Sunday, November 27, 2011

Michael Jackson - "Dangerous"

The last stand of the king. In the progression of the king of pop persona this is where Jackson brought back the one glove except it was not a sequin one, it was similar to a white wrist brace that went about halfway up his forearm. His hair was now always long and curly and pulled back in a ponytail. The crotch grabbing dance moves started and his skin now had lost almost all of its pigment.

This is Michael Jackson's last album in a string of nearly flawless hits as king of pop. While he did release the "HIStory" album four years later and it was a multiplatinum smash with a number of hits (including "You are not Alone" the first ever single to debut at #1)  "HIStory" was really the end of his seemingly endless success and showed that his overwhelming fame was wearying him.

"Dangerous" is a better album than "HIStory." Jackson parted ways with Quincy Jones after his last album and has hooked up with producers Teddy Riley, Bruce Swedien and Bill Bottrell who are also Jackson's song writing collaborators throughout the album. "Dangerous" has a harder edge than any of his previous releases. Many of the songs took a rough street quality mixed it with hard rock (Slash guest stars on several songs) with a dash of Rap incorporated in a couple of the songs (by Heavy D and L.T.B. ) for good measure. There are a number of winning tracks on the album "Jam," "Why you Wanna Trip on Me," "Remember the Time" and "Gone Too Soon" (Jackson at his ballad best). Interestingly though with all the collaborations on this album the three best and best remembered songs are ones Jackson composed by himself: the excellent "Black or White," "Will you Be There" and the undeniably catchy "Heal the World."

There are flaws, it is over long with some really dull songs in there, the cover is interesting and strange all at the same time. Yet, one has to only look at the influence this album has had on current artists. At the time Jackson got a fair amount of flack for the Rap guest stars, yet every other pop song today has copied his model of having a popular Rapper rap in the middle of the song (Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, No Doubt are just a few examples).

Overall this is a very good album, that still went mulitiplatinum in the middle of the Grunge explosion, that is often overlooked in favor of his three previous albums. "Dangerous" is one of the first CDs I ever owned and it is a very strong piece of music; the last really excellent album of Michael Jackson's music career.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Michael Jackson - "Bad"

The king takes shape and claims his throne. "Thriller" was an extremely hard act to follow and Jackson did much better than most superstars do when they release follow ups to their classic albums. "Bad" broke countless records across the world, including being the first album EVER to rank 5 consecutive #1 singles, and is one of the best selling albums of all time.

This is where Jackson solidified his King of Pop persona, gone were the single glove and sequined jackets and in their place came a black biker style jacket. Also making its debut was the blank white undershirt and the open long sleeve collared shirt (usually blue) that allowed him to stand in front of wind machines and look very cool. He also grew his hair out and tied it in a pony tail and his skin got lighter. The "shomon" was introduced on this album and became a staple of Jackson's performance. This is also the last time he worked with super producer Quincy Jones.

"Bad" is really a harder edged version of "Thriller." Taking the hard rock stance and gritted teeth performance of "Beat It" and infusing it into, "Smooth Criminal," "Speed Demon," "Dirty Diana" and the title track. "Man in the Mirror" is this albums "Human Nature." "Leave me Alone," an autobiographical song, is akin to "Billie Jean." "Just Can't Stop Loving you" is something of a mix of "Baby Be Mine" and "P.Y.T." Basically Jackson took elements of "Thriller" and pumped them up to their breaking points.

While there is some filler on this album (whereas "Thriller" had none), "Liberian Girl," "Another Part of Me" and the Stevie Wonder duet "Just good Friends," it is expertly made filler that makes these three lesser songs seem better than they actually are.

Is this album as good as "Thriller" no it is not, but it is as close and Jackson could have got and by and large he succeeded in creating a master follow up to his master work album. "Bad" is definitely worthy of a King.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Michael Jackson - "Thriller"

The biggest selling album of all time, selling hundreds of millions of copies and still climbing. There was a time that I would listen to this album all the way through at least once a week.

There has been so much said and praised about Michael Jackson's "Thriller" that one wonders if it can really be as good as everyone says. In short it is as good as any great album ever released.

Jackson had had a giant hit with his previous album "Off the Wall" but nothing could prepare anyone for the hit the size of the known universe he had with "Thriller." Seven of the albums nine tracks became charting hits and there is something for everyone on this album. Taking the basic structure of "Off the Wall," Jackson expands the sounds to include Dance, Rock, Funk, Pop, Ballads and Soul into one flawless whole. Even the guest appearances by Paul McCartney (on the Wings style schmaltz pop of "The Girl is Mine") and Eddie Van Halen (the searing guitar that pulses through "Beat It") fit firmly into the overall arch of the album.

Listing the great tracks is pointless because literally every songs is a winner and offers something different to the pallet that is "Thriller." While some of the albums success can be attributed to the expert music videos that Jackson made at the time and aired on the, at the time, incredibly popular MTV channel; the album could stand on its own. Jackson has created the perfect pop album and many try to imitate it to this day.

For better or worse this also marked the beginning of the King of Pop. This album market the end of the day-glo tuxedo, big afro hairdo and began the one gloved, fedora wearing, sequined outfit that marked the  newly crowned king of pop. This is a great album, that some how never sounds dated, and in a word is a thrill to listen to.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Michael Jackson - "Off The Wall"

The beginning of the King of Pop.

Released between two Jackson Brother's records this was Michael's first real bid at solo stardom. He had released several unsuccessful solo albums over his teen years but this was the one that gave an inclination that Michael would be even bigger than he had been.

A big hit when released, the album, in my opinion, has dated more than its two follow ups ("Thriller" and "Bad"). There are still a number of strong songs "Don't Stop 'Til you Get Enough," "Rock with You," "She's out of my Life" and the title track are still strong.

This was an artist finding his individual voice and he almost had it but it would take one more record before he would truly grasp his power. When released it was quite a big hit and many wondered if he could do any better and boy were they in store for bigger and better.

While not as essential in my book as his next three albums this is still a strong album and for the many Michael Jackson fans out there a great addition to a music library.