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Jacko's wonder wall; Music.


The teenage Michael Jackson had no doubt about his destiny when he wrote in his mid-70s personal journal: "I will be magic... I will study and look back on the whole world of entertainment and perfect it."

Jackson's belief in his allconquering wizardry bore sumptuous fruit when he released his astonishing coming of age album Off The Wall in August 1979 as he was about to turn 21.

Reissued this week with a brand new Spike Lee-directed documentary - Michael Jackson's Journey From Motown to Off The Wall - this album is Jacko at his most enjoyable and exhilarating.

Thriller sold more, brought him hard rock cred and added technological bravado - but Off The Wall is the album where Michael Jackson, the world-changing, ever influential superstar, was born.

It had been four years since Forever, his final album for Motown, a lacklustre flop.

The time to deliver had come.

Free from the label that made him a teenybop idol, Michael was able to study Philly soul supremos Gamble and Huff at close quarters - just as he'd watched James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson live and in the studio.

Like soul music's very own Sorcerer's Apprentice, little Mike dared to dream even bigger - inspired as much by the Hollywood glitz of Fred Astaire as James Brown's down-home grooves and footwork.

In 1974, 16-year-old Jackson watched David Bowie undergo one of his customary career transformations in the Diamond Dogs live show and quizzed him intently afterwards.

The lesson in artistic rebirth was not wasted and four years later Michael struck a mystical chord with this album's ecstatic and eruptive opener, self-penned signature tune Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough.

The "touch me and I feel on fire" lyric offers a tantalising connection to the audience with the music strengthened and made real in the ricocheting beats, funk-filled horns, synthesised dazzle and multitracked vocal interplay that follows.

The team that helped Michael and producer Quincy Jones realise his total artistry spanned epochs, genres and continents - including Latin rhythm king Paulinho da Costa, Crusaders jazz ace Larry Carlton and legendary Chicago Soul r&b guitar session man Phil Upchurch.

Jackson had producer Quincy Jones to thank for introducing him to Rod Temperton, the former fish factory worker from Cleethorpes who found fame with British funk supremos Heatwave. Temperton's tunes for the album - the title track, Rock With You and Burn This Disco Out - allowed Jackson's charismatic power full rein.

Even so, this new reissue is a sad reflection on how Jackson's legacy has been interviews and demos contained on Off The Wall's 2001 Special Edition are absent and Lee's accompanying documentary will only be seen on TV.

Pride of place in the package is given to a piece of chalk, so buyers can write on the wall.


In due course another side to Michael would emerge - the paranoid manipulative star, too wrapped up in the madness of fame to further his art, altering his face and complexion, his disturbing behaviour with children necessitating out of court settlements.

But that is all a long way from Off The Wall, the compelling sound of a boy turning into a man and a superstar.

Remember him this way.

Thriller sold more, but Off The Wall is the album where Michael Jackson superstar was born


WIZARDRY: At 20, the time to deliver had come
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 26, 2016
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