Michael Jackson – Number Ones (2003) [Qobuz 24-96]

Michael Jackson – Number Ones (2003)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 01:19:09 minutes | 1,66 GB | Genre: Pop
Studio Master, Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | Artwork: Front cover | © Epic

Like the Beatles and Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson is one of the handful of artists that can release an album of their number one singles. Number Ones includes his solo chart toppers in the UK and abroad from the period beginning with his Off the Wall album right up to the new song “One More Chance”, a collaboration with R Kelly. The remaining 17 songs on the album are all classics drawn from the disco-soul Off the Wall, the funky Thriller, the good Bad, the safe Dangerous, the semi-best-of History and the weak Invincible. Regardless of whether the bulk of Number Ones has appeared on other greatest hits albums, this is still an incredible selection of Michael Jackson’s best music.

(more…)

Michael Jackson – HIStory: Past, Present And Future, Book I (1995/2007) [Qobuz 24-96]

Michael Jackson – HIStory: Past, Present And Future, Book 1 (1995/2007)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 02:28:32 minutes | 3,15 GB | Genre: Pop
Studio Master, Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | Artwork: Front cover | Label: Epic

Michael Jackson’s double-disc HIStory: Past, Present, and Future, Book I is a monumental achievement of ego. Titled “HIStory Begins,” the first disc is a collection of his post-Motown hits, featuring some of the greatest music in pop history, including “Billie Jean,” “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” “Beat It,” and “Rock with You.” It leaves some hits out — including the number ones “Say Say Say” and “Dirty Diana” — yet it’s filled with enough prime material to be thoroughly intoxicating. That can’t be said for the second disc, called “HIStory Continues” and consisting entirely of new material — which also happens to be the first material he released since being accused of child molestation. “HIStory Continues” is easily the most personal album Jackson has recorded. References to the scandal permeate almost every song, creating a thick atmosphere of paranoia. If Jackson’s music had been the equal of Thriller or Bad, the nervous, vindictive lyrics wouldn’t have been quite as overbearing. However, “HIStory Continues” reiterates musical ideas Jackson had been exploring since Bad. Jackson certainly tries to stay contemporary, yet he has a tendency to smooth out all of his rougher musical edges with show-biz schmaltz. Occasionally, Jackson produces some well-crafted pop that ranks with his best material: R. Kelly’s “You Are Not Alone” is seductive, “Scream” improves on the slamming beats of his earlier single “Jam,” and “Stranger in Moscow” is one of his most haunting ballads. Nevertheless, “HIStory Continues” stands as his weakest album since the mid-’70s. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

(more…)

Michael Jackson – Bad (1987/2012) {Remastered} [AcousticSounds 24-96]

Michael Jackson – Bad (1987/2012)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 48:14 minutes | 1,0 GB | Genre: Pop, R&B
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Source: AcousticSounds |  Label: @ Epic/Legacy

Bad is the seminal masterpiece by one of music’s most influential artists. It has sold over thirty-five million copies worldwide, making it one of the bestselling albums of all time. The album includes five #1 singles: “Bad,” “Man In The Mirror,” “Dirty Diana,” “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” and “The Way You Make Me Feel.” Michael Jackson is among two artists to have five #1 singles from one album. The GRAMMY Award-winning album is included on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”.

The downside to a success like Thriller is that it’s nearly impossible to follow, but Michael Jackson approached Bad much the same way he approached Thriller — take the basic formula of the predecessor, expand it slightly, and move it outward. This meant that he moved deeper into hard rock, deeper into schmaltzy adult contemporary, deeper into hard dance — essentially taking each portion of Thriller to an extreme, while increasing the quotient of immaculate studiocraft. He wound up with a sleeker, slicker Thriller, which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s not a rousing success, either. For one thing, the material just isn’t as good. Look at the singles: only three can stand alongside album tracks from its predecessor (“Bad,” “The Way You Make Me Feel,” “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”), another is simply OK (“Smooth Criminal”), with the other two showcasing Jackson at his worst (the saccharine “Man in the Mirror,” the misogynistic “Dirty Diana”). Then, there are the album tracks themselves, something that virtually didn’t exist on Thriller but bog down Bad not just because they’re bad, but because they reveal that Jackson’s state of the art is not hip. And they constitute a near-fatal dead spot on the record — songs three through six, from “Speed Demon” to “Another Part of Me,” a sequence that’s utterly faceless, lacking memorable hooks and melodies, even when Stevie Wonder steps in for “Just Good Friends,” relying on nothing but studiocraft. Part of the joy of Off the Wall and Thriller was that craft was enhanced with tremendous songs, performances, and fresh, vivacious beats. For this dreadful stretch, everything is mechanical, and while the album rebounds with songs that prove mechanical can be tolerable if delivered with hooks and panache, it still makes Bad feel like an artifact of its time instead a piece of music that transcends it. And if that wasn’t evident proof that Jackson was losing touch, consider this — the best song on the album is “Leave Me Alone” (why are all of his best songs paranoid anthems?), a tune tacked on to the end of the CD and never released as a single, apart from a weirdly claustrophobic video that, not coincidentally, was the best video from the album.

