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    Michael Jackson

    Off The Wall ( 1979 )
    Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough / Rock With You / Workin' Day And Night / Get On The Floor / Off The Wall / Girlfriend / She's Out Of My Life / I Can't Help It / It's The Falling In Love / Burn This Disco Out

    Before Michael Jackson became strange, this is what he was good at doing. Sandwiched between two albums he participated in for The Jackson Five, 'Off The Wall' was squeezed out as his first truly independant solo release as an adult. Michael teamed up with producer/writer Quincy Jones, although only has a couple of writing credits himself, not the confident writer he would later become. 'Off The Wall' then is a disco/pop/r'n'b album that is perfectly evocative of 1979 yet also with clean, polished layered production hinting towards the eighties. 'Off The Wall' also contains a hatful of hits, something that would soon become a habit for Jackson. Anyway, first up then on the hit front was the 'Don't Stop Till You Get Enough' single, co-written by Jackson himself. It hit a peak of number three in the UK, September 1979. As a song, it's got sexy grooves, swirling disco flavour topped off with a breathless Michael Jackson topping. That may sound utterly gross to many, but in 1979 we'd barely a hint of the weirdness and the behaviour to come. By the way, as bonus on reissues of this album, you get to hear Michael's original demo for this tune, fleshed out by various family members, including a young Janet. Well, Michael was only twenty-one himself when 'Off The Wall' was released.

    The title track became the second top ten UK hit from the LP, peaking at number seven. Another dancefloor pleaser, the song contains a genuinely great chorus, good enough to get the old goosebumps going up and down my right arm, anyway. Third hit? 'Rock With You', something a bit mellower yet still with one foot in the disco scene, without being dominated by it. The fact that the 'Off The Wall' LP offers hints of disco, rather than sleeping with it, has helped it of course to stand the test of time. Finally on the hit single front, we reach the ballad 'She's Out Of My Life', something more expected from the formerly cute lad who had a big international hit with the soppy 'Ben'. Beloved of American Idol / X-Factor fans everywhere, it at least has a genuine Michael vocal going for it, if nothing else. What else? Well, six more songs feature. The dancefloor stomper 'Working Day And Night'. The Stevie Wonder co-written 'I Can't Help It'. The Paul McCartney cover 'Girlfriend'. A good array of styles were covered by the album, come to think of it. 'Off The Wall' wasn't exactly an unexpected success commercially, but certainly it was critically. Still held up by many as the mans finest solo work, although of course, his next offering challenges that perception, somewhat. In summary? Perfect pop to go.

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    The Jacksons : Live 8 ( 1982 )
    Opening-Can You Feel It / Things I Do For You / Off the Wall / Ben / This Place Hotel / She's out of My Life / Discussion / Old Medley / I'll Be There / Rock with You / Lovely One / Working Day and Night / Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough / Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)

    The Jacksons Live! is technically a fully blown 'Jacksons' release although in reality all the other brothers do is contribute decent backing vocals. The band are super-tight even though during 1981 dance/disco/soul was in a transitional phase and unsure of itself. This album was compiled from different performances on The Jacksons 1981 'Triumph' tour and six of the songs are solo Michael Jackson tunes, five of them lifted from his very popular 'Off The Wall' LP. Michael was twenty three by this time and on the cusp of releasing 'Thriller' and forever changing his own life. In 1981, he still felt loyalty of his family to support them on ventures like this tour. He'd soon leave the group altogether, to all extents and purposes. A quick word for the set-list - superb, isn't it? Even 'Ben' gets an outing although an outing for 'Ben' when Michael was twenty-three is a little sad and the song fails to survive in a live arena. Michael sounds uncharacteristically bored whilst singing it. The opening 'Can You Feel It' meanwhile is just tremendous, a blinding take on one of the groups more popular songs. 'She's Out Of Your Life' proves Michael's vocal talents were right on the money when he could connect to the material and 'Old Medley' segues together some of the groups late sixties/early seventies hits to fine effect.

    'Rock With You' and 'Don't Stop Til You Get Enough' are excellently performed highlights and the closing 'Shake Your Body Down' stretches to eight minutes and finishes off proceedings with a satisfying bang. An intruiging release this, all in all. Whilst Michael would contribute to the groups 1984 studio LP, the success of his solo career meant having his brothers share the limelight made increasingly little sense.

