Rain (Rykodisc)

Joe Jackson

You remember all those Joe Jackson albums, don't you? Heaven & Hell, Jumpin' Jive, Big World, Afterlife, Willpower, Joe Jackson: The Collection, Joe Jackson: The Ultimate Collection, and Joe Jackson: The Ultimate Masters Collection? No, of course you don't. No one does. You remember Look Sharp! and Night and Day. Well, lucky for you, so does Joe Jackson.

Rain is Joe Jackson's latest, and to call it a return to form would be a bit off the beam, since the guy has as many forms as the IRS. A hybrid of his two most popular albums, stripped-down lean and listener-friendly as all get-out, the album reunites Jackson with his Look Sharp! bandmates Graham Maby and Dave Houghton to create a unit that puts him at the third wheel of the Elton John/Ben Folds troika: pop-piano, performed in a neat packet. Seriously, it's pretty damn catchy. If there was still any such thing as radio airplay you wouldn't be able to drive to the post office without tapping the steering wheel to it. As it stands, you're more likely to be checking it out against your will at restaurants and coffee shops.

Opening with the ivory ostinado of "Invisible Man," the album lifts and separates, a glad tune here, a wistful one there. Overall it imparts exactly the uptown feeling he seems to be after—it's raining, you've got an umbrella, things on the whole are actually pretty good, let's go have dinner someplace nice. Drop by your local Starbucks and give it a listen.