Picks and Pans Review: Blaze of Glory

updated 06/12/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/12/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Joe Jackson

Hmmm, what have we here? Joe Jackson, ex-Angry Young Rocker, singing, "No one'll die in Tomorrow's World/And miracles will happen"? No, wait. This sounds like the real reaction Jackson: "I'm gonna weep and wail/I'm gonna gnash my teeth/At the lies they tell." J.J. takes a wide-angle look at his life and times on this erratic autobiographical album. The best tune, "Down to London," boasts bouncy piano chords and lyrics about making it as a rock star: "Gone down to London to be the King." He satirizes the rigid rituals of the once-freewheeling Woodstock generation on "Discipline," using a mechanical backbeat. ("Discipline can stop my hunger/Discipline can quench my thirst...Discipline can make me stronger/If it doesn't kill me first.")

So much for the best parts of Blaze of Glory. The frustration in listening to Jackson's 12th record is that he can floor you with his expressive songwriting on one track and then serve up a stink bomb. He has built a reputation (some would say a shaky one) on switching styles faster than a pit crew changes a tire at Indy, but the shifts here are none too subtle. After "Down to London," he follows with the overwrought Gershwinesque ballad "Sentimental Thing," where Drew Barfield's rock vocal seems out of place and full of histrionic emotion. Fans who liked Jackson's Jumpin' Jive and Night and Day releases will be happy to hear a tune like "Rant and Rave" but would be better off skipping "The Best I Can Do," Jackson's attempt at becoming the Michael Feinstein of rock.

Blaze of Glory may be a decent sampler of Jackson's career, and it does cover a lot of ground in one LP. J.J.'s unquestionable talents aside, though, if this were to be his last album, it would not live up to its name. (A & M)

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