This is an absolutely wonderful album which includes some superb and truly memorable songs and is presented to perfection due to the unusual setting for the recording; it is an all-time classic and deserves to be heard by as many people as possible. I see a 'Remastered' edition is now available. I'm not sure if that can really improve on the original CD since the recording was digitally recorded in the first place and already sounds magnificent....
I first heard this album on release and owned it on vinyl; my high opinion of how good it is proven by the fact that it was the 2nd CD I ever purchased on acquiring a CD player in the '80s. I felt compelled to write a review, despite the album being nearly 30 years old, when I noticed just one other contribution had been made for the CD on Amazon; something which amazes me and makes me hope more people have actually heard and enjoyed the album than what is suggested by the low review-count.
First-off, the aspect which really contributes to this album being such a joy to listen to is that it was recorded not in a studio, but a hall with superb acoustics (inside a Masonic lodge !); when coupled with a recording-quality of immense clarity this ensures you can fully appreciate the instrumental sounds and vocals. The percussion bursts out of your speakers, the brass ensemble/singing voices reverberate (just listen to the short sample Amazon of the opening track, 'The Verdict' to appreciate what I mean) and, along with all the other instrumental contributions, everything melds together to form a smooth and beautifully melodic musical experience.
Of course the tonal aspects of the recording would not be as significant were the artistic qualities poor and the songs bland, but they are not - of course ! What's here forms a wide-range of styles, from duets and ballads to instrumentals and the more accustomed songs with vocals and accompanying instruments.
The album opens powerfully with the aforementioned 'The Verdict', unusual for not only having prominent instrumental/vocal sequences but also subdued periods where the vocals of Joe Jackson (who is a gifted singer/songwriter) are only lightly 'supported', which also allows you to immediately appreciate the recording is not studio-based. Things move to a 'Salsa'-style of music with 'Cha Cha Loco' (where we are also introduced to the contributing female vocalists). A subdued ballad, 'Not Here, Not Now', follows - then the tempo rises with the, probably familiar, 'You Can't Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want)'. The remaining tracks finalise that collective wide-range of styles theme I suggested earlier and includes my favourite on the album, 'Happy Ending', a duet of beautiful tonality and rhythm which really exploits the acoustic quality of the setting to its best.
The only problem with the album as a whole is that it is relatively short. However, I would prefer to call it 'small, but perfectly-formed' as what is on offer is of such quality; there are no duds, many classics and you really need to listen to it - it's as simple as that.