Sunday, January 25, 2004

#92) Michael Jackson - Off The Wall (Released in 1979, my sister gave me a scratched-up cassette copy in high school. Eventually I purchased it on used vinyl at Arboria sometime in college. There's a major skip near the end of the title track so I may well buy this on CD sometime in the future. I'm curious to hear what a Jackson "demo" track sounds like.)

"You know I was wondering...if you could keep on…because the force has got a lot of power…and…it makes me feel makes me feel like...ooohhh!"

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the first "oooh" of Michael Jackson's adult career appears right at the beginning of his first Epic solo album, triggering a cascade of strings, swelling horns and glass-bottle percussion straight from Marvin Gaye's "Got To Give It Up, pt. 1" - only more urgent and excited. Where his later (and admittedly great) multi-platinum successes would be mostly driven (however subtly) by fear and anger, Off The Wall is a work of joy. Jackson seems intoxicated by the sound and spirit of disco, celebrating a world of party people with a charged mixture of innocence and confident sexuality. Michael himself wrote and co-produced the three most insistent dance numbers, and the softer work on side 2 (written by hired guns such as Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder) is never less than professional. Off The Wall's unique spirit is unlikely to be found again - Jackson's effortless grace seems beyond the reach of aerobicized, herky-jerk thrusters like Justin Timberlake and something sure spooked Jackson good by the time Thriller reared its head.

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