Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Vinyl Vednesday 11/4

[Vinyl Vednesday is a weekly feature about three favorite vinyl finds. It’s not meant to be a dick-measuring contest, but it kinda is. This week’s installment is on Michael Jackson, the subject of the documentary This Is It. I won’t be seeing the film. It was never meant for public consumption, a quality that’s also kept me away from Kurt Cobain’s Journals and The Mountain Goats’ Hail and Farewell, Gothenburg. John Lennon demos and Emily Dickenson poems aside, I avoid that stuff. As of such, I think Jackson’s actual songs are a better way to celebrate his life than unfinished behind-the-scenes footage of an unfinished live show.

Oh yeah, e-mail with your own big finds!]

Records: Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall (1979) and Bad (1987) on black and Thriller (1982) on picture disc.

Place of Purchase: Off the Wall and Bad came from Siren Records in Doylestown post-Jackson’s death. Thriller was purchased at the Philadelphia Record Exchange pre-.

Quality: All three records, in one way or another, were purchased to fill in some gaps in my Jackson collection. I already owned Off the Wall on CD prior to this purchase, but I’m one of those chumps who likes to have the albums he loves on multiple formats. It’s perhaps a more comprehensive record than Thriller, in that it’s a really, really good R&B/disco album. The title track definitely feels like a precursor to “Thriller,” which is always a good thing, but my favorite song is the closer, “Burn This Disco Out.” If there’s a problem with Off the Wall, it’s that the back-half is a little too heavy on ballads. “Burn This Disco Out” rectifies that by being a perfect party jam, making it all the more tempting to flip the record back over to side 1 and play cuts like “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough” and “Workin’ Day and Night.”

Bad, meanwhile, was purchased because I thought I’d give it a whirl. The title track isn’t that great (and the video is even worse). But I’ve always been a fan of “Smooth Criminal,” which I own digitally but wanted to get a physical copy of. Plus, “Dirty Dianna” combines the predatory sexuality of “Billie Jean” and the metal shredding of “Beat It” into one awesome song. As it turns out, though, Bad deserves its reputation as the disappointing Thriller follow-up. The ballads got worse, the production is too of its time (namely, it’s too sparse, synthesized, and sterile), and all of those Jackson vocal quirks people laugh at start here (“Shamon,” “a-hee-hee-hee,” and so on and so forth). It’s hard to believe Quincy Jones handled this uneven release.

Ah, but Thriller, now there’s an album. Some critics have slagged it as more of a collection of singles than a cohesive album, which seems too easy/lazy to say since seven out of the record’s nine songs were released as freaking singles. If it had “Rockin’ Robin” and “Rock With You,” it could double as a greatest hits collection. Hell, if it consisted solely of “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” it would still count. That song just keeps getting better and better as it rolls along. Too bad the picture disc doesn’t play for shit. I love the Philadelphia Record Exchange’s low prices, but their used vinyl is always a gamble. Siren might charge more, but I’ve yet to have a problem with any of their used stuff. Oh well, at least it looks pretty. Look at that belt! Yes! Plus, I can just play my parents’ copy of Thriller.

Yeah, I wasn’t kidding about the multiple formats thing.

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