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The Michael Jackson archive: Reviews and stories from the L.A. Times

June 26, 2009 | 12:09 pm

Reviews

Music_me_michael_jackson_mu "Music & Me," 1973:

This album contains a flock of romantic ballads, like “Too Young,’ “Up Again” and “Music and Me,” which is merely fodder for the reveries of Jackson’s army of adolescent female fans. This faction will probably flip over these numbers, through none of them is on a par with his best work. However, there are two standout tracks. One is "Johnny Raven," which is one of the album's few upbeat songs. The other is a second version of "Doggin' Around" that is quite faithful to the Jackie Wilson original. Full review. 

Off_the_wallt

"Off the Wall," 1979:

Jackson, once the prince of Bubblegum Soul, isn't a kid anymore.  His growth as a singer, though, is incomplete.  To some degree he's still singing the way he did as an 11-year-old.  His voice is no longer siren-pitched but it isn't full-bodied or strong and suffers, on ballads, from too much vibrato.

The adolescent frailties that linger in Jackson's voice are nagging enough to, if uncontrolled, undermine good material and production.  Thanks to producer Quincy Jones, that didn't happen here.  The result is one of the year's best R&B albums. More...

Jackson-thrillert "Thriller," 1982:

Jackson and producer Jones don't seem at all intimidated by the challenge on "Thriller," which revives some of "Wall's" appealing surface qualities while introducing some intriguing new elements.  It's not as consistent, but "Thriller" has more gears, and Jackson's peaks as a songwriter and singer overshadow even the high points of "Off the Wall." More...


Jackson-badt "Bad," 1987:

The fact that the LP's key tracks are rooted in established traditions is a clue to "Bad's" relatively modest aims. "Thriller's" hallmark was the vaulting ambition and hair-raising power of two startling songs "Billie Jean" and "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' " (and, to a slightly lesser degree, "Beat It"). "Bad's" retreat from that kind of ambition is a letdown, but it's understandable: It would have been hard to out-thrill "Thriller" without the strain showing. More...


Jackson-dangeroust "Dangerous," 1991:

"Dangerous," the album, arrives in stores Tuesday and guess what? Like the video, it too is a messy grab-bag of ideas and high-tech non-sequiturs, with something for everyone from the man who has everything. In other words, Merry Christmas!

At the risk of sounding uncynical, it can be said that, for all the weaknesses inherent, it's a dandy stocking-stuffer . Relatively tame, and wildly unfocused, "Dangerous" is also mostly good, expertly made fun. More...

Historyt "HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I," 1995:

Inasmuch as the album sells itself as his most deeply personal body of songs, yet doesn't offer up much sense of real personal revelation beyond mere defensiveness, "HIStory" is principally an album of denial, probably in more ways than one.

And yet for all that, the new disc does feel like an act of courage on Jackson's part -- in its sheer, surprising joylessness. The skin-deep lyrics themselves may not take us too far into his thinking, but the downbeat tone does: He's sad, he's sad, he's really, really sad. More...

Blood_on_the_Dance_Floor_co "Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix," 1997:

"Blood on the Dance Floor" is an apt title: Jackson is hemorrhaging, and a string of emergency surgeons -- of the mixing board variety -- try to stop the bleeding.

But without any further collaboration from Jackson himself, such top remixers as Todd Terry and the Fugees' Wyclef Jean can't do much to substantially improve the eight songs from his 1995 "HIStory" album that form the bulk of this album. More...

Jackson-invinciblet "Invincible" 2001:

The title can be seen as a statement to those who have questioned the self-proclaimed King of Pop's creative and commercial standing during all the image-bruising, tabloid scrutiny he's undergone since "Thriller."

But the music itself is anything but invincible.

Jackson has enlisted enough co-writers to fill a city bus, but they haven't helped him recapture the vitality and command that made the highlights of his work with Quincy Jones on "Off the Wall" and "Thriller" seem so urgent. More...

