Category Archives: Jackson 5

Michael Jackson-The First Solo Career

Photo of JACKSON FIVE and Michael JACKSON

Michael Jackson shared one major thing in common with fellow Motowner Stevie Wonder: both of them had two distinct solo careers. Stevie’s was as a child prodigy musician who mostly played harmonica and bongos. And only singing a little bit. Of course his breakthrough was still on the Motown label. But on independent, fully adult terms. Michael had his first career in his early/mid teens on Motown as well. He differs from Stevie mainly in that his adult solo breakthrough came through the guidance of Quincy Jones and his crew of musicians. And it happened on the Epic label rather than Motown.

Michael’s solo career on Motown was linked very closely to the Jackson 5ive’s. His brothers often continued to sing backup for him during this time. And he continued to work with the writers and producers who made up The Corporation-the creative team who helped to create the Jacksons’ sound while they were on Motown. In addition to providing the teenage Michael with fresh new material,they also developed his strong vocal ability into that of an interpretive singer-even as his voice began to change. And it’s that first solo career (from 1972 to 1975) that I want to represent Michael Jackson with today.


“I Wanna Be Where You Are”/1972

This is probably my personal favorite of Michael’s solo hits from before his voice really changed. The rhythm guitar/harpsichord heavy uptempo funkiness has a strong J5 flavor still. But Leon Ware and T-Boy Ross’s songwriting has a lot of those jazzy chord changes,from major to minor,that Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson were using at the time. Michael handles the melodic complexity of the song with seeming ease and emotional power.

“Ain’t No Sunshine”/1972

With it’s fuzzed out guitar and slow shuffling beat,this Bill Withers cover comes instrumentally right out of the early P-Funk albums from Funkadelic in 1970-71. But it’s raw blusiness is slickened up far more than anything George Clinton was doing at this time. Always loved Michael’s spoken intro where he says “you ever want something that you know you shouldn’t have? The more you know shouldn’t have it,the more you want it”.

“People Make The World Go ‘Round”/1972

One thing that really makes this song stand out as an interpretation is how much different it is from the Stylistics original. Thom Bell’s slow tempo is raised up a notch,and the music is a more less orchestrated. Not only that but the lyrics are simplified,to the point of being totally altered,to make more sense that a 14 year old is singing it. It was a moment when someone else’s song was tailored more to Michael’s maturity level-rather than the more experienced and adult sociopolitical elan of the original.

“Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day”/1972

This Stevie Wonder interpretation is amazing. It sounds based more on the faster,more clavinet driven live versions Stevie performed in the late 60’s than the studio original. Also Michael begins utilizing more of the vocal hiccups and ad libs from his Epic era solo career here. What shocked me is to hear the chorus at the very beginning sung in Michael’s fully changed adult voice,but the rest in his higher childhood one. Almost as if vocal parts were recorded at totally different times.

“All The Things You Are”/1973

Michael Jackson became fascinated with the Philly soul sound of Gamble & Huff during his mid teens. And this interpretation of the Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern showtune really showcases the orchestral proto disco funkiness spirit of the city of brotherly love. Michael utilizes his changing voice beautifully here-singing the more dramatic parts in his childhood voice and the more nuanced ones in his mature voice.

“Euphoria”/1973

Leon Ware provided this jazzy,cinematic mid tempo Clavinet/string orchestration based funky soul to Michael Jackson at a time when he was right on the cusp of finding his identity as a solo performer for Motown. He’s spelling the words out of the song title in the manner a parent might  do for a child. Yet the choruses make it clear Michael is really beginning to understand the meaning of the word euphoria.

“We’re Almost There”/1975

Michael’s voice had fully matured by the time his final Motown album Forever,Michael dropped in early 1975. This amazingly cinematic groove from Brian and Eddie Holland-with it’s funky wah wah and high stepping Afro Brazilian dance rhythm really allowed Michael’s voice to soar to the romantically hopeful revelry of the lyrics.

“Dapper Dan”/1975

This album track from the Forever,Michael is the one song from that album that you won’t find on any of the many Motown era solo Michael Jackson best of compilations out there. But it is by far the funkiest song on the album. Written primarily by Hal Davis,it channels the sort of New Orleans stomp that an Allen Toussaint might cook up for Dr.John at that time. And showcases Michael getting down hard with some super heavy funk.


Michael Jackson has been dead for seven years as if this writing. I was motivated to explore this side of Michael’s artistry because it showcased his personal interests guiding those people still guiding Michael. And his first four solo albums recorded on Motown helped prepare him to develop his focus in terms of the kinds of writers,producers and musicians he’d work with as a grown adult. His second solo career is well illustrated in the Guinness Book Of World Records. But his solo trajectory really took off while still on Motown.

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Filed under 1970's, cinematic funk, Funk, Jackson 5, Michael Jackson, Motown, Motown Sound, Philly Soul, Stevie Wonder, The Corporation

Andre’s Amazon Archive for 5/9/2015: ‘Midnight Believer’ by B.B. King

B_B_Kingidnight_Believer-Frontal

B.B. King’s career arc was on the same timeline as the Jazz Crusaders basically-only coming from different trajectory’s. King was developing in within the electric blues tradition while Joe Sample,Wayne Henderson,Wilton Felder and Stix Hooper were developing a rather more potent hybrid. Yet both were heavily indebted musically to their strong Southern flavors. And with King’s 70’s era recording output being a bit uneven in some people’s eyes? It seemed more than a little serendipitous that the Crusaders,by the late 70’s a trio and King would eventually recorded together. Much as Sample had helped do with the Jackson 5 on their latter days at Motown? Well now he,Wilton and Stix would be helping out a musical icon. Somehow,everything just rolled right along. And here’s the result.

“When It All Comes Down” is an electric blues shuffle basically,of course with that Crusaders sense of precision rawness-full of electric piano and a locked down rhythm. The title track is one of my favorites on the album-totally in the late 70’s Crusaders style slow crawling,electric piano/sax oriented funk vein with Lucille moaning out BB’s classic blues. “I Just Can’t Leave Your Love Alone” is a fascinating number-a very high stepping country-funk type sound (as some might view it,anyway) that also has a swinging,jazz ragtime sort of arrangement about it. In a way that all may be full circle anyway,but its a strong and exciting number. “Hold On (I Feel Our Love Changing)” has some swirling electric piano/keyboard riffing about it that has a soulfully funky elegance about its medium tempo balladry.

“Never Make Your Move Too Soon”,which I’ve only heard by the Captain & Tennille is presented here as a high stepping,funky blues stomp while “A World Full Of Strangers” and the amazing closer “Let Me Make You Cry A Little Longer” deal with serious,down in the groove funk stomps-with Felder’s bass interactions really coming into play on the latter. Overall BB King and the Crusaders’ late 70’s jazz/funk sound go together like a hand and glove on this album. It almost sounds to me as if this was the way BB King should’ve more or less evolved musically from the very start of the 70’s. One could only imagine if BB had the Crusaders playing with him from their “Put It Where You Want It” days of the earlier 70’s. But taken as it was,this reinvented the framework for King’s already renowned vocal/guitar technique-which in and of itself,of course,needed absolutely no tweaking. In the end,this was the beginning of what turned into two highly successful albums for BB King and members of the Crusaders.

Originally Posted On September 17th,2014

Link to original review here*

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Filed under 1970's, B.B. King, Blues, blues funk, Captain & Tennille, Crusaders, Funk, Jackson 5, Jazz-Funk, Joe Sample, Stix Hooper, Wilton Felder