Tag Archives: michael jackson

1001 Songs – 1979: Part Two

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

Gloria – Umberto Tozzi

Okay, so like a lot of people I know the Laura Branigan version and had no idea that it was a over of this Italian disco track. When we’ve been doing tracks for the 1001 list and are thrown a French or Italian song, it’s usually to give a sample of something a bit different that was alongside the English-language songs that dominate the list.

In this instance, however, this is very much a related movement. After all this is the country that bore Morodor aka the father of disco – which would not have happened in isolation. It’s actually really cool to hear this take on disco, one without the prolonged dance breaks… but we’ve already heard a better version of this in ABBA’s ‘Voulez Vous’. Still though, I love hearing these originals.

Black Eyed Dog – Nick Drake

This is a real cheat. Nick Drake was already dead for five years by the time this demo came out on a compilation box. Granted, this was the compilation box that caused a massive re-evaluation in his music and resulted in his subsequent elevation in the musical canon – but this hauntingly beautiful song is so out of time.

‘Black Eyed Dog’ was one of the final songs that Nick Drake recorded before his suicide which gives this song about depression an even more haunting sense of relevance. It’s a real whiplash to have this in between a disco song and one of the great early electric pop songs though. I’m going to need a minute.

Are “Friends” Electric? – Gary Numan & Tubeway Army

Where ‘Black Eyed Dog’ was out of time because of the posthumous release, ‘Are “Friends” Electric?’ is out of time for being so out there for 1979. At this point Kraftwerk and other electronic acts from Germany are where you can hang this, but this song by Gary Numan and Tube is already a few more stages removed from that.

It’s this weird mix of new wave, post-punk, electronica, synth-pop and ambient. I mean I would want to call it prog-synth if I wasn’t sure that existed as a sub-genre that I would probably dislike. This song is extraordinary given the time, which is all the more extraordinary given how it topped the charts in the UK. I guess people really were looking for the next thing after disco.

Boys Don’t Cry – The Cure

A bit of a nice and inoffensive pop-rock here that further serves to remind me that The Cure are actually from the UK and not, as I keep thinking, American. It’s an interesting step for the post-punk movement and a very weird to actually hear The Cure making this sort of music before that began to have more of a goth and alternative rock look rather than this piece of new wave.

The Cure is one of those bands I keep saying that I need to give more a go to. Just give me the time I guess.

Good Times – Chic

At 90 seconds in, it felt like this song had already blown it’s load. By minute three when the dance break began on this 8 minute song I had had enough. Look, it’s a product of it’s time and I am not opposed to long songs (hell, ‘Only Skin’ by Joanna Newsom is 17 minutes long and I adore that). Thing is, this dance break lacks punch and it isn’t worth the 4-5 minutes you spend on it.

What is really interesting is how the idea of ‘Good Times’ in the lyrics is tinged with irony. I wish I could have felt that more in the song, but boy do I appreciate that sentiment.

Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough – Michael Jackson

This is how you do a disco song. I have heard this song a lot in my life and it still is able to maintain that huge joie de vivre that you are meant to get from a disco song. Hell, this is still as repetitive in places as other disco songs but it has enough variation in the instrumentation and in the arrangements to keep you engaged.

There is no denying that the duo of Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones led to moments of genius – but with this is just feels like they learned from the disco out at the time and found a way to right all the things that could have held it back. Such a great song.

Lost in Music – Sister Sledge

Another song in our disco stretch, the second of the three that was produced by Nile Rodgers from Chic. After hearing disco being done brilliantly by Michael Jackson it is near impossible to compare these two songs – which is a resounding loss for Sister Sledge. I was there with them for the first three minutes and then it was just this… variation-free repetition.

Disco is over soon, right?

Brass in Pocket – Pretenders

New wave. Check. Female vocalist. Check. Upbeat with a killer chorus. Check.

My husband cottoned on immediately that this was one of those songs I adore. My big smile the moment it started will have helped too because I know it very well. Plus, I crossed the parent album from this not too long ago and have been enjoying that ever since.

 

Acclaimed Albums – Thriller by Michael Jackson

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 155/250Title: Thriller
Artist: Michael Jackson
Year: 1982
Position: #25

Thriller is one of those albums where I’ve probably heard all the tracks separately, just not necessarily all at once and in order. I mean, this is an album where seven of the nine tracks were released as singles (which is insane when you think about it) and most of those singles were incredibly successful. An album whose middle three tracks are ‘Beat It’, ‘Billie Jean’ and ‘Thriller’ really deserves it’s high placement in the list… right?

I think that the big thing that I have learned from this albums list, and music listening in general, is that it is a rare thing to have a great album without a few skippable tracks on it. For me, there are two of these on Thriller: the final track and the terrible third track ‘The Girl Is Mine’. There is something so mesmerising in such strange track as the latter one, which is a duet between Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney. It manages to just about  skirt around cringe until the poorly acted spoken exchange at the end. Seriously I do not know what they were thinking.

And then you get to the middle three, which may be one of the largest contrasts in quality that I have ever encountered on an album. How do you go immediately from ‘The Girl Is Mine’ into ‘Thriller’? It boggles the mind somewhat, but I guess that couldn’t exclude a single from the album, especially one that featured a former Beatle.

Then again, there’s the rest of the album which is great example of how a lot of eighties pop borrowed from disco and funk (just like Prince did with 1999 and Purple Rain). It’s also really interesting to see how Jackson’s sound matured from Off The Wall and I just mean in his voice which is transitioning towards a rockier sound.

I’m glad I finally got around to listening to this. Probably worth my time finishing off the Top 25 so I can see which albums Thriller counts as neighbours.

Music Monday: Off The Wall by Michael Jackson

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 55/250Off_the_wallTitle: Off The Wall
Artist: Michael Jackson
Year: 1979
Position: #105

Happy Easter everyone. Let’s celebrate a day off of work by trying to side-step a discussion whether you can like an album because of who is singing it. I know this is something I will be delving into when I reach an album by Oasis, but for Michael Jackson I’m just going to try and get to know the music.

Off The Wall marked Michael Jackson’s first album off of the Motown label and his fifth solo album overall, at the age of 21. It is very well known how much of a child star he was, but five solo albums and 15 as part of The Jackson Five… well that’s just ridiculous.

In many ways Off The Wall feels like a debut album. There is that rush of the album trying to be as instant as possible  whilst showcasing a large range of vocal ability. It was a new label, a new relationship with a producer, a new direction and a greater degree of confidence in his voice.

It also feels like two EPs put together. The second half of the album feels weaker as that’s when he starts to go into the territory of balladry. ‘She’s Out Of My Life’ still delivers with Jackson providing a good injection honesty, but the rest of the half feels a little lacklustre coming after the initial five tracks. He does get a bit of his mojo back with the closer ‘Burn The Disco Out’ if I am being kind.

Then again, it is hard to follow up an album when you begin with ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough’. It is a classic and shows Michael Jackson at his best. It leads into a first half where you can feel the disco dripping off of the songs, and it is awesome. I never thought I would appreciate music with the disco in is, mainly because the video for ‘D.I.S.C.O.’ by Ottawan is so ridiculous, but Off The Wall does make a good case for it.

In the end, Off The Wall ticks some boxes for me on the first half but when it slows down the interest does begin to wane… around the time he covers a song by Wings. Still, it’s a far cry from the parody he became to be known as.