Sunday, 7 October 2018

Michael Jackson - Got To Be There (1972)


Released January 1972

Recorded in Detroit

This was Michael Jackson's first studio album. In places it is a remarkably mature performance from Jackson, such as on the wonderful cover of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine". His voice is still considerably in "transition", shall we say, (not quite there yet) but he has a great ability to deal with whatever song he is asked to sing. Berry Gordy brought in lots of Motown big hitters to play on the album and the backing and sound quality is excellent. At the time, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder were releasing seriously credible, socio-political and adult romantic material, but it has to remembered that Jackson was still just a twelve year-old boy and they were grown men. There was still a huge market for teen pop, and this was teen pop/soul of the highest quality.

Obviously, "Sunshine" is the stand-out track, but "I Wanna Be Where You Are" is lively and soulful, with a great bass line and solid groove. "Girl Don't Take Your Love From Me" is a good one too. These songs are so nostalgic of those early seventies years. I was born in the same year as Michael Jackson. "In Our Small Way" is cheesy but simply lovely and, of course, "Got To Be There" is just sublime. One of his best songs, even though he was only twelve when he recorded it. Yes, "Rockin' Robin" is pure bubblegum, but I still love it. I guess it just takes me back to my childhood. I was twelve, Jackson was twelve. I thought both it and he were great at the time. Listening to it now, it still resonates as being a really good album. For a twelve year-old boy, it is pretty impressive.

"Wings Of My Love" is highly orchestrated, with sweeping strings. Perfect early seventies teen schmaltz, but nothing wrong with that. Jimmy Ruffin's "Maria (You Were The Only One)" is covered highly convincingly, with some funky buzzy guitar backing and a gritty soulful atmosphere. Again, Jackson proves his potential on this one. Diana Ross & The Supremes' "Love Is Here And Now You're Gone" gets a similar, really confident treatment. It is very much the equal of the original. James Taylor's "You've Got A Friend" is handled well by Jackson too. This lad had something.


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