There’s an old obscure album called “The Soul of Michael Jackson,” that was an attempt to capitalize on his popularity by re-releasing old Jackson 5 and early solo songs after he left Motown & became a superstar with Off the Wall & Thriller under the Epic label. But, it was almost hard to imagine Michael Jackson as soulful later in his life, and his weirdness even threatened to destroy any chance of his music being “cool,” at all. As much as I loved some of his music, it was always hard for me to enjoy his music without something reminding me that he was… well, such a freak. On top of that, the popular songs were so popular, it’s hard for them to sound fresh. About a year ago, though, a friend of mine, Jason, told me about an obscure old Michael Jackson song that he found called “Maria,” that was sampled on a Ghostface Killah song.
I mean, at first, in the sample in the Ghostface song, I thought it was a woman singing, but even with a child singing it, “Maria” just sounds pimp as hell, especially when the beat really kicks in about halfway through, and then picks up pace at the end. It’s so fun, I don’t even mind when Michael naively tries that throaty sexy voice, “I need you honey, you’re my sweet sunflower…(actually the part that is sampled on the Ghostface song)”
So, I started researching, and that is when I found out there were three solo albums Michael Jackson had before Off the Wall while he still was with Motown(& in the Jackson 5). Does that mean, more Michael Jackson stuff, with Motown production, and probably even using the criminally under-appreciated “Funk Brothers” Motown backing band? I was in. So, as meticulous as I am, I went through all the solo albums, and even found some non-album singles, and tried to make the guilt free, Michael Jackson album.
EDIT: As my good friend Jason pointed out in the comments section, there were actually FOUR solo Michael Jackson albums with Motown before he put out Off The Wall & Thriller. I just can’t count that high, apparently.
As I went through later stuff, I decided that some just didn’t feel right with the old, either they were more pop than soul at that point, or it was after he gained control over his career and his eccentricies became public. In other words, it was hard to see him as soulful, and he just wasn’t as cool anymore. So, the album became a mix to, hopefully, remember Michael Jackson with soul, and nothing else.
I know that the early solo stuff is sometimes not considered “solo”, since his brothers were still a big part, and of course he was just a kid. But, then Quincy Jones was probably a big part of his best work anyway, it was his performance that made him great. And these were officially released as “Michael Jackson” songs. I didn’t include Jackson 5(or The Jacksons) songs because that would make it even more complicated(they could be their own mix themselves), and really, we all know it’s Michael that needs redeeming.
So, here is the first part of my mix, it comes out to two CDs that splits best when he changed labels. I always wanted to share it, and it bothered me when he died, that most of this work seems to be lost in obscurity. I apologize in advance for any volume differences between different songs, but I just can’t figure out anyway to fix that problem.
1. Michael Jackson – I Wanna Be Where You Are (mp3)
Start off with that classic Motown Jackson 5 pop-soul sound. If you don’t already recognize this one, after that hook about a minute in, you’ll be sold.
2. Michael Jackson – Got To Be There (mp3)
3. Michael Jackson – Maria(You Were The Only One) (mp3)
<- You already heard that one.
4. Michael Jackson – With a Child’s Heart (mp3)
A wussy Michael Jackson song that, probably because of “the Funk Brothers“, doesn’t sound weak & pitiful, just damn pretty.
5. Michael Jackson – We’ve Got a Good Thing Going (single) (mp3)
<- Motown backup rocks this song. And finally…
6. Michael Jackson – Up Again (mp3)
So, that’s a start, hope you give them a chance. I’ll try to get to some more up soon in part II. Probably some of the coolest and most fun tracks, as well as probably the most unknown.