(more…)

Michael Jackson – Dangerous (1991/2014) [Qobuz 24-96]

Michael Jackson – Dangerous (1991/2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 01:17:05 minutes | 1,6 GB | Genre: Pop, R&B
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Source: Qobuz |  Label: @ Epic/Legacy

Despite the success of Bad, it was hard not to view it as a bit of a letdown, since it presented a cleaner, colder, calculated version of Thriller — something that delivered what it should on the surface, but wound up offering less in the long run. So, it was time for a change-up, something even a superstar as huge as Michael Jackson realized, so he left Quincy Jones behind, hired Guy mastermind Teddy Riley as the main producer, and worked with a variety of other producers, arrangers, and writers, most notably Bruce Swedien and Bill Bottrell. The end result of this is a much sharper, harder, riskier album than Bad, one that has its eyes on the street, even if its heart gets middle-class soft on “Heal the World.” The shift in direction and change of collaborators has liberated Jackson, and he’s written a set of songs that is considerably stronger than Bad, often approaching the consistency of Off the Wall and Thriller. If it is hardly as effervescent or joyous as either of those records, chalk it up to his suffocating stardom, which results in a set of songs without much real emotional center, either in their substance or performance. But, there’s a lot to be said for professional craftsmanship at its peak, and Dangerous has plenty of that, not just on such fine singles as “In the Closet,” “Remember the Time,” or the blistering “Jam,” but on album tracks like “Why You Wanna Trip on Me.” No, it’s not perfect — it has a terrible cover, a couple of slow spots, and suffers from CD-era ailments of the early ’90s, such as its overly long running time and its deadening Q Sound production, which sounds like somebody forgot to take the Surround Sound button off. Even so, Dangerous captures Jackson at a near-peak, delivering an album that would have ruled the pop charts surely and smoothly if it had arrived just a year earlier. But it didn’t — it arrived along with grunge, which changed the rules of the game nearly as much as Thriller itself. Consequently, it’s the rare multi-platinum, number one album that qualifies as a nearly forgotten, underappreciated record. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

(more…)

Michael Jackson – Got To Be There (1972/2013) [HDTracks 24-192]

Michael Jackson – Got To Be There (1972/2013)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/192 kHz | Time – 35:50 minutes | 1,46 GB | Genre: Pop, R&B
Official Digital Download – Source: HDTracks.com | @ Motown Records

Chart History/Awards
– Reached the Top Twenty on the Billboard 200 and Billboard’s Top R&B Albums.
– “I Wanna Be Where You Are,” “Rockin’ Robin” and “Got To Be There” reached the Top Ten on Billboard’s Top R&B Singles.

Got To Be There is the irresistible solo debut by Michael Jackson. With over three million copies sold worldwide, the album is led by the title track and “Rockin’ Robin.” Both singles reached the Top Ten on the Billboard Hot 100. Got To Be There reached the Billboard Top Twenty and also peaked at #3 onBillboard’s Top R&B Albums. This undeniable classic is a piece of music history.

