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Michael Jackson 'Thriller' demos unearth lost gems

August 4, 2009 |  2:10 pm

Mj In the continuing rush by Michael Jackson fans to celebrate his musical legacy, sales of his most popular songs and albums have set records since his unexpected death in June.

But for the more hardcore historians, it’s meant digging deeper to find the most obscure and often unreleased material possible. In the case of the “The Unheard Music” blog, that search has uncovered a trove of studio demos for Jackson’s legendary “Thriller” album produced by Quincy Jones -- the famed recording that won the Grammy for album of the year.

While many longtime fans have been collecting these versions for years, for the rest of us it’s a fascinating and ultimately rewarding glimpse into the inner workings of a classic.

There are songs that didn’t make the final cut, like “Hot Street,” which houses a potentially great chorus amid dated synthesizer sounds, and a solid if relatively pedestrian ballad, “Carousel.” An early take on “Billie Jean” stands out due to a bleating keyboard bass line instead of the cool funk of the final version.

From there it dives into random outtakes and studio detritus, such as a vocal snippet from a song called “Groove of Midnight” that features Jackson and an engineer discussing his hair growth (Jackson shouts out Sebastian hair products). There’s even a clip of “Starlight,” which was the original title of “Thriller” before Jackson decided it needed to be something catchier.

But the real find here . . .

. .  .is “Love Never Felt So Good,”  a fantastic song that features a multi-tracked Jackson singing over just a piano and finger snaps. It’s a classic vocal performance, rich with his trademark emotion and percussive singing style. It’s truly baffling how this song was never developed further or simply released as is.

Altogether, this collection of demos is an intriguing glimpse into the blueprints of the bestselling album of all time.

-- Scott T. Sterling

Credit: Reed Saxon / Associated Press