The Joe Jackson Archive
Wonder what the critics have to say...

Record reviews 1997-2012

This page was last updated 22 June 2012. To send additions/corrections go to the contact page.

By the number of stars I try to give an idea how well the album (or single) was received by the reviewer:

 ***** = very positive
 **** = positive
 *** = lukewarm
 ** = negative
 * = very negative

* Quotes marked with a blue asterisk have been translated from foreign-language publications. If you would like to read these quotes in the original language (Dutch, German, Italian) please refer to this page.

Album "The Duke" (US) 19 June 2012 (review by Jack Goodstein) (*****)

“[...] the more you listen, the more respect you have for Jackson and his musical ideas. ‘The Duke’ is nothing if not a fitting tribute from one musical genius to another.” (US) 10 June 2012 (review by Wesley Britton) (*****)

“Jackson didnít simply take the Dukeís melodies and try to modernize their possibilities. He made every attempt to capture the spirit of Ellingtonís lively style, his range and diversity, as well as the Dukeís ability to match performers with material.”

Album "Live Music"

American Songwriter (US) 31 May 2011 (*****)

“The guitar-free ensemble leaves space for Jackson to fill with his well honed piano chops and, along with the crackling performances and tight, imaginative reworkings of both well known and under-the-radar material, gives this live release a leg up on his previous ones.”

Album "Rain"

The Word (UK) Feb 2008 (*****)

“[...] the songs on Rain, though hardly sun-kissed, are some of his very best. The crispness and clarity of the writing is matched by Jackson's insistence on using only bass, drums and piano – the effect is like a well-oiled jazz trio playing very grown-up pop...”

Montreal Gazette (CA) 31 Jan 2008 (*****)

“The piano-trio format works wonderfully [...] Not surprisingly, virtually all the songs here are solid, punchy and well-crafted, with the wistful ‘Too Tough’ and the exquisite ‘Rush Across the Road’ among the highlights.”

PopMatters (US) Jan 2008 (*****)

“For those who claim that artists today simply donít write great songs any more, Rain is a conclusive cross-examination. [...] That, kids, is what we used to call an ‘album,’ and this is a very fine one indeed.”

BBC website (UK) 7 Jan 2008 (*****)

“[...] Joe Jackson returns with arguably his most consistent collection yet. [...] ‘Rain’ represents a career culmination of work – shifting effortlessly between styles, and underpinned by the highest calibre of musicianship.”

Get Ready to Rock! (UK) Dec 2007 (****)

“[...] These are minor blimps on an otherwise blossoming musical landscape that cleverly marries a jazzy feel with some soulful pop sensibilities.”

Q (UK) Feb 2008 (****)

“Rain revisits familiar Jackson themes of romantic disappointment and despair at the modern world with a pared-back immediacy that showcases his craftsmanship to the full.”

musicOMH (UK) Feb 2007 (***)

“Ultimately, Rain is slightly too smooth to count as a complete success. [...] Yet it's still a reminder that Jackson can be, when he puts his mind to it, one of the country's finest songwriters.”

Album "Afterlife"

Musictoday (US) Feb 2004 (****)

“Even those upset by the omission of certain classics can't deny how great the band sounds: Joe Jackson's voice is better than ever, and it really does not sound like the quartet hadn't played a show together in nearly 22 (!) years.”

Laut (DE) March 2004 (****)

“There's been no re-recording. Thus you can hear every heckle from the audience, every sigh from the band and of course every mistake. This makes ‘Afterlife’ a fine and very vivid live album without high art pretensions but with all the more atmosphere.” *

Album "Volume 4"

Muzine (US) March 2003 (*****)

“This is not some nostalgic class reunion or attempt to rekindle past glories. True, ‘Volume 4’ has its retro moments, but it's very much a Joe Jackson Band album for 2003, with the same high standard of writing and playing that made the group stand apart from many of its punk and new wave peers...”

Boston Herald (US) 14 March 2003 (*****)

“This rocks. [...] Far from a nostalgic cash-in, the album overflows with racing beats, edgy playing and crisp hooks.”

Chicago Sun-Times (US) 16 March 2003 (*****)

“From the opening piano flourishes of ‘Take It Like A Man’ to the stinging ‘Dirty Martini’ and ‘Thugz 'R' Us,’ [...] ‘Volume 4’ is a homecoming to celebrate.”

Märkische Allgemeine (DE) 10 March 2003 (*****)

“It's especially the drummer Dave Houghton who drives the band forward. A real surprise – after all Houghton was the only member of the band who stopped working as a pro following their early success. And [...] Jackson has written his best song in years with the wonderfully simple ballad ‘Chrome’.” *

Spiegel Online (DE) 3 March 2003 (*****)

“‘Volume IV’ [...] is Jackson's triumphant return to form that many wouldn't have thought possible.” *

Music Print (DE) March 2003 (*****)

“Eleven rock solidly arranged songs, every one of them to the point – it sounds as if Jackson and Co. had never split up.” *

Orange County Register (US) 7 March 2003 (****)

“Reunited with the mates who helped him make the most exciting music of his career ... [Joe] finds a map to his punk heart and winds up with his best album in nearly two decades.”

The Guardian (UK) 7 March 2003 (****)

“The process of recording 11 songs live in a brisk 10 days has focused the foursome admirably, lending a crisp sense of purpose to performances that a bigger budget and a room full of computers would probably have destroyed.”

The Star-Ledger, New Jersey (US) 9 March 2003 (****)

“Jackson's most satisfying album since 1991's unfairly overlooked ‘Laughter & Lust’.”