Reviews

..slick, artful and every bit as good as the regular Jackson 5 product…a sweetly touching voice…innocence and utter professionalism…fascinating and finally irresistible. – Rolling Stone

 

Riding high on the wild success of the Jackson 5, Motown ringleader Berry Gordy assembled every single notable production team member and songwriter in his arsenal to contribute to the solo debut of the J5’s boy wonder, Michael. By the time Got to Be There was released, much had changed in the Jackson dynamic, none the least Michael’s voice. But this album launched three chart singles: a cover of the bubblegum classic “Rockin’ Robin,” Leon Ware’s “I Wanna Be Where You Are,” and the title track. As a cohesive album, Got to Be There is wildly erratic, and his covers of “You’ve Got a Friend” and “Ain’t No Sunshine” show Jackson’s versatility as a singer. It was a world away from the politically charged sound of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On and the introspection that would later grace some of the best works of Stevie Wonder. But Got to Be There kept Gordy as king of the sound of young America — at least for a few months longer.

(more…)

Michael Jackson – Invincible (2001) [Qobuz 24-96]

Michael Jackson – Invincible (2001)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96kHz  | Time – 01:16:44 minutes | 1,58 GB | Genre: Pop
Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | © Epic ‎Records, MJJ Productions
Recorded: October 1997 – August 2001

Let’s get the clichéd bad joke out of the way to begin with: at the time Michael Jackson released Invincible in the fall of 2001, he hardly seemed “invincible” — it was more wishful thinking than anything else, since he hadn’t really had a genuine hit in ten years, and even that paled in comparison to his total domination of the ’80s. That lack of commercial success, combined with a fading reputation as a trailblazer, a truly ugly public scandal, and swirling rumors about his diminishing finances, along with a huge wait between albums (by teaming his Dangerous follow-up with a hits collection, it wound up being overlooked, despite a gaudy publicity push), resulted in Jackson being deep down in the hole, needing to surge back out with a record that not only proved his talents, but his staying power. So, faced with a make-or-break record, what did Jackson do to save his career? What he did since Dangerous, take a turn toward the street and craft a hard-driving, hard-polished urban soul album, heavy on the dance numbers and sweetened by lugubrious ballads. It’s a proven formula for commercial success, but it not only didn’t push his music forward, it made his reach seem rather timid when compared to the wildly rich, all-encompassing musical vision of Thriller and Bad. Here, he’s reined in by a desire to prove himself, so he keeps his focus sharp and narrow, essentially creating a sparkly, post-hip-hop update of Off the Wall. It’s not as good as that sounds, because the infectious joy and layered craft of that masterpiece have been replaced with a dogged, near-maniacal desire to craft something hip enough for the clubs and melodic enough for mainstream radio, thereby confirming his self-proclaimed status as the King of Pop (a really terrible title, btw). Since he was exceptionally talented and smart enough to surround himself with first-rate collaborators, this does pay off on occasion, even when it feels a little too calculated or when it feels a little padded. Ultimately, the record runs too long, losing steam halfway through, as it turns to a series of rants about “Privacy” or a deadly stretch of uncomfortably treacly, sub-“Man in the Mirror” songs about “The Lost Children,” or when he says that he can’t change the world by himself on “Cry.” Fortunately, Jackson was clever enough to front-load this record, loading the first seven songs with really good, edgy dance numbers — even the opening “Unbreakable” isn’t sunk by the creepy resurrection of Biggie Smalls — and lovely ballads, highlighted by “Break of Dawn” and “Butterflies” with its Bacharach-styled horns. Even if these are too self-conscious and a little mechanical (which they are), they still have a spark and sound better than anything Jackson had done since Dangerous. That’s not enough to make Invincible the comeback Jackson needed — he really would have had to have an album that sounded free instead of constrained for that to work — but it does offer a reminder that he could really craft good pop. If only he had been fueled, not constrained, by his obsessions, this could have been really interesting. –Stephen Thomas Erlewine

(more…)

Michael Jackson – Off The Wall (1979/2014) [HDTracks 24-96]

Michael Jackson – Off The Wall (1979/2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 42:22 minutes | 932 MB | Genre: Pop, R&B
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Source: HDTracks | Label: @ Epic Records

Off the Wall marked Michael Jackson’s departure from Motown Records and was an enormous success, and has been listed among the Definitive 200 Albums of All time by the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (#80). A blend of R&B, pop, disco, funk, and soul, Off the Wall had five singles, four of which peaked in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. The album was produced by Quincy Jones and featured the songwriting talents of Rod Temperton, Stevie Wonder, and Paul McCartney, in addition to Jackson and Jones. To date, the album is certified 8x Multi-Platinum in the US (8 million units sold) and has sold over 20 million copies worldwide.

