Michael Jackson - Bad - Deluxe 25th Anniversary

Michael Jackson
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 1987 had to be a daunting year for Michael Jackson: the good news was that one-man-musical machine was the hottest entertainer on the planet, reaping the rewards of an artistic gamble he had made eight years earlier when he hand-picked the iconic Quincy Jones to collaborate with him on his first post-Motown solo projects, Off The Wall and the follow-up, Thriller. It was one thing for 1979’s Off The Wall to become the first solo album to produce four Top Ten singles and eventually sell  20 million copies worldwide, but to watch 1982’s Thriller rack up seven Top Ten singles, hover at Number One for 37 straight weeks  on Billboard’s Top 200 chart and eventually eclipse any other release as the best-selling album of all time (present tallies are 110 million worldwide) was probably as exhilarating as it was anxiety-producing.

 1987 had to be a daunting year for Michael Jackson: the good news was that one-man-musical machine was the hottest entertainer on the planet, reaping the rewards of an artistic gamble he had made eight years earlier when he hand-picked the iconic Quincy Jones to collaborate with him on his first post-Motown solo projects, Off The Wall and the follow-up, Thriller. It was one thing for 1979’s Off The Wall to become the first solo album to produce four Top Ten singles and eventually sell  20 million copies worldwide, but to watch 1982’s Thriller rack up seven Top Ten singles, hover at Number One for 37 straight weeks  on Billboard’s Top 200 chart and eventually eclipse any other release as the best-selling album of all time (present tallies are 110 million worldwide) was probably as exhilarating as it was anxiety-producing.

Finally, his third Epic/Sony project, Bad, hit store shelves and, although it wasn’t the runaway phenomenon that its predecessor had been, it was still a force to be reckoned with, earning five Number One singles on the Hot 100 Chart and selling 45 million units worldwide. The fact that Bad reinforced the entertainer’s reign as King of the 80s and kicked off his first-ever world-wide solo tour is what’s celebrated in the new deluxe 25th anniversary re-release set.

Those who purchased 2007’s 25th anniversary edition of Thriller and were disappointed with the bare-minimum extras that were offered (delightful packaging and mini-booklet, the gorgeously understated ballad “For All Time” and unfortunately, remixes that were scarier than the zombies on its front cover) won’t feel that way about Bad’s upgrade: first off, the fully-remastered original eleven tracks are now devoid of the brassiness and over-abundance of treble, giving more lavish dimensions to “Man In The Mirror,”  “Just Good Friends” and “The Way You Make Me Feel.” The CD of bonus material, songs that were crafted around the same timeframe but never made the final cut, actually offers some worthwhile listening: “Free” is a finger-snapping, whimsical mid-tempo that hearkens to Off The Wall’s “I Can’t Help It,” thanks to its irresistable chorus (“Free, free like the wind though, to fly just like the sparrow/ the feel of letting my hair blow, to take my time wherever I go”) and a delivery so  euphoric that MJ actually cracks up during the fade-out. “Fly Away,” has a jazzier percussive approach, a lush melody and intriguing alternation of his tenor and falsetto ranges, and “I’m So Blue” must’ve been recorded after studying The Book Of Stevie (maybe this was an early collaboration that was switched out for the harder grooving “Friends” instead). Of the more fast-paced material, the remixes of “Bad” and “Speed Demon” fall between interesting and incidental, “Price of Fame” (a sinister Billie-Jean-turned-stalker tale) could’ve taken the place of Bad’s weaker tracks and a couple of them  are so hit and miss that they should’ve  remained in the vault (“Don’t Be Messin’ Around” and “Song Groove, AKA Abortion Papers”) . “Al Capone” (the early incarnation of “Smooth Criminal”) and “Streetwalker” are fun, but Michael’s choice in avoiding numbers that could’ve been interpreted as tributes to bootleggers and prostitutes was ultimately more wise.

Aside from the music, the collection’s best asset is the homage it pays to Michael Jackson’s first-ever solo tour: there’s a lavishly-photographed and detailed booklet (which contains the tour dates, photos from his performances and a scaled-down reproduction of its tour program), a poster and, best of all, a DVD capturing the London launch of his sold-out stint in London’s Wembley Stadium. Yes, the visual quality is that of a brand new VHS tape (that’s what he used to the performance and review to tighten up his technique), but it’s still well-shot and demonstrates his virtuosity as a vocalist, dancer and all-encompassing, untouchable entertainer.

In the three years since the world bid a reluctant farewell to the King Of Pop, what was once a never-ending preoccupation with the more peculiar aspects of his personal life has all but receded into the background, allowing what fans love and cherish the most---his gentleness, generosity, and gift of music--- to finally remain at center stage. Bad may have been just one of the albums in his enviable catalog, but it’s the one that established Michael Jackson as a creative force in his own right and proved it on a global platform, making this re-packaging a crucial addition for his devoted fans. Enthusiastically Recommended. 

By Melody Charles

 
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