Features

On recording 'We Are the World': 1985

The dissonance caused producer Quincy Jones to shudder.

There were moments in the landmark "We Are the World" recording session at the A&M Studios in Hollywood when the emotion ran so high that many of the pop-rock stars had tears in their eyes. The aforementioned, of course, was not one of those moments.

Diplomatically, Jones stopped the prerecorded instrumental tape and suggested that anyone having trouble with the notes just refrain from singing until later in the session. The chorus then would be reconstituted into a lower, more agreeable key. More...

On buying the Beatles' song catalog: 1985

Michael Jackson's $47.5-million purchase of the Beatles' song collection last month was the climax of 10 months of intense, complicated and confusing on-again, off-again negotiations. The package -- of which the Beatles music was only part of the nearly 4,000-song ATV Music catalog -- is believed to be the most expensive publishing purchase ever by an individual.

Calendar pieced together a history of the negotiations through several sources. The normally secretive Jackson gave Calendar access to his advisers and negotiators. We also spoke with agents for the reclusive Robert Holmes a Court, the Australian tycoon who owns the songs. More...

On Jackson's defeat at the Grammys: 1988

Whoever thought anyone would feel sorry for Michael Jackson -- especially at a Grammy Awards show?

Moments after being bathed in applause for one of the most striking performances ever by a pop performer on national television, Jackson, an intensely private person, had to sit in full view of millions as he suffered one humiliating defeat after another. More...

On Jackson's, and sister Janet's, big label deals: 1991

"When you're talking major artists, it's like auctioning a painting," he says. "There are only so many of them, and you need at least one to hang on the wall. When you're buying a Michael or a Janet, it's like now buying Picassos." More ...

On Jackson's inclusion in the 'Who are pop's hottest properties?' list: 1993

Michael Jackson: The debate over the King of Pop was no less intense than that over Madonna -- and the central issue again was image.

* "No matter what I think about his look or his face, I think he is incredible and that he has the ability to do whatever he wants to do."  More ...

On Jackson's reluctant appearance on the 'Jackson Family Honors' special: 1994

Backstage before presenting his first award, Jackson expressed gratitude for his fans' loyalty.

"Some friends are like shadows, you only see them when the sun shines," he said. "But my fans sustained me even in the dark days. I owe them everything."  More ...

On Jackson's marriage to Lisa Marie Presley: 1994

Now that the wedding has been confirmed, most people can't get enough of the story -- even though it has nothing to do with why we care about Jackson in the first place: his artistry.

The danger for Jackson is that all this public fascination could further obscure his own creative focus and destroy any lingering musical credibility. More ...

On "Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Special": 2001

After that long intro, Jackson takes the stage with his brothers and then by himself in hopes that lightning will striking twice. But it's a strain. It's fun to hear everything from the Jackson 5's "ABC" to "Thriller's" "Billie Jean" again, but the whole thing feels dated. And when Jackson tries to step into 2001 with "You Rock My World," a track from his new "Invincible" album, there are no sparks. For Jackson, this is no crowning achievement.  More ...

On Jackson not performing at his second: 2001

Jackson, who hobbled onstage with the aid of a cane to give his acceptance speech, said he broke his foot recently while dancing, and so he couldn't perform. He then retreated to the wings after a few words of thanks -- despite cries from the audience for him to sing.

Given his injury, he clearly couldn't have done a high-octane, dance-minded number such as "Billie Jean." But he could have sat on a stool for an intimate rendition of "Man in the Mirror," one of the most introspective songs in his repertoire, or maybe a new ballad--anything to combat the negative image that's developed in recent years.  More ...

On accusing Sony of failing to promote 'Invincible': 2002

The Michael Jackson story has turned from sad to shameless as pop's would-be king has become pop's disgrace.

By accusing Sony Music Entertainment of causing his last album to tank by failing to properly promote it, Jackson, a man perversely obsessed with his own physical appearance, has revealed a desperate, ugly side of himself.  More...

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