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Jazz it Up (01/26/2001) Write to CD Shakedown
Joe JacksonJoe Jackson, Live in New York: Summer in the City (Sony Classical 2000) - Here's a set that deserves to be heard. Playing with a first-rate trio, Joe Jackson draws from his deep songbook on this electrifying jazz/rock collection.

Now age 46, Joe Jackson rode up the charts with such albums as Look Sharp (1979) and I'm the Man (1980). Joe started off as an Angry Young Man, but has matured in ways that seem to have escaped his contemporary, Elvis Costello. Jackson's 1989 release, Blaze of Glory, is an unappreciated gem, a song cycle about a young rock 'n roll star in London.

Joe JacksonSummer in the City finds Jackson on piano and vocals, joined by long-time friends Graham Maby on bass and vocals and Gary Burke on drums. The album was recorded during a series of small club shows in New York City.

Summer in the City retraces Jackson's career on tracks like "Fools in Love" (paired with the Yardbirds' standards, "For Your Love"), "It's Different for Girls," and "Be My Number 2" (the latter two also appeared in much different arrangements on Jackson's previous, Live 1980/86).

Joe JacksonSummer in the City is the hottest jazz album of the year, mixing smart songs against impeccable playing. While the album contains a remarkable reworking of "Eleanor Rigby" by the Beatles, the highlight is Jackson's blending of his own "Down to London" against the Ramsey Lewis Trio's 1965 classic, "The In Crowd."

Summer in the City is a must-hear collection - hot, cold, and everything in between. Don't miss this record.

Lara FabianLara Fabian, Lara Fabian (Columbia 2000) - A big star in the French pop field, Lara Fabian seeks a wider audience on her first English-based recording. With five different producers, Lara Fabian has a homogenized sound, poised for the masses.

Lara was born in Belgium and raised both there and in Italy. She grew up speaking Italian and is also fluent in French and English. Explains Lara, "I'm more of a Latin kind of person - the flow of the language is much closer to my personality."

Lara FabianFresh out of high school, Lara moved to Montreal to escape what she felt was an unduly conservative recording milieu on the continent. Says Lara , "In Europe, I kept meeting people who wanted to tell me what I should do. I wouldn't compromise, so I left and went somewhere I felt I could be myself." Landing in Montreal, Lara worked alongside producer/songwriter Rick Allison, a friend from Brussels who remains a collaborator to this day.

Lara FabianLara comes by her love of the theatrical elements in music from such predecessors as Barbra Streisand and Queen. Says Lara, "I adore Freddie Mercury . He had that enigmatic classical-meets-rock thing, and I learned how to combine the two from watching and listening to him."

Lara Fabian has a polished feel, as befits an artist with Lara's recording background. "Til I Die" is a catchy slice of pop, and the opening "Adagio" melds a classic 18th century Italian melody (written by Tomaso Giovanni Albinoni ) with contemporary lyrics penned by Lara and Rick Allison.

With sales of six million units in the French territories in two years, Lara hopes for the breakout success achieved by Celine Dion . Lara Fabian is a clean bill, and leaves no aftertaste.

EelsEels, Oh What a Beautiful Morning (EWorks Records 2000) - Add Eels to the list of bands who have gone straight to the net. A follow-up to last year's Daisies of the Galaxies, E (aka Mark Oliver Everett ) has released a live show pastiche.

And that's a fair description, as the album was compiled from shows recorded in seven different venues, including Los Angeles, Glasgow, Melbourne, Sidney, and Paris. Ultimately, the album is disjointed: parts are rewarding, such as the opening overture including "Last Stop: This Town," "Beautiful Freak," and "Novocaine for the Soul," with a swinging horn section.

Yet Butch's rant about "Hot and Cold" running water is juvenile, and should never have been included.

The Man Called EThe album is a limited edition CD with 17 previously-unreleased tracks drawn from E's solo tour with Fiona Apple and from the Eels 2000 world tour . The world tour band included a number of skilled players, including David Hlebo, Steve Crum, Orest Balaban, Probyn Gregory, and fiddle player/multi instrumentalist Lisa Germano.

Everett is an acquired taste, mixing pop melodies with a steady dose of melancholia. Songs like "Grace Kelly Blues" and "Susan's House" will appeal to fans. But overall, Oh What a Beautiful Morning is not something you will come back to regularly.

- Randy Krbechek © 2001

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