MJ – BACK TO THE MUSIC

Michael Jackson: Don’t Let It Get You Down (Different Versions Snippets)
From Hello World: The Motown Solo Collection (Hip-O Select, 2009)

Over the last month there has certainly been no shortage of Michael Jackson coverage by the media, Soul-Sides included. With the megastar status he held, it’s hard to believe that at one time he was just a child singing songs with a fervor and understanding well beyond his pre-teen and pubescent years. So for a brief few moments, let’s forget the hoopla and concentrate on one of the elements that elevated him to another level – the music.

Hello World: The Motown Solo Collection gathers material from his Motown solo albums from 1972-1975 which have been out of print on CD for a number of years. Additionally, vaulted material that appeared on mid-80s LP compilations such as Looking Back To Yesterday and Farewell My Summer Love (both of which contained overdubs on many of the tracks) are included. Farewell My Summer Love has its accompanying original mixes also included. You can hear how the horns were substituted by an electric guitar in “Don’t Let It Get You Down” in the ’80s version. Many of the overdubs also substitute in those popular synths and drums from the mid-80s.

It’s quite fun to be able to listen to this material in a sitting to hear how his voice changes from spunky little kid to budding young man. While Motown certainly leaned a share of material toward the aw-shucks-kid vein (“With A Child’s Heart”), it also let him cover much more serious material such as Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine,” the Miracles’ “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me,” and Wilson’s “Lonely Teardrops.” Elsewhere, he also sang a spirited cover (at age 11, mind you) of Starr’s “Twenty-Five Miles” that was subsequently cut from Got To Be There. It’s no wonder he helped to usher in a sub-genre of kid soul.

Hip-O Select has done an excellent job with the remasters and really outdid themselves with the packaging. It’s a small hardcover book – not quite two CDs wide – with glossy color pages featuring pictures from the album photo shoots along with other tour and press photos. One picture that struck me in particular was a picture of Michael in what appears to be a room with art supplies and a desk. In the background is a drawing of Charlie Chaplin.

This 3-CD release was planned well before Michael’s untimely death, and it’s rather ironic that this picture made the cut given that his brother Jermaine sang “Smile,” penned by Chaplin, as a tribute during the celebration of life a couple of weeks ago. The only complaint about the release is that there is no protection for the CDs as they just tuck into the back cardboard of the packaging. Aside from that small gripe, the whole package is fantastic and well worth the price. Given its 7,000 limited edition run, it may not last long.

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