Laut (DE) 2003 (****)

“Emotion-filled ballads towards the middle of the album and excursions into different styles such as ska (‘Thugz 'R' Us’) prove that Jackson didn't just have a return to the roots in mind but already some kind of résumé.” *

Entertainment Weekly (US) 28 March 2003 (***)

“A clutch of impeccably played but barren pop songs.”

Winnipeg Sun (CA) 7 March 2003 (***)

“The lads show they're still the best backing band he ever had, tastefully and distinctively infusing the cuts with vigor and momentum. Trouble is, none can hold a candle to ‘One More Time’ and ‘I'm The Man’ .”

The War Against Silence (US) 20 March 2003 (**)

“I expected a masterpiece they always had in them, Look Sharp!'s electricity in service of Night and Day's gravitas. Instead, this is a record of recaptured youth and unexpected naïveté.”

Album "Night And Day II"

The Independent (UK) Oct 2000 (*****)

“It's impossible to ignore an album that presents a musician in such confident command of both his subject-matter and his musical vocabulary as Night and Day II.”

Stereoplay (DE) Jan 2001 (*****)
(one of the CDs of the Month)

The War Against Silence (US) 23 Nov 2000 (*****)

“[this album] might, although I don't start making top-ten drafts until December and this has been a very good year, be my choice for the album of the year.”

Q (UK) Feb 2001 (****)

“Bold and defiant as ever.”

The Globe and Mail, Toronto (CA) 2 Nov 2000 (****)

“Easily the best, most consistently satisfying Joe Jackson outing in probably the last 10 years ... an engaging, refreshing, big-city saga.”

Rhythm and News (US) Jan 2001 (***)

“Jackson´s keen melodic sense is here, but the songs are, in many places, a little too arch and full of intent.”

PopMatters (US) Oct 2000 (**)

“This album feels like a giant step back; containing elements of Jackson's older, superior works without the sense that he has absorbed them and taken them somewhere new.”

Laut (DE) 2000 (**)

“Despite catchy melodies and beguiling harmonies, ‘Night And Day II’ feels as lifeless as no album by Jackson before.” *

Album "Summer In The City"

New York Daily News (US) 13 June 2000 (*****)

“Jackson fiddles with all the melodies and arrangements ... making these oldies sound as fresh as ever.”

Associated Press Online (US) 5 July 2000 (****)

“‘Summer in the City’ shows how a career-spanning live album can breathe new life into past achievements.”

PopMatters (US) May 2000 (****)

Stereo (DE) July 2000 (****)

Audio (DE) July 2000 (****)

Album "Symphony No. 1"

The Seattle Liberal Arts Review (US) Oct 1999 (****)

“In the right mood, everything down to the percussion of the last movement (Variations) can strike me as strangely touching, resolving into ecstacy.”

Vancouver Sun (CA) 24 Oct 1999 (****)

“Throughout, Jackson shows his facility for sturdy, idiomatic melodies and a firm grasp of musical structure. It may not have the trappings of a traditional symphony, but Jackson's Symphony No. 1 bridges several generation gaps.”

Stereo (DE) Nov 1999 (****)

“Musically, it's complex and shows an ambition for style. The arrangements are pleasing and are being interpreted to the point by high-class musicians.” *

Philadelphia Inquirer (US) 15 Sept 1999 (***)

“Personally, I don't think it's a bad piece of music. Harmonically, it's often intriguing (though certainly not revolutionary by either pop or classical standards). And it's got mood.”

Rhein-Zeitung (DE) 18 Dec 1999 (***)

“All in all: an intelligent disc which however means more to the autobiographer than to the listener for whom the work soon becomes pleasant background music.” *

Q (UK) Jan 2000 (**)

“Hats off for following his heart all these years, but it's asking a lot of anyone who ever enjoyed Night & Day or Blaze Of Glory.”

Fanfare (US) ?? 1999 (**)

“I think that, especially if you liked Jackson's Heaven and Hell, you might be disappointed that his Symphony No. 1 isn't more challenging, more outré.”

Album "Heaven & Hell"

San Francisco Chronicle (US) 31 Aug 1997 (*****)

“With ‘Heaven & Hell,’ his remarkable debut CD on Sony Classical, Jackson has struck gold. He not only creates an unlikely marriage of classical and pop, but he also does so with poignancy, humor and beauty.”

Washington Post (US) 3 Sept 1997 (****)

Musician (US) Nov 1997 (****)

“Merges pop, rock, jazz, classical, and electronica into a daunting but largely compelling package ... Jackson's most involving album in years.”

New York Post (US) 3 Sept 1997 (****)

The War Against Silence (US) 25 Sept 1997 (****)

Memphis Flyer (US) 18 Aug 1997 (***)

“While ‘Heaven And Hell’ is imperfectly realised, it's worth noting that experimentation – even when it falls short – is no sin.”

USA Today (US) 10 Sept 1997 (***)

“When the disc is good, it gives you a glimpse of what a masterpiece ‘Heaven & Hell’ might've been.”

Spiegel Online (DE) 26 Sept 1997 (***)

Toronto Sun (CA) 7 Sept 1997 (**)

“The music itself isn't so bad – some of it is actually quite beautiful – but the album suffers from mostly ridiculous lyrics and arrangements.”

All Music Guide (US) 1997? (**)

“For diehard Jackson fans, this release may be heaven; but to casual fans, it will feel more like purgatory.”

Entertainment Weekly (US) 12 Sept 1997 (*)

“[This] ponderous, pretentious meditation on the seven deadly sins ... [is] a classical bore.”

Song "Angel"

Billboard (US) 6 Sept 1997 (*****)

“... complex and utterly compelling composition ... intricate jazz piano lines, tribalistic percussion, and soaring orchestra strings ...”

Album "This Is It"

Q (UK) April 1997 (***)

Lyric quote taken from "The Verdict”

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