Before Off The Wall

Sources: The Moderate Voice | All Things Michael

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Show me a modern day pop or RnB artist who wasn’t influenced by Michael Jackson? I can’t think of a single soul. For better or for worse, Michael’s impact on music can still be felt today in the music industry. Artists are still dressing like Michael, they’re still singing like Michael, they’re still dancing like Michael and they’re still making videos like Michael.

It’s amazing that when you think about the late King of Pop’s career most only consider the fruitful period in the 1980’s and almost completely forget what he did before that time. I simply get annoyed at folks who try to compare the Justin Biebers (even the great Smokey Robinson is at it) and Chris Browns of this world to Michael Jackson simply because I think they are disrespecting the utter scope of Michael Jackson and how he had an extraordinary talent even at the age of
twelve. Twelve years old, ladies and gentlemen.

The five killer Jackson Five songs, ABC, I want you back, Who’s loving you, The love you save and I’ll be there were all recorded before Michael Jackson was a teenager. Just think about that for a second and go back and listen to Who’s loving you and tell how a boy has any right to have that much soul in his voice. I feel pretty confident in believing that only Barbra Streisand and Stevie Wonder can claim to have possessed and publicly demonstrated such a godly talent at such an early age.

It isn’t just the vocal performance that we should revere – Michael was also a hell of a writer before he released Off the Wall. The man had a hand in writing all of The Jackson’s Triumph album which included songs like Can you feel it and he wrote Shake your body. These are all incredible songs and it is a shame that such feats are forgotten in conversations about Michael Jackson.

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With all of the above said, I understand why people focus on Off the wall, Thriller and Bad – they’re incredible genre defining pieces of work. All of them are in my top 10 favourite albums of all time and they are the main reasons why I have chosen to focus on Michael for the whole week on my blog.

 

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“ODINO” Revisits “Smooth Criminal” And Other Pop Favorites As Classical (Album Release September 22, 2014)

Sources: Aidem | Translated By – All Things Michael via Google

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Michael Jackson, Edith Piaf, Brahms, Daft Punk, ODINO revisits the highest standards of pop and classical symphonic version, thanks to conductor Sylvain Audinovski, who wished to open the symphony crossbreeding, to innovation and new audiences.

So these are 80 musicians who re-recorded songs like “Get Lucky”, “Disillusioned”, “Ode to Love” and “Smooth Criminal” by bringing a new dimension.

ODINO is a beautiful meeting of two musical worlds: the classical and pop. A full alliance of emotions where the melody becomes important.

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Album Tracklisting

1 - Smooth Criminal (Michael Jackson)

2 - The Hymn to Love (Edith Piaf)

3 - Get Lucky (Daft Punk)

4 - Disenchanted (Mylène Farmer)

5 - We Are The Champions (Queen)

6 - Symphony No. 3 (Brahms)

7 - Reach Out I’ll Be There (The Four Tops)

8 - Les Moulins De Mon Coeur (Michel Legrand)

9 - Skyfall (Adele)

10 - Requiem For A Fool (Johnny Hallyday)

11 - Pomp And Circumstance (Edward Elgar)

12 - Parla Mi Amore (Amaury Vassili)

13 - Dancing Queen (ABBA)

14 - Eleanor Rigby (The Beatles)

15 - Kings of the World (Romeo & Juliet)

An album Universal / Polydor – Released September 22, 14

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Review: 35 Years Of MJ’s Off The Wall

Sources: Philstar Entertainment | Editted By – All Things Michael

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Michael Jackson started work on his album Off The Wall with Quincy Jones as producer when he was only 19 years old. They met when he starred in the movie The Wiz to which Quincy provided the music and they agreed that the famous Q would produce his next solo album. It was to be a most important one.

What came to be called Off The Wall was Michael’s fifth outing away from his brothers, the famous Jackson Five. He did four solo albums in his old Motown contract which produced the hits I’ll Be There, Ben, Rockin’ Robin, One Day In Your Life and others. This one was his first solo album under a new recording deal with Columbia’s Epic label. He would remain with Columbia, which later became Sony, up to the time of his death 30 years later.

