Joe Jackson: The Duke
Before I begin, I must admit, prior to this album, my knowledge of Joe Jackson’s work was limited to his 1978 hit single, “Is She Really Going Out with Him?” As a result, I had no idea what to expect when I dropped the needle on “The Duke.” Boy was I ever in for a surprise. The album is Jackson’s take on ten Duke Ellington numbers, and it most certainly shows his eclectic and intriguing style. Some tracks show a knowledge of 1950’s Doo-wop, while others indicate the influence of Stevie Wonder-like R&B. Despite these varying influences, do not be fooled, this is an album filled with Jazz and Blues. That is hardly a bad thing, as it shows the roads Joe Jackson has traveled, and how he got to where he is today, all while paying tribute to a legendary performer. The Duke is most definitely a solid album comprised of jazzy hooks and hard-edged blues riffs.
The album begins on an odd note, with “Isfahan,” a dark instrumental with interesting bluesy riffs. The tracks style changes at times, but it hardly provides the listener with any indication of what is to come. “Caravan” is noteworthy for its intriguing and befitting percussion work provided by ?uestlove of the Roots. Another interesting track found on “The Duke” is “I’m Beginning to See the Light/Take the ‘A’ Train/ Cotton Tail.” The song is carried by its jazzy bass line as well as a vocal performance which shows that Joe hasn’t lost his voice. “Mood Indigo” is a Doo-Wop inspired ballad with great vocals and a powerful electric guitar solo, providing an interesting take on Ellington’s piece. The album’s best track is most definitely “I Ain’t Got Nothin’ but the Blues/Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me.” Jackson imagines the track as a hard driving old school Blues work with strong vocals by Sharon Jones. After “I Got it Bad,” a ballad with a good beat in an R&B style, the album tends to fade away slowly, ending with the swinging and shuffling interpretation of “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If it Ain’t Got that Swing).”
While Jackson clearly emulates Ellington’s ability to create music in a creative way, the album can be a bit tedious at times. That being said, the album itself is a noteworthy tribute to the life and career of a legendary musician. Jackson does not let Duke Ellington down in his efforts, as he is successful in giving new life to a collection of classic tracks. “The Duke” is a creative tribute; that much is certain.
MP3: Joe Jackson “I Ain’t Got Nothin’ but the Blues”
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Joe Jackson: The Duke