Michael Jackson had recorded solo prior to the release of Off the Wall in 1979, but this was his breakthrough, the album that established him as an artist of astonishing talent and a bright star in his own right. This was a visionary album, a record that found a way to break disco wide open into a new world where the beat was undeniable, but not the primary focus — it was part of a colorful tapestry of lush ballads and strings, smooth soul and pop, soft rock, and alluring funk. Its roots hearken back to the Jacksons’ huge mid-’70s hit “Dancing Machine,” but this is an enormously fresh record, one that remains vibrant and giddily exciting years after its release. This is certainly due to Jackson’s emergence as a blindingly gifted vocalist, equally skilled with overwrought ballads as “She’s Out of My Life” as driving dancefloor shakers as “Working Day and Night” and “Get on the Floor,” where his asides are as gripping as his delivery on the verses. It’s also due to the brilliant songwriting, an intoxicating blend of strong melodies, rhythmic hooks, and indelible construction. Most of all, its success is due to the sound constructed by Jackson and producer Quincy Jones, a dazzling array of disco beats, funk guitars, clean mainstream pop, and unashamed (and therefore affecting) schmaltz that is utterly thrilling in its utter joy. This is highly professional, highly crafted music, and its details are evident, but the overall effect is nothing but pure pleasure. Jackson and Jones expanded this approach on the blockbuster Thriller, often with equally stunning results, but they never bettered it.

(more…)

Michael Jackson – The Essential Michael Jackson (2005/2014) [HRA 24-44.1]

Michael Jackson – The Essential Michael Jackson (2005/2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/44.1 kHz | Time –2:37:30 minutes | 1,87 GB | Genre: Pop, R&B
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Source: highresaudio.com |  Label: @ Epic/Legacy

There are several Michael Jackson greatest-hits compilations out there, each one its own take on what should be the definitive portrait of the gloved one’s career. The Ultimate Collection, The Essential Collection (different from the one here), and Number Ones have all surfaced in 2003 and 2004, and HIStory a few years prior. Each one of these collections, while commendable in its attempt to thoroughly document Jackson’s accomplishments, has fallen woefully short in one aspect or another. This has finally been rectified with this installment of Sony’s outstanding Essential collection. Starting with his campaign with his brothers in the Jackson 5, this two-disc set tours through every important single and every important fan favorite short of including his duet with Paul McCartney on “Say Say Say” (the Beatle does, however, make an appearance here on “The Girl Is Mine”). From Off the Wall to Dangerous, it’s all here in one concise package, making it the ideal reference point from which exploration into his deeper catalog can begin. While die-hard fans will already have every single song contained herein and may be weary to purchase another greatest-hits compilation short of a greatest-hits compilation including his backing vocals on Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me,” this may be the only one fans and casual listeners will ever have to purchase to get their fill of the King of Pop’s magic. –AllMusic Review by Rob Theakston

(more…)

Michael Jackson – Xscape {Deluxe HD Version} (2014) [Qobuz 24-96]

Michael Jackson – Xscape (2014) [Deluxe HD Version]
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 01:13:25 minutes | 1,59 GB | Genre: Pop, Rock, R&B
Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | @ Epic / MJJ Productions, Inc.

XSCAPE is another album of previously unreleased Michael Jackson songs. The album is produced and curated by Epic Records Chairman and CEO L.A. Reid, who retooled the production to add a fresh, contemporary sound that retains Jackson’s essence and integrity. It’s a process Reid calls “contemporizing”. The list of producers include global hitmakers Timbaland, Rodney Jerkins, Stargate, and John McClain.

