Pehaps the GREATEST album EVER...
William E. Innes | Benicia, CA United States | 12/31/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I own well over 5,000 CDS...and, at one time, owned as many vinyl albums. The music that I've acquire over the years ranges from rock to pop to jazz to classical to baroque to opera to country/western to folk to ambient to...well, just about anytthing that's done well. That said, this album of Joe Jackson's is probably my most favored album in my entire collection.
My first exposure to this album's material came one summer's evening while visiting a friend in Los Angeles. My friend had a rehearsal for a play in which he was acting, and I was left to with the playground of L.A. at night with which to amuse myself. Failing to score a ticket to see Michael Crawford in PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, I noticed that Joe Jackson was playing a show at Los Angeles' Wiltern Theater. At that time my familiarity with Jackson's music was casual at best (mainly knowing those handful of songs that received radio play). Still, it sounded like an evening of possibilities. I had no idea just what would be awaiting me...
The first half of Joe Jackson's show was devoted entirely to Jackson and his stellar band playing the BLAZE OF GLORY album from start to finish. I was immediately captive from what I was hearing. The next day, as soon as the record shops opened, I made my way to a store to pick up a cassette of this album. It was the only album that I played on the long trek of Highway 5 from Los Angeles back to my home in the Bay Area.
This album has it all.....rock, jazz, pop,folk, world-music, shades of opera...and often pays homage to various eras of rock. Besides having a palette of musical styles unlike any album that I've ever come across, this work also contains some of the most heartfelt and passionate lyrics that any songwriter has ever placed on an album. One would have to have a heart of stone to remain unmoved after hearing songs such as "Human Touch" or "Sentimental Thing." While rocking with a fury, there is also a majestic nobility to powerhouse songs such as "Down to London" and the title song "Blaze of Glory" (perhaps the best Who song never written/played by The Who).
One might think that such a wide range of musical styles would result in something of a mutt of an album. Not even. Each song is linked to one another, barely giving one a chance to catch a breath before being launched into an entirely new and vibrant world/style of music. Musically, lyrically and emotionally this album has it all.
Since that night at the Wiltern, I've made a point of getting all of Joe Jackson's releases. There is no denying that he is one of music's most underrated performers. Still, as great as his work prior and since BLAZE OF GLORY has been, nothing comes close to this work. This is Joe Jackson's final hour. I would implore any and every one who loves and appreciates music at its very finest to get a hold of this album...it will not disappoint! Really, this is as good as music gets...and has remained my very favorite album for close to two decades."
Says many things we'd rather not hear...
ewomack | MN USA | 06/25/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The recording industry would like to prolong, for as long as possible, that reckless period of our lives where music can absorb us completely. During that time life seems endless, infinitely extendable, and burgeoning with promise. Nothing stands in our way. Music has the ability to feed this beast while simultaneously feeding record labels that release products to prolong the illusion. It seems to work. Consequently, not many pop albums deal with the problems of growing up, and many pop artists wouldn't dare challenge the premises of youth culture. After all, "the dream" is at stake.
Maybe that explains why Joe Jackson's brilliant "Blaze of Glory" remains sorely neglected. This album smears the reality of adulthood squarely in the face of idealistic youth. It says many things that people don't want to hear, basically, that love fades, youth crumbles, technological progress may not bring us unending happiness, our country may not be what we think, and many of us fade away forgotten. This album aims to deliver a big dose of reality, but the music remains so great throughout that the rather bummer themes don't take center stage. For example, "Nineteen Forever", which hit number 16 in the US, delivers such strong pop hooks that the subtheme of denial stays in the shadows. The video featured Jackson aging rapidly and then crumbling to dust. And the amazing instrumental "Acropolis Now" flails its stinging electric guitars in the face of any questioning. But soon the questions bellow too loud to ignore.
"Tomorrow's World", the album's opener, outright mocks unchecked faith in progress: "No one will die in tomorrow's world and miracles will happen soon". But later, in stark contrast, "Sometimes I think we should be sending out an SOS, but mostly I just think of all the things that I can't wait to see". "Down to London", one of Jackson's best songs, fuels the dreams fired by the big city: "Gone down to London to be the king". Lastly, closing out the first section of the album (read the verbiage in the lower right corner of the CD's back cover), "Blaze of Glory" pits our everyday ideals against the status of legend: "but he went out in a blaze of glory and you and I just fade away." We create legends (they wouldn't exist without legions of loyal fans), feed them, sometimes destroy them, and we may also resent them because we're not them.
