Disc Reviews: 'Rain' and 'Once'

While "Falling Slowly" packs the most emotional punch, the rest of the Once soundtrack isn't far behind.

once 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
once 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
JOE JACKSON Rain (NMC) Funny thing about the three "angry young men" of late '70s British new wave/punk - Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello and Graham Parker. They've all mellowed to a large degree along the way, but have kept on making consistently solid music throughout their 30-plus year careers that have embellished - and not tarnished - their legend. Jackson, arguably the most musically gifted of the three, has enjoyed a sprawling, out-of-the-box lifework, encompassing classical, jazz, salsa, swing, and, of course, precise piano-based rock boasting delicious melodies and nimble, articulate lyrics. After forays into all of the above genres plus more, Jackson reunited in 2003 with his core band that backed him on his early efforts like Look Sharp, I'm the Man and Night & Day, to produce Volume 4. That band is back for Rain, an album that manages to incorporate Jackson's complex compositions into a pop setting that recalls nothing less than a classic Joe Jackson album. With just piano, bass, drums and Jackson's unmistakable penchant for a strong hook, Rain runs the gamut from the sophisticated jazz/pop of "Invisible Man" and the smooth Steely Dan/Ramsey Lewis groove of "The Uptown Train" to the punky rock out "King Pleasure Time" and the expansive, uplifting "Rush Across the Road." Jackson's biting, sarcastic side is still deliciously present on "Good Bad Boy" and "Citizen Sane," but it's his more fatalistic, elder statesman take on "Wasted Time" and "A Place in the Rain" which impresses even more. With two shows coming up in Tel Aviv, Joe Jackson and his band still look and sound sharp indeed. VARIOUS ARTISTS Once - Music from the Motion Picture (NMC) One of the highlights of the Academy Awards presentation last month was seeing upstarts Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova walk away with the Oscar for Best Original Song Oscar for "Falling Slowly" from the critically acclaimed independent Irish musical film, Once, ahead of the slick Hollywood productions nominated year in and year out by the likes of Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz. Scruffy looking with actual holes in his guitar, the duo's performance recalled the thumbing your nose at the Academy, stripped down performance of "Miss Misery" by Elliott Smith in 1998 for the film Good Will Hunting. Hansard and Irgova, who play buskers in the unassuming indie film, are not overnight successes. Hansard has been playing since he was 13 and was a member of the band in The Commitments, while Irglova has been performing with her partner for two years and contributed Bob Dylan's "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere," to the soundtrack of I'm Not There. While "Falling Slowly" packs the most emotional punch, the rest of the Once soundtrack - featuring acoustic pop based on guitar, piano some violin - isn't far behind. The sense of urgency in the powerful harmonies on "Lies," offsets the wispiness of songs like "Gold." Intimate, moody, and ultimately charming, the songs from Once are perfect for that rainy day under the blanket with the one you love.