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Most definitely on the wall (but falls off the wall half way through)!
Off The Wall - Michael Jackson
Member Name: DanielKemp
Off The Wall - Michael Jackson
Date: 06/06/09, updated on 07/06/09 (97 review reads)
Advantages: Side A of Off the Wall is incredible, truly one of the best things recorded
Disadvantages: 40% of side B is an insipid mess which makes me want to weep
Michael Jackson - Off the Wall (1979)
Producer: Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson
Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough
Rock with You
Working Day and Night
Get on the Floor
Off the Wall
She's Out of my Life
I Can't Help It
It's the Falling in Love
Burn This Disco Out
Off the Wall is the fifth studio album by Michael Jackson, but is largely considered to be his first solo album of any worth, as he had left The Jacksons at this point and was going to become very much his own man. While the majority of Michael's work for Motown had had its feet fixed within the genres of soul and r 'n' b, Off the Wall was decidedly more funky and is one of the best examples of disco pop from the 1970's.
Quincy Jones produces the album alongside Michael and his large body of previous work experience undeniably makes him the perfect choice. Michael had met Jones on the set of The Wiz (in which Michael had played The Scarecrow character) and after talking, Jones soon agreed to produce his next album, Off the Wall.
During the end of Michael's time in The Jacksons he had started writing songs for the band, most notably Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground). This is something which he was obviously becoming a good craftsman at as he writes three of the songs on Off the Wall and they just so happen to be three of the best songs here.
Don't Stop 'til you Get Enough is sheer disco perfection. Michael's higher vocal range truly glows and the smartly crafted guitar and bass playing is what underpins this classic. This bold statement is the best moment on the album and it is undoubtedly the point in time where Michael Jackson gave his solo career a jumpstart with style.
Rock with You is the best song to not be written by Michael on Off the Wall. A love song of sorts, Michael is in ballad mode and the subtle string arrangements help make the chorus a moving one. Michael declares, "I want to rock with you all night!" It is only a marginally slighter experience than Don't Stop, but is no less worthy of your praise.
Get on the Floor is probably the second greatest moment on the opening side of the LP. A blistering good slap bass rhythm sets the tempo, while the descending horn sections at the end of each performance of the chorus are absolute genius. In my opinion it is Michael's best vocal performance on the album.
The declaration of rallying against the norm is heavily felt on the title-track. It doesn't sound a million miles away from the world of Rock with You, but possesses a considerably more insistent groove. Michael declares, "Life ain't so bad at all if you live it off the wall!" And for a moment there I almost believed him.
But now what happens to Off the Wall is bitterly disappointing and causes me to despair. Starting from the rendition of Paul McCartney's Girlfriend all the way through to the penultimate track, Off the Wall becomes overwrought with fatigue, starts sounding tired and becomes overly-dependant on damp ballads. My biggest complaint isn't with this sudden change in direction, but more with the fact that these ballads all seem uninspired and lack any sort of class.
She's Out of My Life is one of the worst things I've ever heard in my life. Flooded by an 'emotive' string section, it is the kind of sugary piece which the winner of The X-Factor gets to perform, but it makes it so much worse that someone as tasteful as Michael Jackson is singing it. Technically, Michael sounds absolutely on fire, but it just isn't what I want to hear from Off the Wall.
The Stevie Wonder written I Can't Help It sounds as great as a Stevie Wonder song should, but loses points simply because Michael doesn't add anything remotely unique to the performance; he sounds EXACTLY like Stevie Wonder! The chorus is excellent though and the gentle horns in the background ultimately make it a worthwhile listen.
Michael gets his groove back with the closing Burn This Disco Out. It certainly matches anything from the first side of the LP and the multi-layered vocals in the chorus sound amazing. After such a return to form I find it difficult to comprehend why exactly Michael insisted on making 40% of the album so awful? He obviously had the talents to carry the funk all the way through, so why didn't he?!
Off the Wall's greatest problem is its chronic inconsistency. It produces unquestionably one of the greatest side A's in the history of popular music and then insists on ruining all it has achieved, because what follows takes a nosedive in terms of both quality and musical direction. I have nothing against ballads, in fact I love them, but here they just seem so saccharine and insincere that it makes me want to write a short lamentation declaring how life is unfair, and how side B of Off the Wall made me want to kill myself.
You may discover upon listening that my criticisms are unworthy of attention, but what I have written above is in all honesty my true take of Off the Wall. Thankfully what saves it from drifting off into obscurity is the outstanding and flawless first side, which is truly one of the greatest pieces of music ever recorded.
Read more of my reviews at www.danielkempreviews.co.uk
Summary: Thankfully, worth purchasing for side A alone!