The second part of the album nearly encompasses four of the classic stages of grief. "Rant and Rave" spews with anger; "Nineteen Forever" deals with denial; "The Best I Can Do" features a person bargaining with a loved one; the beautiful "Human Touch" feels like a resolution full of acceptance. "Evil Empire" will play like heresy to some. It turns Ronald Reagan's reference to the Soviet Union on its head (at the time the Reagan era and the Cold War were nearly over). But it also contains themes that still resonate today. By the end of part two the idealism has faded. Dreams of immortality get replaced by resigned lines such as "You know we're nothing in the scheme of things just microchips and big machines" and "In all the universe I'm just a speck of dust but all I can do is keep trying...."
The album follows a breathtaking tour of musical styles and instrumentation as its themes flow by. In this way it slightly resembles its predecessor, "Big World". But "Blaze of Glory" presents a more unified whole both thematically and musically. The styles here meld into one another almost effortlessly until they end with a heartbreaking climax. Pop music rarely gets this good.
Joe Jackson left A&M after this album and continued his career on pretty much the same path. 1991's "Laughter & Lust" received some heavy airplay and 1999's "Symphony No. 1" received acclaim from the music world. He has also recently criticized smoking bans in New York City (which non-smokers likely won't sympathize with). His opinions on the subject are posted on the offical Joe Jackson website.
"Blaze of Glory" stands as one high point in Jackson's long varied career. Though not hailed as a classic by the music press at large, many stumble across this album on their own and become hopelessly addicted. The incredible music and poignant themes continue to speak very loudly to some."
Gordon Pfannenstiel | Russell, KS United States | 02/15/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A belated discovery of an older work of an artist is always a somewhat disorienting experience, simultaneously bringing feelings of excitement and disappointment. Excitement, because that's what a new discovery always brings (hopefully), and disappointment because you've lost all those years of enjoyment, and the privilege of sharing it with other people.
I've lately been transferring some of my old vinyl to CD, many times discovering the vinyl actually sounds better than the same work on an original CD release. But I digress. I really got into Joe Jackson early, and only had his 1st three albums on old (but meticulously cared for) LPs. Recently, I thought it was high time to give them the digital transfer, as I hadn't listened to them in years. That was an enjoyable experience, but those LPs had received a lot of play in my younger years when they originally released, so there wasn't a great sense of rediscovery there.
What it did do was get me to pull out some of the J.J. albums I did have on CD. I certainly remember how much I loved NIGHT and DAY and BODY and SOUL. But those aren't the ones I pulled out first. I pulled out Laughter and Lust and Blaze of Glory, two CDs added to my collection belately that I'd really missed "getting into".
Around 1987, my life took some serious turns, and I missed out on many things. Also, I read the reviews Will Power when it came out, and actually checked it out at my local library, and found it unlistenable. After that, I really lost interest in Joe Jackson. So, I only picked up Laughter and Lust long after it came out. I was still skeptical after Will Power, and didn't give L&L a fair listen at that time.
A couple of years ago, I found Blaze of Glory in a used CD bin and picked it up. Again, so far after the fact, it didn't seem to matter much. If I played it all, it was just a couple of songs at the beginning, and it got relegated to the shelf, to be forgotten...
...until NOW. This is a work of greatness. Great songs, great production, great arrangements, great lyrical themes, great singing. It has inspired me; believe me, that's saying something these days.
Look, I'm a music lover. I've listened to a LOT of music over a LOT of years, and I know when music has a transcending quality. This has got it, for a lot of reasons. I've never heard Joe (or anyone), use different voices to the effect that he does here. It just makes the hair on my neck stand up!
Anyway, if you're thinking about a Joe Jackson record, I can't think of a better place to start. There's no doubt that he's done other great albums, but right now, this is my favorite. Period. And I missed it for almost 20 years. That's hard to believe. But, better late than never."