Michael and Q finished Off The Wall early in 1979 and the album was released on Aug. 10, 1979. Michael turned 21 a few weeks later on Aug. 29. He celebrated not only his birthday but also a most successful solo debut that would change the sound and the look of popular music forever.  Everything would come into full bloom three years later with Thriller, but Off The Wall was the seed out of which a worldwide phenomenon for the ages would grow.

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To this day, I still believe that Off The Wall is superior to Thriller in terms of content. And Michael was so natural with the music. He was young, sexy and happy and it showed. Take a look at that bright-eyed guy on the album cover in a tux with his cute socks. There is not one hint in him about how complicated everything about him would become only a few years later.

Admittedly, there were already hints of his growing insecurities in Off The Wall. Listen to the first cut and first single release, Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough. He sings in the opener: “ You know, I was…I was wondering, you know, if you could keep on… keep on with The Force, don’t stop ‘til you get enough…” Those words, so full of fear, doubt and uncertainty, were to get Jackson on the road to undreamed of stardom.

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For those who remember and also for those who still have to experience this great album, here is Off The Wall once again, song by wonderful song.

Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough: This is old disco with a funk spin but it still packs quite a charge when heard. And have you ever heard anybody sing falsetto the way that Jackson did? It was almost other-worldly. The first No. 1 single.

Rock With You: This is so nice and easy but still the sexiest song in the album. I still recall watching Michael sing this with that teasing smile on his face and his smooth hip thrusts.

Working Day And Night: This was never released as a single but Michael so probably believed in the song that he kept performing it live. Nowadays, it is not unusual to find this song in the Bad, Dangerous and other tours live recordings. This was also sampled in the Jackson/Justin Timberlake single Love Never Felt So Good from the posthumus album Xscape.

Get On The Floor: This is the album’s ultimate dance track. No way you will not get on the floor when you hear this one with Michael’s frenzied grunts.

Off The Wall: Another Top 10 single and the third hit tune from the album. MJ shows more confidence in this one and his vocal style shows a foretaste of what Thriller would be like.

Girlfriend: Just a sweet little ballad but it was written expressly for Michael by the most successful songwriter of all time, Paul McCartney.

She’s Out of My Life:  I do not know how it happened that so emotional a ballad got into the album but I am so very glad it did because it turned out to be another hit single and one of Michael’s best recordings. That tearful gasp of his towards the end is now part of pop music lore. Also part of legend is the rumor that this song was composed by Tom Bahler for the departed Karen Carpenter.

I Can’t Help It: Another nice up-tempo ballad that was composed for Michael by Motown cohort Stevie Wonder.

It’s The Falling In Love: A romantic duet with Patti Austin and they sing a song composed by Carol Bayer Sayer and David Foster, who plays the piano.

Burn This Disco Out: And it ends with more dancing in the same vein as Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough and Off The Wall with the then playful and innocent Michael ready to keep the boogie going and party nonstop.

Dangerous Talk with Susan Fast

Originally posted on dancing with the elephant:

Willa:  This week I am thrilled to be joined once again by Dr. Susan Fast, whose new book on the Dangerous album will be coming out September 25 from Bloomsbury Press. I just want to say up front that I’ve read this book twice now, and I’m still staggered by it. For the first time we have a detailed, in-depth analysis of one of Michael Jackson’s albums, and it’s amazing – it reveals how he conveys meaning through every layer of musical creation and performance. Some sections I’ve read numerous times, going through sentence by sentence with my headphones on, trying to catch all the details and nuances of meaning Susan identifies. I was quite simply blown away by it.

Susan, your book is such a treasure trove of ideas, as well as new ways of listening and thinking about his music. There’s so much I want to talk with…

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The Jackson 5’s “Dancing Machine”

The Examiner – By Ryan David | Edits By – All Things Michael

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By 1973, the popularity of the Jackson 5 was on the wane. The group had not scored a top ten pop hit since 1971’s “Sugar Daddy”, or a top ten pop album since 1972’s Lookin’ Through the Windows. Also by that year, the group felt limited by Motown, as the label would not give the group a chance to write and/or produce themselves, despite artists like Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder already making that headway.