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    Thriller 8 ( 1982 )
    Wanna Be Startin' Something / Baby Be Mine / The Girl Is Mine / Thriller / Beat It / Billie Jean / Human Nature / P. Y. T. (Pretty Young Thing) / The Lady in My Life

    Six singles were lifted from 'Thriller', all helping propel it towards mega-selling status. In November 1982, 'This Girl Is Mine', even with Paul McCartney singing, couldn't reach any higher than UK number 8. Michael had the genius of 'Billie Jean' in store though, which reached number 1. Come 1983, four singles were issued, three reaching top ten and 'P.Y.T' nestling in at number 11 when the campaign for Thriller was two years old by then. The sound of the LP is less soul/disco based than 'Off The Wall' and more electronic pop. This was the eighties after all and Jackson managed to fit into the synth brigade without relying too heavily on synths. Yet, the bass throbs, the beats are regular and guitar is fairly absent from a large majority of tracks. My favourite part of 'Side A' if we're talking old money, has to be the cameo appearence by the almighty Vincent Price. A touch of class if you ask me. Otherwise, 'I Wanna Be Startin' Something' is fine, but overlong at nearly six minutes. 'Baby Be Mine' is Jackson by numbers, 'The Girl Is Mine' is very irritating and the title track we all know, omnipresent.

    'Billie Jean' is easily the best song here. What a groove! Yeah, it's a little repetitive, but we can live with that. 'Beat It' features a little guitar solo and was famously parodied by Weird Al Yankovic as 'Eat It'. Not sure which is the better version, in all seriousness..... nah, not really. It's Weird Al of course! Nah, not really. 'Human Nature' is a sweet sounding tune, I guess. The album picks up and consolidates itself after a so-so first half to become the solid album it actually is. Does it live upto the hype? Of course not, despite appearences after all, MJ is only human. 'The Lady In My Life' closes the set and functions as this albums obligatory ballad. It's a fairly bland tune to close such an 'apparent' blockbuster of an album, if you ask me. What do you mean you weren't? All in all, it's not a bad album, neither is it the classic of pop it's often made out to be. Somewhat controversially then, i'm giving it a slightly lower score than the often superior 'Off The Wall'.

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    From Edwin mulroz123@cs.com
    Acually this is a Toto album featuring Michael Jackson. An interview with Steve Lukather revealed they and Quincy Jones had unlimited freedom making this album. Mike dropped in, hummed a tune and an lyric and they made a song out of it. I would be even better if Bobby Kimball sang on this one though

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    Bad 8 ( 1987 )
    Bad / The Way You Make Me Feel / Speed Demon / Liberian Girl / Just Good Friends / Another Part of Me / Man in the Mirror / I Just Can't Stop Loving You / Dirty Diana / Smooth Criminal / Leave Me Alone

    I Just Can't Stop Loving You, UK number one, Aug 1987. Bad, UK number three, Sep 1987. The Way You Make Me Feel, UK number three, Dec 1987. Man In The Mirror, UK number twenty-one, Feb 1988. Dirty Diana, UK number four, Jul 1988. Another Part Of Me, UK number fifteen, Sep 1988. Smooth Criminal, UK number eight, Nov 1988. Leave Me Alone, UK number two, Feb 1989. Liberian Girl, UK number thirteen, Feb 1989. That leaves 'Just Good Friends' and 'Speed Demon' as the only two songs from the follow-up to 'Thriller' not to be released as a single. 'Bad' sold less than Thriller but still in the eight figure range. 'Bad' is another dance-pop album with Jackson writing or co-writing the majority of the albums tracks. The production and sound of the LP are very, very mid-eighties, which does hamper the repeat-play factor when considered twenty years on. 'Thriller' didn't suffer too badly from this yet the 'Bad' LP has a very harsh and brittle digital soundscape. It clearly lacks the warmth of 'Off The Wall' and it also lacks a killer-punch such as 'Billie Jean'.

    Consistency, consistency. Most Jackson albums have a filler or three but in this respect 'Bad' fares very well indeed - pretty much everything here striking a metal of some varying degree of value or colour. I personally tend to prefer the ballads, although of the upbeat material 'Dirty Diana' also floats my boat at least a little. The title track and 'Smooth Criminal' are just too repetitive for my liking. On the otherhand the ballads 'The Way You Make Me Feel' and 'I Just Can't Stop Loving You' are both superb, even if the former isn't really a ballad as such - rather it's sleek, mid-tempo pop. Back to 'Dirty Diana', it's the squealing guitar that does it for me, as well as the dynamics the track posesses, moving from quiet to loud effortlessly. 'Librarian Girl' is somewhat understated by Michael Jackson single-release standards, yet this tune has a certain class. Jackson is as we all know, as mad as a box of frogs, yet you just can't convincingly argue that any of his first three Epic Records LPs are anything less than good to excellent.

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    this page last updated 23/08/09

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