Talking movies, music and other close encounters of the social media kind.
Wow. He was only 21 when he made this?
After watching the Spike Lee Documentary about Michael Jackson ‘Journey From Motown to Off The Wall’ I thought I’d go back in time and listen to this great album which was released in 1979.
I must admit, I enjoyed Off The Wall more than his 1983 Mega-Gigantic Mega Platinum Thriller. It was the album that was the pre-glimpse of greatness before Thriller game-changed pop music.
It put Michael Jackson from young kid of the Jackson 5 to a world-wide phenomenon.
It also was before the skin condition. The hair catching fire on a Pepsi ad shoot. The Wacko Jacko weirdness. The snakes. The crotch hold, point and spin move. The court disputes. The controversy. The untimely death at age 50.
Looking at that famous album cover now – of a very young Michael suited up in a black tuxedo standing in front of that brick wall – there’s a young energy, and a vitality that just wants to burst out in song and moonwalk. It shows on this album, and it’s a joy to listen to.
It’s was one of the first ‘cassette tape(s)’ I saw, when my sister Kelly bought it for her tape recorder. She might of got it for her birthday, I don’t know.
Oh, and for all my nephews and niece millenials – a cassette tape and tape recorder look like this and was used to play music back in the 70s and 80s:
Listening to Off The Wall today… its’ a stunning album. Soul, R&B, Disco all come together in a way that feels like its not trying too hard (like Bruno Mars). It’s effortless yet there’s an absolute mastery to it all.
It’s like Michael’s singing on the album with a big smile on his face. Set free from his brothers, his abusive father and confident to take the world on his own. The album is so groovy to listen to and just pure fun. As for the production it all sounds so cool and slick. When I started playing the album while driving in the car one night those old tracks just got me smiling. Try it sometime. Blast ‘Rock With You’ ‘Off The Wall’ and ‘Can’t Stop Til You Enough’ while driving down the freeway. The groove is infectious. Example: I drove through the Terrace Tunnel one night playing ‘Off The Wall’ (which is my favourite track of the album) windows down and at full volume. When I stopped at the lights the other driver next to me was also smiling and nodding his head (as was his girlfriend) to the beat and beeped as he went past..
Like I said. Infectious.
I definitely don’t get that reaction when I play the new album by Metallica.
Even the lyrics to ‘Off The Wall’ are uplifting (The late great music producer Rod Temperton wrote the lyrics to that track as well as Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough and Rock With You as well as Thriller and some other classics like this one).
Off The Wall Producer Quincy Jones (who would also produce Thriller and Bad), wanted to get away from the straight disco fare and put an added sophistication to the mix. This album he expanded it more and added more horns, strings and orchestral arrangements. But it’s all underlined with a heavy funk bassline.
I dig the drums on that album. On every track the rhythm section is on fire. Take the drum pattern on “Rock with You”, it sounds like a simple beat but it’s very sophisticated groove pattern and oh, so smooth.
Just ask this drummer Yigo Diaz. He’s totally in the pocket – he even starts to sing.
So if you’re in Wellington and hear someone blasting ‘Rock With You’ ‘Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough’ or ‘Off The Wall’ – it might be me driving along the street, re-visiting this Michael Jackson album which was surprisingly good to listen after all these years.
And if you haven’t seen it watch Spike Lee’s ‘Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to Off the Wall’. It’s a great doco.
Now, where’s that new Metallica album…