I have, for better or worse, gone completely digital with music. I’ve even thrown out our CD jewel cases, complete with “covers” and booklets, and put the CDs in large, ignored wallets. But I can picture myself—if I had remained analog—standing before shelves of LPs with this new Joe Jackson in my hand, wandering back and forth, frowning, hesitating over and over again until I would eventually place it on the coffee table and go for a drink. It doesn’t fit anywhere, really.
It is called Duke and the Duke himself is on the cover, but this is not Ellington jazz or particularly referential to the best that is the Duke. It’s not particularly Joe Jackson either and I cannot always hear jazz in it at all; when I do I’m not convinced it’s the Duke I hear.
It is good though, but not in a categorical way. It is not a candidate for best driving album. It is not a candidate for best romantic album. It is not a candidate for best...anything I can think of. It’s one of those albums an established artist can get by everyone because he is who he is. He’s Joe Jackson and he has this notion of an album. And the result is, and forever will be, an interesting comment on an interesting artist by an interesting artist.
I’m certainly looking forward to hearing what Jackson gets into as a result of this, but any one of Duke Ellington’s albums is better at Ellington than this one is.
Did I mention “The Mooch, Black and Tan Fantasy” is the best...er...ah...of its kind? Swing, baby, swing! It’s a great Saturday cleaning album though none of these tunes would make a Joe Jackson Greatest Hits album.