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Joe Jackson, ‘Rain’ (Rykodisc)

Paring down his tuneful new-wave pop to a bare-bones piano-bass-drums lineup might not have been the best idea for Joe Jackson, whose decades-long transformation from young punk to seasoned crooner mirrored his peer Elvis Costello’s. Though several cuts exude a cool juke-joint jazz vibe, what Rain really sounds like is Ted Leo covering the theme song from Hill Street Blues. Sketchy territory, but perhaps Jackson should give musical theater a try; freed of the need to rock, he might be able to make his shapely melodies fly.

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