Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Singles #8: Michael Jackson - Jam (1992)

Jam is the first track of the Dangerous album, and it literally opens the album with a bang, or rather, a shatter of glass. Having worked with uber producer Quincy Jones for his previous three solo albums, MJ decided to stop the partnership and enlist the help of New Jack Swing inventor Teddy Riley as well as Bill Botrell (who would go on to produce Sheryl Crow's debut album. Coincidentally, Sheryl Crow sang backup for MJ during his Bad tour).

The tough street sound of Jam marks a musical departure for MJ. Where Off The Wall was a disco record and Thriller essentially being an R&B record, Bad suggested a hint of the pop sound that was to come, fully realised here in Dangerous.

Jam sees MJ rapping in a straight, tuneless and rhythmless manner, and he is accompanied by Heavy D on the rap portion. The trumpet sounds are a nice touch and add a sense of urgency to the song.

Jam failed to crack the Top Ten of the Hot 100 and only managed #26. The video is one of the coolest MJ videos ever as it features two of my idols, 2 MJs in fact: Michael Jackson and Michael Jordan. Here were two African American artistes at the top of their game (though one is visibly lighter than the other) and it was fascinating seeing them together goofing around.

In the vid, MJ tries to teach Jordan how to dance while Jordan tries to teach MJ how to shoot hoops. Jordan is very sporting here and gamely tries to emulate MJ's dance moves. Here, you can also see MJ giving a demonstration of his famous moves, including the moonwalk and his iconic poses.

Jam is a great opener for the Dangerous album and it signalled the arrival of a new MJ sound. You should know by now that I love the whole Dangerous project, and there are many more reasons to come.

This single below is the US version, containing 4 remixes of Jam and one remix of Rock With You.

This version below contains a remix of Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' instead.

This Maxi-Single #2 version contains six remixes of Jam.

This cardboard sleeve version has only 2 tracks, the other being Moby's Sub Mix of Beat It. Yes, this is the Moby before he hit it big with the Play album in 1999. I must admit that his remix of Beat It is quite good, especially since I've never been a big fan of remixes.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Singles #7: Michael Jackson - In The Closet (1991)

In The Closet is the third single off the Dangerous album, and having already worked with Macaulay Culkin, Eddie Murphy, Iman and Magic Johnson for the previous two videos, who's MJ gonna call for this one?

Well, MJ decided to go for a different look for this video and enlisted the help of famed black-and-white photographer Herb Ritts for this one. They decided that the video should show a side of MJ seldom seen, and that this will decidedly be a sexy video.

So in comes Naomi Campbell, who seduces and slithers her way around MJ throughout the video, making the desert hotter than it already is. MJ also tries to keep up the sex quotient with a sleek, tied-up ponytail hairstyle. He also toned up in the gym specially for this shoot, appearing in a tight-fitting singlet.

The video is memorable and beautifully shot, though I must say MJ looks a little uncomfortable at times. The dance moves are seemingly improvised and performed by MJ alone with no backup dancers. I kinda like this video cos it's quite different from the others. It also fits the sexually-charged nature of the song.

The song reached #1 on the R&B charts and #6 on the Hot 100, making it the third Top Ten hit of the Dangerous project. In case you're wondering who the Mystery Girl duetting with MJ in the song is, she is Princess Stephanie of Monaco. Not that I know who she is anyway. But she does a credible job here.

For this single, there were Mixes Behind Door #1, #2 and #3. The purple one pictured below here is the Japanese version for #3, with obi strip and standard jewel case.

This one below is Mixes Behind Door #1, and it contains 5 remixes of the song.

This Maxi-Single version is neither #1, #2 nor #3. And it contains one remix of Remember The Time as well.

This one below is the vinyl version of #2, and it contains 4 remixes of In The Closet.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Singles #6: Michael Jackson - Remember The Time (1991)

After the success of Black Or White, Michael Jackson followed up with the release of Remember The Time. Once again, the music video featured high production values, this time set in ancient Egypt. A host of celebrities appeared in the video, including Eddie Murphy, Iman and Magic Johnson.

Despite the groundbreaking visuals employed again, the video is most memorable for its dance routine. I like the video version of the breakdown scene, which features a remix of the music as MJ raps at the last part. Too bad that version is not released on any of the singles here.

The song itself was a hit and peaked at #3 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the R&B charts. At the 1993 Soul Train Music Awards show, MJ was due to perform this song live but he sprained his ankle apparently. In the end, he still lip-synched to the song, seated on a gold plated wheelchair while dancers swirled around him. He did stand up a few times during the performance and he seemed ok though...

