A stroll up Granville from the Best Western Downtown Vancouver, just short of the Robson retail drag, I duck into Charlie's and find a second-hand copy of Big World marked at seven bucks and 99, though somehow when I pay for it it's six and change. I've been meaning to re-buy this work for some time since parting with the original 1986 vinyl, the "first-ever three-sided LP". Result!
At first playing I think OK, not as good as I remembered, but all right. But I admit that I've just got off a red-eye back to London and I'm feeling very, very sleep-deprived and like the world is maybe too big sometimes.
Third time round, though, the nostalgia arrives in a tsunami-sized wave, particularly with the intro to Shanghai Sky, sublime and slow. It has the same feel as the May 21 1986 version of Stepping Out from the Live 1980/86 double, a track recorded, coincidentally, in Vancouver. It's the only vinyl record I still play, precisely because of Stepping Out, the version nonpareil.
Overall, Big World is yet another of those JJ records that defies to be pigeon-holed, its subjects ranging from out-of-the-box takes on relationships (Precious Time, We Can't Live Together), machismo (Fifty Dollar Love Affair), politics (Right And Wrong), international relationships (Forty Years) and the life-or-death struggle between a man and his food (the title track). There's a multi-textured emotional roller-coaster, from soulful to downright angry, and the familiar musical catholicism, including a tango and some oriental-flavoured chords, bolstering the cosmopolitan theme evoked by the lyrics. Jackson's musical dexterity is also amply demonstrated in the contrast between the light and breezy Hometown on this set and the slower, more wistful version on a 2001 live version (again recorded in the Pacific Northwest) released in 2004.
It's good, then, to catch up, and too long (2008) since Rain. I like reminiscing, but I'd also like some new stuff!