Joe Jackson’s back with what you need

Joe Jackson, who never went away, returns with a new 16-track CD and a US tour that plays Town Hall on Oct. 20 & 21. Photo from joejackson.com.

Joe Jackson, who never went away, returns with a new 16-track CD and a US tour that plays Town Hall on Oct. 20 & 21. Photo by Jacob Blickenstaff, courtesy joejackson.com.

BY KEITH VALCOURT | Looking sharp and sounding reinvigorated, the true prince of thinking man’s piano pop rock is back with a brilliant new CD and US tour.

Okay, to be fair, Joe Jackson has never really gone away. Throughout his five decades of creating captivating music, he has continued to release solid album after solid album, supported by live tours around the world. Also true is that some of those albums have proven too challenging for the general public. Yes, I’m talking about “Will Power,” “Night Music” and 2012’s collection of Ellington covers (“The Duke”). Fans can relax and rejoice — because the upcoming “Fast Forward” finds Jackson returning to his roots, to stunning effect.

Jackson’s first disc of original material since 2008’s underrated gem, “Rain,” this collection is structured like a classic double album, and thematically divided into four distinctive “sides,” each of which features four songs recorded in a specific city: New York, New Orleans, Berlin, and Amsterdam (there are 14 originals and 2 covers). For the New York recordings, Jackson enlisted a myriad of top-notch talent, including jazz violinist Regina Carter and guitar guru Bill Frissel.

I was able to get an early listen to a handful of the songs, and was beyond pleased at both the writing and scope. The title track is an emotion-drenched mid-tempo ballad that easily recalls the Jackson hits “Real Men” and “Breaking Us In Two,” while the song “A Little Smile” is a rollicking and sly look at dating in the digital age that is sure to draw favorable comparisons to his best-known hit, “Steppin’ Out.” And the sublime cover of Tom Verlaine’s “See No Evil” is so perfect it may make you forget the original by Television ever existed. Yes, it is that good.

If you’re planning to see him live, get there on time, since there will be no opening act. With a catalog of hits that includes “Hometown,” “Sunday Papers,” “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” and dozens more, there is no need for a warm-up. Jackson will play a full evening packed with old favorites and highlights from his illustrious career as well as new material.

Joining Jackson on tour will be his longtime bassist, Graham Maby. The rest of the ensemble is fleshed out by New York stalwarts Teddy Kumpel on guitar and drummer Doug Yowell. Jackson recently remarked, “We’re all strong singers. We’ll sound like a lot more than four singers. This tour is gonna be a lot of fun. Can’t wait.”

Neither can we, Joe. Neither can we.

Fast Forward” is released on Oct. 2. The tour kicks off in Seattle, WA on Sept. 29 and continues through early Nov. — with two shows at Town Hall (123 W. 43rd St. btw. Sixth Ave. & Broadway) on Oct. 20 and 21. Get tickets ($60$110) and info at joejackson.com.

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