Picks and Pans Review: Will Power

updated 06/15/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/15/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Joe Jackson

It's easier to admire Jackson's adventurous, eclectic spirit than some of the fruit it bears. Original and authentic as a New Wave rocker in the late '70s, Jackson has sometimes seemed merely facile and infatuated during his more recent forays into Latin music and Big Band jazz. (His arrangement, however, of Thelonious Monk's Round Midnight, on the 1984 tribute album That's The Way I Feel Now, was bewitching and ingeniously built around the lonely sounding of a gong.) Will Power is the 31-year-old Jackson's most ambitious project yet, an album of five instrumental pieces he has composed and arranged for a sizable orchestra. The five pieces are themselves eclectic. No Pasaran is a beguiling Latin rhythmic vamp punctuated at intervals by a single brassy chord meant to suggest, Jackson has said, the intrusion of American-supported violence into Nicaragua. What it more vividly suggests, unfortunately, is the sound track of a spaghetti Western with a climax out of a Las Vegas stage pageant. Solitude, inspired by the Duke Ellington song, is scored mainly for strings. It's lush and reflective and contains some nice Oriental shadings, but it's slack overall. Nocturne, a piano solo, has been praised by one critic as "Chopinesque," and, in a trilly pastiched way, it is. Symphony in One Movement and the title track are both interesting for the range of influences they suggest. Jackson, who studied at London's Royal Academy of Music for three years, has talent, but what he's created is too often disjointed and superficial. It's best to keep in mind that no one else who can rock with Jackson's authority (witness last year's Big World) even attempts this kind of thing, and he almost pulls it off. (A&M)

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