Picks and Pans Review: Big World

updated 05/26/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/26/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Joe Jackson

Anyone who has been less than convinced by Joe's sometimes stilted experiments with Big Band swing, Latin rhythm and cocktail jazz will be glad to know that the former New Wave rocker has made his most enjoyable album in years. He's rocking again, thank goodness! Back in the late 70s Jackson had one of the tightest, cleanest, rhythmically snappiest New Wave groups, with Graham Maby on bass, Gary Sanford on guitar and Dave Houghton on drums. No fewer than seven of the 15 cuts on Jackson's three-sided new album (the fourth side is blank) bring back and even expand upon the steely, springy energy of that band. Take a bow, Rick Ford (bass), Gary Burke (drums) and especially Vinnie Zummo (guitar). It's great to hear Jackson simply having a good time again and not bursting blood vessels to produce some tortured high-concept sludge. Not that this album, recorded live with no overdubs, is a throwback to the bedrock of Look Sharp and I'm the Man (both 1979). Big World includes a diverting Tango Atlantico, a dripping ballad, Shanghai Sky, and an ingenious adaptation of Middle Eastern music (the title cut). Jackson is handicapped by a carping singing voice and a comparably flat and declamatory hand as a lyricist. But so what. If you want truth and beauty you'll find it in Vinnie Zummo's flicking wrist, flashingly dicing up the opening chords of Survival. Then the bass leaps in like a manic pulse, the drums start whacking and smacking, and Joe's whine cuts like acid across the whole gyrating, adrenaline-crazed thing. Go get 'em boys! (A&M)

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