Jermaine Jackson - Playlist: The Very Best of Jermaine Jackson

Jermaine Jackson
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A 14-track collection spanning 1972 to 1991, Sony/Legacy's new Playlist: The Very Best of Jermaine Jackson takes on the daunting task of assimilating a well-tempered discographical overview of the most prolific solo performer of the Jackson dynasty. While Michael and Janet were enjoying mega-stardom by way of multiple smashes from relatively few albums, big brother Jermaine was churning out full-length LP's by the dozen—most of the time, remaining on the periphery of the soaring chart heights that his siblings consistently enjoyed. The difference in sales figures is somewhat telling of how uneven the commercial side of pop and R&B can be. True, MJ was a master of both stage and song and Janet a compelling entertainer with engaging material.

A 14-track collection spanning 1972 to 1991, Sony/Legacy's new Playlist: The Very Best of Jermaine Jackson takes on the daunting task of assimilating a well-tempered discographical overview of the most prolific solo performer of the Jackson dynasty. While Michael and Janet were enjoying mega-stardom by way of multiple smashes from relatively few albums, big brother Jermaine was churning out full-length LP's by the dozen—most of the time, remaining on the periphery of the soaring chart heights that his siblings consistently enjoyed. The difference in sales figures is somewhat telling of how uneven the commercial side of pop and R&B can be. True, MJ was a master of both stage and song and Janet a compelling entertainer with engaging material. But in addition to boasting an earthy, soulful vocal approach and composing complex tunes embedded with an array of genre influences, Jermaine's work throughout the '70s and '80s also showcased his adeptness at playing multiple instruments and coming up with meritorious rhythm arrangements.

The strongpoint of Jermaine's Playlist is its clever sequencing of his biggest chart hits, beginning with his charming 1972 recording of the doo-wop-ish ballad "Daddy's Home" and traveling all the way to his early '90s foray into new jack swing, the LaFace-produced "You Said, You Said." There's a contagious, building energy that takes hold as the collection surveys memorable crossover successes like 1984's "Dynamite" and the sublime groover "Take Good Care of My Heart," a duet with a pre-fame Whitney Houston. The weakness of the CD is its failure to include more nuggets from Jermaine's string of albums for Motown. Standout singles from that period, such as the jazzy-funky "You Need to Be Loved" and the mellow "You Like Me Don't You" are notably absent. Slightly trendier selections like "Let Me Tickle Your Fancy" and "When the Rain Begins to Fall" are found in their place. It's not that these numbers are lacking in quality; they just don't possess quite as much depth as some of the material that was passed over in their favor.

Besides "Daddy's Home," however, there's a handful of highlights for fans of Jermaine's R&B work on Playlist. His biggest hit, the Stevie Wonder-helmed 1979 funker "Let's Get Serious," is included in its full eight-minute glory; the delicately delivered, emotively quivering ballad "Do What You Do" is here; and the atmospheric, number-one quiet-storm jam "Don't Take It Personal" displays his ability to apply just the right mixture of subtlety and straightforwardness to an intimate story line. Also particularly gratifying is the presence of the hidden gem, "Whatcha Doin'," a 1986 B-side monster which was inexplicably left off a recent expanded CD reissue of the Precious Moments album. The Robbie Buchanan-produced floor filler melds exciting instrumentation with smart sound effects that provide an irresistible R&B-pop backdrop for Jermaine's supple tenor tones.

Given the astonishing breadth of styles Jermaine has surveyed over the decades, it would be nearly impossible for any single-disc retrospective to fully capture all of the essential moments from his catalog. That said, the nonappearance of a few key cuts such as "Two Ships (in the Night)" and "Words into Action" is forgivable. Overall, Playlist is an enjoyable listen from start to finish which gives fans a thoughtful sampling of an all-too-often overlooked body of work. The missing pieces will hopefully inspire audiences to explore this multi-dimensional Jacksonian's recordings  on a deeper level. Recommended.

by Justin Kantor

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