But in 1974, the Jackson 5 released the album Dancing Machine, and it brought the brothers back to prominence, thanks to the title track. The song peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 (giving the group their first top ten pop hit in three years), and number one R&B. The song was first recorded in 1973 for the album G.I.T.: Get It Together, but was re-recorded when it became successful earlier in 1974. The song was later nominated for a Grammy in 1975 for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.

As “Dancing Machine” sat high on the charts, the song also became notable for popularizing the the Robot, which Michael Jackson performed during shows, particularly on an episode of Soul Train. While “Dancing Machine” proved the Jackson 5 could successfully parlay into the sounds of funk and the still-emerging disco, the group still felt limited creatively, and “Dancing Machine” would prove to be their last top ten hit for Motown. In 1975, the brothers (minus Jermaine) left both Motown and the Jackson 5 name behind, and moved to Epic Records as the Jacksons (with Randy taking Jermaine’s spot).

As for “Dancing Machine”, the song continued to be a radio staple, and was sampled from artists including MC Hammer and Q-Tip, and had even made it’s way into Disney and commercials.

 

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Steven Ivory On Living Michael Jackson’s ‘Off The Wall’

Sources: EurWeb – By Blue Olive| All Things Michael

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“You’re not gonna believe it—Michael’s got a little platform that he dances on, right there in the studio.    He’s doing all kind of moves while he’s recording his vocals!”

That was the first thing photographer Bobby Holland, my roommate at the time, told me when he returned to our mid-city Los Angeles apartment one evening in 1978 after spending some time at Allen Zentz Recording, a nondescript  studio in Hollywood, where Michael Jackson was recording the Epic/CBS solo album with producer Quincy Jones that would become the iconic Off The Wall.

Holland was hired by our friend Ed Eckstein, who then ran Quincy Jones Productions, to shoot casual, not-posed photos of Jackson and Jones working in the recording studio, for publicity purposes.

You read correctly—publicity. Back then, Michael and Quincy, while accomplished and famous, weren’t cultural icons. In fact, both were at stations in their careers where they had something to prove. Entering his twenties,  Michael wanted to create an album that reflected who he’d become musically.

Quincy, while renown as a bandleader, award-winning arranger, producer, composer and soundtrack scorer, was looking to solidify  his reputation as a mainstream producer.  Yes, he’d produced his first hit single  in 1963 with Lesley Gore’s pop classic, “It’s My Party” and in the ‘70s produced hits by Aretha Franklin, the Brothers Johnson, Rufus & Chaka Khan, as well as his own albums. But in the ’70s he wanted to be seen as a certified hit maker.

Executives at CBS Records (which later became Sony) respected Quincy—everyone respected Quincy–but didn’t see him as the man to produce Michael Jackson.  Not that they viewed Michael as invaluable; at that time, he was just another artist.

But to produce Michael they preferred someone like Maurice White–founder/producer of the label’s biggest black band, Earth, Wind & Fire–who’d also had success producing Deniece Williams, keyboardist Ramsey Lewis and the Emotions.

Even the Jacksons had ideas about who  should produce Michael’s  solo album.  They felt they should do it, and  told Michael as much in front of me one afternoon in September 1977.

Jackie, Tito, Marlon and Randy and I were  sitting on a leather sectional in the den of the family’s original ranch style Encino home on Hayvenhurst (before Michael had it demolished and built the new mock tudor mansion) while  a Sanyo Ghetto Blaster on the coffee table  blared instrumental tracks–no lead or background vocals yet–from Destiny, the first album, save the track “Blame It On The Boogie,” that they’d been allowed to write and produce themselves.

Michael was sitting on a wooden chair across from us, making the occasional rhythmic movement to the music.  It was something to behold–Michael Jackson dancing in his seat–but I did so through my peripheral vision, for fear that if I simply looked, he’d become self-conscious and stop.