Underneath it all, underneath all the keyboards and programmed rhythms designed to bring the music on XSCAPE into the 21st century, is this simple fact: the lead single, “Love Never Felt So Good,” was co-written by Paul Anka, a superstar of another era who never quite made his presence known in the new millennium. Jackson didn’t care. MJ loved old show biz and songcraft in equal measure and that love can be heard on “Love Never Felt So Good,” along with the other seven songs on XSCAPE. Only the second major posthumous release in his catalog — he passed in 2009 on the eve of an orchestrated comeback — XSCAPE delves deep into that past, excavating songs that have been languishing in the vaults for various reasons since at least 1983 or perhaps later. Exact dates aren’t published because XSCAPE isn’t meant to be an archival release, it’s designed to push Jackson back onto the charts, which means “Love Never Felt So Good” is constructed as a duet with Justin Timberlake, who is as eager as a puppy to sing with his idol. That he’s not really trading lines with MJ doesn’t matter; his presence is endorsement, ensuring chart attention which it might not have received. The deluxe edition of XSCAPE contains the original demos of the eight songs on this album — it’s a short record by any measure — and, ultimately, these are fascinating in a way the finished tracks aren’t; these spare voice and keyboard sketches are nevertheless full-bodied, so it’s possible to imagine how the songs would’ve fit on Bad, Dangerous, or Invincible. Often, the demos reveal how strong Jackson’s songwriting is — they’re so flexible, they could withstand any number of arrangements, which is why “Love Never Felt So Good” is so instructive. In its original voice-and-piano arrangement it’s possible to hear its glitzy show biz roots via Anka, but the production — supervised by L.A. Reid and Timbaland — is clever, accentuating Off the Wall while being spare and clean enough to sound modern. This is especially true of the version of “Love,” which is a duet with Justin Timberlake — the show biz kid is happy to create an illusion — but the entire affair is savvier than 2010’s Michael, which was caught between the twilight of sentiment and commerce. XSCAPE considers Jackson’s legacy quite carefully, deciding to emphasize the splashy soul and diluted disco of Off the Wall over the triumphant Thriller or any of the calculated records that followed in its wake. If he had lived, Jackson likely wouldn’t have followed this path — everything from Bad and beyond showed he was acutely aware of pop trends, often to his detriment (he’d hold himself back instead of engage) — but that’s also the appeal of XSCAPE. Timbaland and Reid evoke the Michael Jackson we all love and miss, finding songs that are worthy and giving them arrangements that are simultaneously nostalgic and modern. It’s a difficult trick to pull off but they largely succeed, so XSCAPE is a worthy and memorable coda to Jackson’s career.

(more…)

Michael Jackson – Thriller (1982/2013) [HDTracks 24-176.4]

Michael Jackson – Thriller (1982/2013)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/176,4 kHz | Time – 42:19 minutes | 1,78 GB | Genre: Pop, R&B, Rock
Official Digital Download – Source: HDTracks.com | Digital Booklet | @Epic / MJJ Productions, Inc.

The King of Pop’s legendary masterpiece, Thriller, remains the bestselling album of all time. Produced by Quincy Jones, this landmark pop recording showcases Jackson’s undeniable genius. Thriller features the classics “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” “The Girl Is Mine,” “Thriller,” “Beat It,” “Billie Jean,” “Human Nature,” “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” and more. The album won an unprecedented seven GRAMMYS and is featured on numerous “Best Of” lists including Rolling Stone, Vibe, Slant Magazine and Q. Thriller is a definitive record in music history. A must-have.

Chart History/Awards

  • Won the GRAMMY® for Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Performance (Male), Best Rock Vocal Performance (Male), Best R&B Vocal Performance (Male), Best Rhythm & Blues Song and Best Engineered Recording – Non-Classical.
  • “The Girl Is Mine (feat. Paul McCartney)” reached #1 on Billboard‘s Adult Contemporary Charts.
  • “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” reached #5 on theBillboard Hot 100.
  • “Human Nature” reached #2 on Billboard‘s Adult Contemporary Charts.
  • “Billie Jean” reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
  • “Beat It” reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
  • “Thriller” reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100.
  • Reached #1 on the Billboard 200.
  • Reached #1 on Billboard‘s Top R&B Albums.
  • On Rolling Stone‘s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.”
  • #3 on the National Association of Recording Merchandisers’ “Definitive 200 Albums of All Time.”
  • #1 on Slant Magazine‘s “Best Albums of the 1980s.”
  • On Q‘s “100 Greatest Albums Ever.”
  • On Vibe‘s “100 Essential Albums of the 20th Century.”
  • Inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008.

(more…)