MICHAEL JACKSON — Off The Wall (review)

MICHAEL JACKSON — Off The Wall album cover Album · 1979 · Jazz Related RnB Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
During the 60s, Quincy Jones was one of the more successful jazz composers and arrangers in the business, creating a unique style that became the sound of American movie and TV themes, as well as background incidental music too. As the 70s developed, Quincy’s concise and economical approach didn’t jibe as well with the more excessive hippiefied era, and although his soundtracks were still happening, he no longer had the same impact anymore. In 1976 Jones hooked up with brand new RnB phenoms, The Brothers Johnson, and helped them mold a new lean and clean funk sound that pointed towards the future. A few years after this, the already rising star of Michael Jackson was showing even greater potential when he teamed up with his brother Randy to create a striking new dance hit with the song, “Shake Your Body Down to the Ground”, that brought new life to a somewhat dismal late 70s RnB/dance scene. Late 70s RnB radio had become dominated by a decaying disco scene that pumped out one bland and predictable track after another. The stage was now set for Quincy and Michael to team up and turn the world of commercial dance music inside out in a fire burst of creativity in the form of the album, “Off the Wall”.

As soon as the first track, “Don’t Stop till You get Enough”, opened, you could tell the days of boring thump thump thump disco music were on their way out. With this fresh new track we were given a melodic syncopated kick drum pattern surround by Latin and African percussion figures. Interlocking horn, string and guitar patterns sounded like a sophisticated big band, and over it all were Michael’s floating complex vocal arrangements. A new day had dawned indeed. The rest of side one is just one masterpiece after another with “Workin Day and Night” providing some of the hottest horn and guitar riffs since the heyday of James Brown, and “Rock with You” supplying something that hadn’t been heard of in dance music in a long while, an interesting melody and original chord changes. The quality drops a bit on side two, with the last two tracks not quite up to the rest of the album, but even those tracks could beat the competition of the day with the possible exception of Rick James and the occasional Funkadelic/Parliament track.

Almost forty years later, Quincy and Michael’s creation still stands as one of the top RnB, dance or pop albums of all time. Still, this album would not be the pinnacle of this duo’s efforts. That peak would come on the next album, “Thriller”, on which Jones and Jackson would take their creativity just one notch higher.
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