Gettysburgian, November 16, 1981

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Jumpin' Jive / Almost Blue

Joe Jackson / Elvis Costello

Bruce Davis

"New Wave" is a commonly used catch-all phrase which is intended to describe a large percentage of current music. But as a vital trend, New Wave music no longer exists. It has diversified into man different styles including New Reggae, New Power Pop, New Rockability, New Ska, New Punk, and New Funk. A commercial form of New Wave still exists, however, in such Pop bands as Blondie, the Police and the Cars, who continue to sell millions of albums while still retaining the basic sound of the 1977 New Wave movement." But while New Wave is commercially thriving, it is artistically dead.

Most people associate Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson with New Wave. And in fact, when New Wave was actually new, Elvis Costello was considered to be the King. Joe Jackson later came on to be Elvis biggest contender. The latest releases from Costello and Jackson however, are far from New Wave.

Joe Jackson's Jumpin' Jive consists of a dozen jazz and swing tunes from the Forties, performed by Jackson and his six-member swing band. But this album should not be seen as out-of-place in today's era of musical experimentation. Jumpin' Jive contains very simple music indeed, but simultaneously it is lively, danceable, and very listenable. Some of the most enjoyable tracks include "Jack You're Dead," "We the Cats," and "Five Guys Named Moe." Joe Jackson did not intend for Jumpin' Jive to be a serious album. Instead, it is Jackson's, happy-go-lucky tribute to a bygone style of music which he obviously still enjoys. Unfortunately, Jumpin' Jive will probably not garner much airplay, despite the fact that it has much potential for mass appeal. If enough people could be exposed to some of its catchy cuts, Jumpin Jive would be a very popular record.

Elvis Costello's Almost Blue is not nearly as fun as Jumpin' Jive, it consists of a dozen classic Country Western songs performed by Elvis, his attractions, and pedal steel guitarist John McFee (who plans to tour with Costello after finishing road-work with the Doobie Brothers). Despite first appearances, Almost Blue is not a strange transformation for Elvis; it is simply an acknowledgement of his roots (Costello has long been known to have much C&W influence). From Almost Blue, only "Why Don't You Love Me," "Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down," and Honey Hush" are upbeat enough to possibly receive album-oriented rock airplay. The rest of the songs are very slow, i.e. very Country. Being that today's C&W radio stations play very commercial forms of Country music, they may give Elvis some attention. On the whole however, mainstream rock fans will probably have little interest in Almost Blue.

Both Jumpin' Jive and Almost Blue are basically non-commercial albums — neither artist intends to make much money from these releases (A&M Records has already stated that Jumpin' Jive is a commercial flop). And the new albums do not come across as extensions of either musician's past artistic career. Instead, Jumpin' Jive is Joe Jackson's tribute to a no-longer existent style of music which he has much respect for; while Almost Blue is Elvis Costello's tribute to a genre that greatly influenced his own influential music.


Almost Blue Courtesy of Square Records.

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The Gettysburgian, November 16, 1981


Bruce Davis reviews Almost Blue and Joe Jackson's Jumpin' Jive.

Images

1981-11-16 Gettysburgian page 03 clipping 01.jpg
Clipping.

1981-11-16 Gettysburgian page 03.jpg
Page scan.

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