Friday, October 13, 2017

Review: Joe Jackson's 'Summer in the City: Live in New York'


In August 1999, Joe Jackson performed at tiny Joe’s Pub in NYC, his voice and piano accompanied only by Gary Burke’s drums and Graham Maby’s bass. Considering the lack of guitar and the fact that the show took place amidst Jackson’s retreat from pop, one might assume the performance had some sort of jazz trio pretentions. But with Burke’s hard hitting and Maby’s trademark vicious attack, the set was pure Rock & Roll. It also formed the basis of a CD called Summer in the City: Live in New York released in 2000.

With Jackson looking back on his rocker days, it was appropriate that his original selections not only relied exclusively on the seventies and eighties, but that they also included oldies by The Beatles, Yardbirds, Steely Dan, and as the CD’s title reveals, The Lovin’ Spoonful (though there are nods to jazz in his covers of Duke Ellington’s “Mood Indigo” and The Ramsey Lewsi Trio version of “The In Crowd”). Refreshingly, the covers and the punkish early cut “One More Time” retain all their thrust in this stripped down setting. This is in no small way due to the awesome Maby. With his 5-string bass, he supplies all the strings any Rock band could need as he adds some (in Joe’s words) “very deep bass” to “Fools in Love” and whips off a thrilling solo on “Another World”. All hail Graham.

Because it was recorded in the dedicatedly digital age, Summer in the City: Live in New York may seem an odd choice for the audiophile label Intervention Records (who’d previously reissued Jackson’s Look Sharp!, I’m the Man, and Night and Day), which normally goes to length to use a completely analog process in its reissues.* But even with only “high quality files” from the original DATs available, this double-vinyl release sounds superb with Maby and Burke rattling the floorboards and Jackson’s voice soaring over them with remarkable clarity on quiet 180-gram vinyl.

*Update: Shane Buettner of Intervention Records had the following to say about the process of mastering Summer in the City: Live in New York:

I definitely specialize in 100% analog mastering, because so few labels do that. However, my ethos is to be truest to the master source. For this project there was analog tape, but as the master source was native digital, the digital sounded best and that’s what I used. In this case it’s important to note the HUGE impact of going from the 16-bits of the CD to the 24-bit source files we used. 24-bits is 256 times the resolution of 16-bits! In addition, the original CD had several dB of dynamic compression whereas we didn’t employ any.
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