“We been waiting to produce our own stuff for a long time, man,” Jackie  proudly said,  when the cassette ended. “After this album, Michael’s doing a solo record.  He’s  talking to different people, but he’s thinking about keeping it in the family and letting us produce HIS album, too.   Right Mike?”

Michael looked away, as if he didn’t really hear it, his silence speaking volumes.

In any case, it was through Holland, Eckstein and Quincy Jones himself that I was unwittingly afforded a front row seat to the creation of what arguably ended up the most important album of Michael Jackson’s solo career. When Bobby returned to our apartment that evening from the studio, I grilled him for details.

“Well, he was laidback and quiet about everything but the music,” Bobby said of Michael, while reaching into the fridge for a beer. “Quincy did have him laughing at some of that shit he says—you know how Quincy is, always telling stories—but it was when the music started that Mike turned into a tiger.   While  singing,  he’d actually be doing a lot of the shit he does on stage,  like a mini-concert.  It was a trip.”

Some days there wouldn’t be enough light in the room for Bobby to take photos–when Michael was behind the mic singing, the singer insisted the studio be dark. “The only lights in the room,” said Bobby, “were on the recording console and the light on the music stand with the lyrics on a piece of paper in front of Michael.”

It was a no-frills operation. No limos, no elaborate security detail, no chef-catered gourmet meals. Quincy doesn’t drive, so at about noon he would arrive at the studio driven by a man behind the wheel of Quincy’s car, “a regular ol’ Buick.”

A Buick, Bobby? You sure?

“Hey, my daddy was a Buick man. I know a Buick when I see it. It was a Buick.”

According to Bobby, Quincy carried a briefcase that, when Quincy opened it, contained music charts and…a bottle of hot sauce. They’d order lunch and dinner from menus of places nearby, but Q had to have his own hot sauce.

Michael would arrive shortly afterward, someone driving him, too. “Not Bill Bray, though (the longtime Jackson family security man),” said Bobby. “Some other guy.”

One day Michael showed up dressed like actor Charlie Chaplin. “From head to toe,” Bobby said. “Make-up; the whole nine.  And he worked like that.  Nobody made a big deal of it.  Imagine  Charlie Chaplin jammin’ to ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.’”

Some days, there’d be musicians, but often it would be just Michael, Quincy, Quincy’s longtime engineer Bruce Swedien and, as Bobby told me one evening after returning from the studio, “this white guy named Rod Temperton.”

I’d heard of him.  A lanky, quiet chap from England who was a member of Heatwave, the monstrous interracial R&B band wearing out the top acts they opened for on the road and burning up the charts with hits like “Boogie Nights,” “The Groove Line” and the ballad, “Always and Forever.”

Temperton was a phenom—a square-looking white boy who looked as if he should have been selling insurance policies–with a simply ridiculous command of R&B grooves and a penchant for lyrics that somehow always included  “hot” and “street.”

One afternoon, maybe a year before he started working with Temperton, I was hanging out at Quincy Jones’ office on the A&M Records lot with   Eckstein, when Quincy, sitting behind his desk, turned serious and, asked, “Ivory, what do you think of Rod Temperton? Would the songs he writes for Heatwave translate to other artists in general?” Quincy Jones is asking my musical opinion.

“Hmmmm,” I said, thoughtfully. “I don’t know, Q. Those songs work well with that band, but…I just don’t know.”

Quincy looked at me and shook his head, as if to say, ”You’re probably right.” Obviously,  the man was indulging me. Even as he asked the question, he’d already locked up Temperton in a contract.

If Michael and Quincy had something to prove with this production, without a prior collaborative success breathing down their backs, they also had the luxury of making an earnest record. Unlike later Jackson releases, Off The Wall featured no gimmicks—no rock songs meticulously designed to appeal to a demographic that wouldn’t normally listen to Jackson’s music; no star musician cameos recruited purely for show.

Rufus (as in Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan) basically served as the production’s studio band.   Before Rufus’ Quincy-produced Masterjam album and Off The Wall,    Rufus’ new drummer, John “JR” Robinson, hastily recruited by the band while in the midst of a tour, had never even played on a major recording session.

