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Joe Jackson launches 'Night and Day II' tour
ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- It's been nearly two decades since Joe Jackson released "Night and Day," his highly successful, jazzy concept album, but that didn't stop the musician/singer/composer/author, from releasing a sequel.
Jackson's latest album, "Night and Day II," hit music stores October 24 -- 18 years and 10 albums after the 1982 release of "Night and Day."
In a recent e-mail, Jackson says he never set out to create a sequel, but realized after starting the album how similar its material was to "Night and Day," hence the name.
The new album is "a sequel in that it picks up where 'Night and Day' left off," says Jackson. "They have many things in common, particularly a certain atmosphere and sound and the inspiration of New York City."
Despite its title and promotion as a sequel, "I think and hope 'Night and Day II' can stand alone," says Jackson.
"Night and Day II" contains 10 tracks, all written, arranged and produced by Jackson. The album also features an eclectic trio of guest vocalists: Iranian singer Sussan Deyhim, drag performer Dale DeVere and Marianne Faithfull, whose 1964 recording of "As Tears Go By" established her as one of the voices of the '60s.
Stories of the city
All the songs, says Jackson, are mini-dramas about New York City "with all its many sides: romantic, scary, funny, tragic, glamorous, bizarre."
Jackson, 46, who "grew up feeling like a misfit" in England, says he thinks "all the misfits of the world end up in New York."
That belief is also the inspiration for "Stranger Than You." "It's a humorous song. About weirdoes," he says. "The city's full of them, and its comforting, somehow."
The characters in the songs are based on people he's "met, observed, heard about, imagined, or been." They include a lovelorn executive ("Love Got Lost"), a teen-age runaway ("Dear Mom"), and a transgender hooker working the meat-packing district ("Glamour and Pain").
The album is a mix of tragedy and humor.
"I just think life is absurd, and things constantly strike me as funny, even when they're horrible at the same time," he says. "There's an element of humor even in the darkest moments of this record. I'm never comfortable presenting things as being either black and white. I'm interested in how they all intersect."
Jackson took on the role of casting director when it came to choosing the album's guest vocalists. "It's like being the writer/director of a movie and then having to cast it."
Jackson discovered DeVere singing in various nightclubs in New York City. He decided she would be perfect for the androgynous voice he wanted for "Glamour and Pain."
He heard Deyhim sing with Bobby McFerrin and decided she would be the "striking and exotic voice" for "Why," about an immigrant who is "baffled and overwhelmed by the city." "As for Marianne, I think that with one listen to the song, ("Love Got Lost") it's absolutely obvious what a perfect choice she is," says Jackson. Faithfull's raw, weathered voice hauntingly conveys the sadness and regret of the lonely female executive in the song.
"I'm constantly accumulating ideas and then gradually figuring out how they fit together, so the (creative) process is a bit like doing a jigsaw puzzle, " he says.
Reviews of the new CD have been lukewarm, at best.
In a review of "Night and Day II" for Sonicnet.com, Clive Young expresses surprise that Jackson would revisit life in New York City, given the changes in the last 18 years.
"The wild '70s that preceded 'Night and Day' gave way to yuppies, generic dot-com start-ups, and a steady draining of New York's unique character," writes Young. É "It's fitting that the new album lacks the swagger and bubbly feel of the first edition, and instead leaves the listener sad and gray -- much as the naturalized New York citizen himself looks on the album cover."
But others were impressed by Jackson's virtuosity as a musician. Andy Gill of Great Britain's Independent newspaper placed Jackson in heady company. "At his best, his grasp of orchestral techniques brings him close to Leonard Bernstein," he writes.
Sales of the CD seem to be following the lukewarm reviews: In the four weeks the CD has been out, roughly 10,000 copies have sold, according to Jackson's management group.
"Night and Day II" is the latest product of Jackson's association with Sony Classical. Most listeners likely wouldn't connect his music with that of Beethoven, Bach and other standard-bearers of classical music, he said.
Jackson recently created his own label, Manticore, because "being on Sony Classical tends to confuse people since I'm not doing 'classical' music," explains Jackson. "I would call my relationship with them an experimental partnership which is working quite well."
Previous albums Jackson has released for Sony Classical include 1997's "Heaven and Hell," a collection of songs based on the seven deadly sins; and his first symphony, aptly titled, "Symphony No. 1" (1999).
"Summer In The City: Live in New York" (2000), a compilation of his live club performances of old songs and covers, was Manticore's first release.
Jackson launches a worldwide tour in support of his new album November 30 in West Palm Beach, Florida. He's traveling with a new seven-piece band and will perform songs from both "Night and Day" and its recently released sequel.
Jackson plans to play North American locations through November and December, and heads to Europe in January and February.
At various points during the tour, Jackson will also give readings at bookstores from his 1999 book, "A Cure for Gravity," which he calls "a book about music thinly disguised as a memoir."
"I never intended to write a book and I'm still amazed that it's been published, and well received too," says Jackson. "It started off as a kind of self-therapy, then evolved more into getting down thoughts about music."
The book, he says, is "the whipped cream and cherry on top of my career."
Official Joe Jackson Web site
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