Review Summary: Where Jackson threw away the Pop rule book and pursued his own vision with stubborn independence. It remains his finest moment.
By 1982, no one would have ever believed that at one time Joe Jackson was an angry New Wave/Power Pop singer/songwriter with a portfolio of honest, well written and consistent albums (except the confusing “Beat Crazy”). His previous release, “Joe Jackson’s Jumping Jive” had shown that he was never fearful of a complete genre hop, enveloping himself, his band, and the listener in the world of Louis Jordan and 1930’s and 40’s Jazz and Swing music. It worked, but Jackson quickly realised that at that stage in his career he didn’t want to be “Pigeon holed” as a Jazz revivalist. His musical ambitions were still far from fulfilled, and when he left the U.K shores following a rough divorce and set up camp in New York City his opportunity came to take in the works of Porter, Gerschwin, Latin music and particularly Salsa.
“Night And Day” is a sleek reflection of all these influences, combining Jackson’s modern gritty lyrics with a classy backdrop of complex percussive rhythms and sweeping Piano and Keyboard instrumentation. There is a certain stylized over sophistication at times, but that can be forgiven, as the songwriting always eclipses the pseudo Kitsch overtones.
Some call it a New York style album. It’s not. It’s the reflections of a New York viewed through the eyes of an Englishman, particularly on Side 1 (the Night side). From the excellent rhythmic opener “Another World”, Jackson is the boy stepping through the wardrobe into a new vibrant, effervescent, challenging cityscape, and the hit single “Steppin’ Out” perfectly reflects an excited anticipation for the night life and glamour of the big city. The dark underbelly is also uncovered, with the help of Sue Hadjopoulos’ expansive Latin rhythms on “Chinatown” and “Target”, and reflect how life in a new town can push both one's excitement and fear buttons in equal measure. Each song on the “Night” side runs consecutively and sounds more like a suite of music than five individual tracks, and the effect works well; the only drop in quality coming from the David Byrne style rant (“TV Age”).
Side two kicks off with the moving Piano ballad “Breaking Us In Two”. It dramatically catalogues the break up with his wife, where he finds himself asking for separation to hopefully regenerate the love he has for her. The quality is maintained throughout with the cynical Latino “Cancer” and the rapturous closer, “Slow Song” which has an unbelievably powerful chorus that seems to soar into space, and wraps up a superb album.
On “Night And Day” Jackson threw away the Pop rule book, and pursued his own vision with stubborn independence. It remains his finest moment.