Thursday, August 04, 2005

CD Review: The Essential Michael Jackson (2005)

Being a hardcore MJ fan, I have lapped up every new release that Sony has churned out for the past few years. First, there was HIStory - Past, Present and Future Book I (1995), a double album , of which the first disc was a greatest hits collection. Then, Sony released the first disc as a standalone disc, Greatest Hits HIStory Volume I (2001).

In 2003, they released Number Ones, a collection of all of MJ's number one hits, which wasn't factually correct since not all of the tracks hit number one. In 2004, they released the 4 CD and 1 DVD box set, Michael Jackson: The Ultimate Collection. It contained never-before-released B-sides as well as all of his greatest hits.

As you can see, there have been many greatest hits collections released over the past 10 years. And in that period, MJ has only recorded two full albums of new material (HIStory and Invincible), not counting Blood On The Dance Floor: HIStory In The Mix.

The reason is because MJ has terminated his contract with Sony, and like every good recording company, they want to squeeze every dollar of profit out of the artiste by re-releasing his old material. And only die-hard fans like me lap them up.

However, so much so for the backstory, The Essential Michael Jackson is still a very good listen. Number Ones was a little thin--how can you contain all of MJ's best songs on one disc? It doesn't do him justice. Never mind that some of the tracks here are the edited radio versions, you still get a very good feel of MJ's brilliance.

The songs are in chronological order (almost, save for one track) and they say the songs suffer from the law of diminishing returns. I would say that it is not very true, since there are only 4 cuts from HIStory and Invincible combined.

Almost all of MJ's hit singles are here. The tracks that are noticeably missing are I'll Be There, Jam and Scream. Scream remains one of my all-time favourite MJ single, partly because it features Janet as well. So too bad it isn't here.

The rest of the tracks are pretty standard. You have the usual Billie Jean, Beat It, Thriller, I Want You Back, ABC, Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough, Rock With You. These are superb tracks of course, and these tracks are almost better than the total output of Justin, Britney, Christina, 50 Cent, (insert name of current hot pop starlet here) combined.

My fave here is Man In The Mirror. You can feel his soul shining through the song. It's a big ballad, and really, no one else can evoke the same emotion that MJ does.

Listening through the album, you can hear the depth and range of MJ's voice and music. He wrote and composed many of the biggest hits such as the aforementioned Billie Jean, Beat It, Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough, Smooth Criminal, Black Or White, Heal The World, Will You Be There and Earth Song.

His voice quality and tone for every song is different. Just listen to his near falsetto in Don't Stop, biting vocals in Beat It, seductive soul in Billie Jean for proof.

I know you're probably bored of me repeating for the upteenth time now, but MJ really is the King of Pop. Do yourself a favour and get the CD and listen for yourself. It doesn't get any more essential than this.


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