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Joe Jackson | Fool

The veteran singer-pianist brings live-album energy to his latest studio recordings.

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Joe Jackson has apparently been doing it all wrong all along. Or at least wrongly doing it the same way all along, as the singer-pianist explains in the press bumpf to go with his 19th studio album Fool. “Every time I’ve made an album, I’ve gone on tour afterwards, and after a month or two the songs are feeling better, the band is playing better, I’m singing better, and I’m saying ‘damn, I wish we could record the album now,’ ” he writes. “Well, I finally did it. Straight into the studio at the end of a tour, still on the road, wherever we played the last show, we would record. It turned out to be Boise, Idaho. A nice place, as it happens, and we very quickly got much better performances than we would have gotten a month or two earlier.” Based on the results, it’s hard to argue with him. These eight sophisticated pop-rockers crackle with both a vibrant energy and immediacy reminiscent of live performance, presented with the surefooted simplicity of musicians who have had time to hone and refine their parts. The grooves are tight and firmly in the pocket. The performances are all tastefully pared down to their essential elements. The arrangements and production are pragmatic and pointed. And everyone — Jackson included — seems comfortable and content to let the songs breathe and unfurl in their own time and space. Admittedly, nothing here is going to bump your favourite Jackson classics from your playlist. But the arena-sized Big Black Cloud, the new wavy Fabulously Absolute, the Latino-rock title cut and the lush closing ballad Alchemy just might end up being new additions. No fooling.