Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Joe Jackson - Mike's Murder Soundtrack (1983)

Released: August 30, 1983 (A&M)
Produced by: Joe Jackson
Peak on the US Billboard 200: 64

Side One Side Two
1-2-3-Go (This Town's a Fairground)
Laundromat Monday
Moonlight Theme

 Charted singles: Hot 100

Night and Day was my first Joe Jackson album and I listened to it constantly in late '82/early '83. I was starved for more of the same so I purchased this soundtrack album as soon as I saw it. It reminds me of early morning marching band practices on dew covered football fields not because of the music but because that's what was going on in my life every morning around the time I was listening to this album.  It's no Night and Day but what is? However, it is in the same vein and uses the same musicians as Night and Day and for a musical chameleon like Jackson, that's saying something. And that was good enough for me.

It's got a couple of strong songs, a couple of good songs, a derivative single, and extended instrumental soundtrack cuts. It's hit-or-miss, mostly enjoyable, and four of the tracks held me over until the next album. So why did this flop after the success of Night and Day?

Rolling Stone, October 13, 1983, p. 11

What a mess. Turns out most of the music on here wasn't even used in the movie. The director recut the movie and had the movie rescored by industry legend John Barry. By the way, I have seen the movie and can't recommend it whatsoever; even the lovely Debra Winger couldn't save that thing.

Rolling Stone, March 15, 1984, p. 15

  • Cosmopolitan:  If the syncopated mallet percussion in the intro isn't immediately identifiable as early '80s Joe Jackson, I don't know what could be. Released as a single in other countries but not the US. Even Jackson's sax solo ain't bad.
  • 1-2-3-Go (This Town's a Fairground):  Filler, but good filler. Joe couldn't think of chorus lyrics so he counts instead. However, the profane lyrics in the second chorus appealed greatly to 17 year old me.
  • Laundromat Monday:  Laid back Latin groove featuring piano and vibraphone. Speaking of vibes, there's a tasty vibe solo at the end of this one and that's not something you hear very often in pop music.
  • Memphis: This is the derivative single I referred to earlier. It's not very good and features what Robert Christgau correctly called a "Booker T. Winwood organ part."  Lyrically, we get "Where the hell is Memphis" as a chorus if that tells you anything. No wonder it flopped.
  • Moonlight: A beautiful ballad featuring piano over electric piano. Gets its groove from Stephen Bishop's "On and On" but takes it to a soaring chorus. Released as single in the Netherlands, apparently.

  • Zémio:  And now we start the instrumental soundtrack side of the album. This track features a bass melody over Latin percussion which is transferred to sax and piano. Like most soundtrack music, it's intentionally monotonous with meandering solos - I count three chords in the whole eleven minute track.
  • Breakdown:  Starts out with creepy synths over a bass drum, then alludes to "Moonlight" before going back to the creepy synths. I don't love it, but can see it being effective soundtrack music. This track was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance, losing to George Benson's "Being With You."
  • Moonlight Theme: a shorter, instrumental version of "Moonlight" perfect for your karaoke needs.

  1. Cosmopolitan
  2. Moonlight
  3. Laundromat Monday
  4. 1-2-3-Go (This Town's a Fairground)
  5. Moonlight Theme
  6. Breakdown
  7. Memphis
  8. Zémio

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