Singer Patti Austin was a superb duet partner for Michael during “It’s The Falling In Love,” but if that song had appeared on Thriller, chances are a bigger name would have been hired for marquee value.

During the album’s production, some evenings Eckstein would come by our apartment with a cassette of rough tracks from a week’s worth of sessions and we’d light up a joint and listen.   I was taken aback. Temperton’s mighty “Burn This Disco Out” was my immediate favorite. It was a big, aggressive, glossy groove that, vocally, Michael ate alive.

It was intriguing  to hear things to which the world wouldn’t be privy—like Michael’s voice cracking during the Stevie Wonder song, “I can’t help it,” as he struggled to move into an even higher falsetto register than he was already in during his ad-libs at the end of the song. Who knew Mike was anything but perfect?

When Off The Wall was released in August of 1979, Bobby and I might have been as excited as Michael. All the insight we’d gleaned into its production  made its success feel personal.   It was an immediate smash, ultimately selling some   six million copies. (Since its release the album has sold some 20 million copies globally.)

Despite its triumph,  that the album only won a Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for its first single, “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” so upset Michael  that after the ceremony, Quincy said Michael was limoed home, where he  “cried himself to sleep.”

Reportedly, Michael told CBS Records CEO Walter Yetnikoff that he felt Off The Wall should have won Record Of The Year. Meanwhile, Yetnikoff  was said to have told label execs that while Off The Wall’s sales were a welcome windfall, Michael’s insistence that his follow-up album would be even bigger was but an artist’s fantasy.

Of course, we all know how that worked out.

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Coming soon: Steven Ivory’s Tuberose Press e-book, “Everything I Need To Know I Learned From Michael Jackson.” Ivory, veteran journalist, essayist and author, writes about popular culture for magazines, newspapers, radio, TV and the Internet. Respond to him via STEVRIVORY@AOL.COM

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Also read: Today In Michael Jackson History – May 16: Motown 25 Airs Michael’s Coronation On TV – By Steve Ivory

http://vallieegirl67.com/2014/05/16/today-in-michael-jackson-history-may-16-motown-25-airs-michaels-coronation-on-tv/

Musical Montage: Michael Jackson’s “Bad”

Sources: Everything Action | All Things Michael

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Coming off the seventh album by Michael Jackson of the same name, Bad was another smash hit for MJ, staying at number one on the Billboard charts and becoming his seventh number one single.  It was supposed to be a transition for MJ to a more “gritty” look and sound, as the song is about a kid who came from the streets but then goes to private school and, when he comes back to the old neighborhood, he gets hassled and has to prove he’s still “Bad”.  Martin Scorsese was called in to direct the music video for Bad, which is an homage to West Side Story, with it’s rival gangs dance-fighting.  An unknown Wesley Snipes is the leader of the rival gang.  In typical MJ fashion, the music video is a 16 minute epic and you can watch it below.

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Michael Jackson’s 12 Best Moments On Stage [Video]

Sources: Vibe Vixen | All Things Michael

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It seems every time we celebrate Michael Jackson’s birthday, a wave of nostalgia for his music takes over. It’s common knowledge that the late icon laid the blueprint for performing with his countless live performances. Although he unexpectedly died in 2009, we still have a rich catalog of his work to enjoy.

Watch 12 of his best moments on stage.

Jackson Five Medley- Motown 25 Medley

“Billie Jean” on Motown 25 Special

“Man In The Mirror/The Way You Make Me Feel” at 1988 Grammy Awards

1993 Superbowl Halftime Show

“Smooth Criminal” at Wembley Stadium (1988)

Jackson Five Reunion at 2001 MSG Concert

“I Want You Back” on The Ed Sullivan Show

“Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’”- 1997 Munich Concert

Medley at 1995 VMA’s

“Dangerous”-1993 American Music Awards

“Remember The Time”- 1993 Soul Train Awards

“Billie Jean” on the 1987 “Bad Tour”

 

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