Below is the standard US CD version of the single, and it contains 5 remixes of Remember The Time and 4 remixes of Black Or White.

Here's another version in a slimline jewelcase, with 4 tracks, one of them the then-unreleased Come Together.

The CD below is the Japanese version once again and it's much smaller than the standard CD version. On this version, you can see that MJ dedicated the song specially to Diana Ross, as can also be seen in the slimline jewelcase version above.

This is the vinyl record of the single and it's in really good condition. The tracklisting is different and contains a few more mixes of the song.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Singles #5: Michael Jackson - Another Part Of Me (1988)

Released in 1988, Another Part Of Me was the 6th single taken off the Bad album, charting at #11 and breaking a streak of 5 consecutive #1 singles from the album. The record of having five #1 singles from a single, non-greatest hits album, still stands today.

Written and composed by Michael Jackson, Another Part Of Me was included in the 17-minute, 3D short film starring Jackson himself in the lead role. The film was directed by Francis Ford Coppola and produced by George Lucas, and was shown in various Disney theme parks from 1986 to 1998.

This song was then included in the Bad album at the expense of Streetwalker, which was later released in the 2001 Special Edition. Personally, I feel that both Another Part Of Me and Streetwalker are equally strong and they both deserve to a place on the album. Furthermore, the album clocks at under 50 minutes and could have accomodated Streetwalker as well.

The single above is a Japanese pressing and it is smaller than the normal-sized CD. It measures about 3.4 inches in diameter and comes in a special casing as well. Certainly very rare now.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Singles #4: Michael Jackson - Black Or White (1991) [UPDATED]

I have five versions of the Black Or White single. The first one below is the Japanese pressing, complete with the obi strip. It is housed in a standard CD jewel case and contains remixes.

This one below is the cardboard digipack version, 3-fold. It contains an instrumental version of the song as well.

The third version below is housed in a slim case and it contains five remixes as well.

Needless to say, all these singles are out of print already as they're 15 years old. Quite hard to imagine that it's been 15 years since Black Or White was released! Still remember that the morphing technique used for the video was groundbreaking at that time, but it's so common now.

I'll be featuring much more of MJ's singles in the weeks to come, so brace yourself!

I managed to find a very rare Japanese 3-inch CD version of the single during my Tokyo trip in 2015. It contains just two tracks, the other being the Instrumental version.

Recently, in July 2016, I managed to unearth a limited edition pressing, 12-inch vinyl version of the single as well. It contains six tracks altogether. Very happy with this find.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Collectibles #12: Robbie Williams Rudebox (2006)

This is Robbie's seventh studio album, following his tepid Intensive Care album released just last year. As a testament to Robbie's immense popularity in the UK, all seven albums have hit #1 on the UK albums charts.

This album promises to be a departure from his previous efforts, as lead single Rudebox exemplifies. Robbie charts into electronica territory with a tune that is rather tuneless. While it has divided critics and fans alike, not all is lost as other tracks such as Lovelight (second single) and Viva Life On Mars bring back some of the more familiar Robbie feel.

Included in this Special Edition is a bonus DVD featuring the documentary "We Are Not Alone" and a performance of Rudebox at Roundway Park, Leeds, earlier this year.

Collectibles #11: Scissor Sisters Ta-Dah (2006)

This is the second album from the US rockers, who first came onto the scene with their successful self-titled debut album in 2004, which became the best-selling album in the UK that year.

Since then, they have followed up with an even bigger success, Ta-Dah, which hit the #1 spot as well. They accomplished a double when lead single I Don't Feel Like Dancin' spent four weeks at the summit of the UK Singles chart too.

The track was co-written by Elton John and he played piano on the track too. The track features the falsetto vocals of lead singer Jake Shears, reminiscent of The Bee Gees sound. The uptempo and uplifting tune characterises the Scissor Sisters attitude, that is, not to take life too seriously and just have fun.

This Collector's Edition Double CD Set is pretty neat. It comes in a cardboard case where the art cover is that of a lift lobby. Pull out the tab on the right side and the image reveals the CD booklet hidden behind. The two CDs also slide out on the left and right sides of the box. Also included is a small souvenir poster, which is too small to do any good. The bonus CD contains six tracks, one of which is the Paper Faces Remix of I Don't Feel Like Dancin'.