on the UK charts and #4 on the US charts (RIAA-certified gold record).

  • Re-issued on compact disc in the US (A&M, CD-3334).
  • Re-released on remastered compact disc in the US (Mobile Fidelity, UDCD-539).
  • Re-released on expanded Deluxe Edition 2CD on July 29, 2003 in the US (A&M) with bonus disc.

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