Stephen Chapman

The second incarnation of my blog

Rolling Stone top 100 albums: #68 Michael Jackson – Off the Wall

Based on the top 100 albums in Rolling Stone magazine’s top 500, I have set myself the challenge of hearing and appraising each album. I hope to be surprised and educated along the way.

At number 68 is the 1979 release Off the Wall, the 5th album by Michael Jackson, although the first 4 were released as part of The Jackson 5 franchise and were controlled by the Motown bosses.

The album was produced by Quincy Jones and Jackson and was a mix of pop, rock, soul, R&B and disco and as such, was a long way from a formulaic Jackson’s album.

In the days when the best tracks were always stacked at the front of an album, we start with Don’t stop ’til you get enough a self penned song with disco and pop hooks all over the place and crisp production; it’s just too long.  Rock with you is classy American soul that was written by the British songwriter Rod Temperton. Who would have guessed that we had such soul in the UK!

Working day and night and Get on the floor are rhythmic dance floor fillers and if there was ever a formula for groove laden music, then these have the right mix.

The title track is just sooooo smooth and perfectly formed. Worthy of any soul top singer, this has the feel, groove, hooks and riffs, but let’s not forget the captivating melody.

Despite being written by the worlds greatest songwriter Paul McCartney, Girlfriend seems a bit light to follow on but is pleasant enough. The personal She’s out of my life is one of those deceptively simple arrangements, but it needed to be to maintain the emotion and to highlight the vocals.

The later albums such as Bad and Dangerous were too self indulgent and overworked, but Off the wall gets the balance right in many areas. You can forgive the odd filler such as I can’t help it and Burn this disco out as the overall production and performance quality is so high.

Without the pressure of later years, this album sounds like someone finding his niche and enjoying the process. It would have been received as a significant jump in Jackson’s career and what he could offer and just hinted at what was to come.

My rating: 7/10

Standout tracks:  Rock with you, Off the wall, Don’t stop ’til you get enough

Listen to the album here.

See the Top 100 here.

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This entry was posted on December 4, 2014 by in music and tagged , , .

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