Saturday, 23 March 2019

Michael Jackson - Ben (1972)


  

Released August 1972

Coming only seven months after his debut solo album, this was another age-defying offering from the only just teenage Michael Jackson. He copes with a variety of different songs with consummate ease and displays a remarkable ability to read a song's requisites.

TRACK LISTING

1. Ben
2. Greatest Show On Earth
3. People Make The World Go Round
4. We've Got A Good Thing Going
5. Everybody's Somebody's Fool
6. My Girl
7. What Goes Around Comes Around
8. In Our Small Way
9. Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day
10. You Can Cry On My Shoulder

The title track is incredibly cheesy, of course, but its so nostalgic for those of us who grew up at the time of its release. I was thirteen when it came out. So, I believe, was Michael Jackson. “Greatest Show On Earth” is a very typical early seventies, Burt Bacharach-sounding song (but not one). It has a poppy and pleasant vibe to it. A similar feel can be found on the reflective “People Make The World Go Round”. This was also a hit for The Stylistics.

The catchy, singalong “We’ve Got A Good Thing Going” was a reggae hit for Sugar Minott in the late seventies. “Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool”  was a ballad that had been a hit for Connie Francis in 1960. The Temptations’ “My Girl” is given a warm, bassy, slighty dance-ish makeover. It makes a very familiar song worth listening to in this slightly different format. It is not simply a note-for-note cover. “What Goes Around Comes Around” is an attractive, melodic trademark early seventies Motown mid-pace ballad.

“In Our Small Way”, for some reason, was included both on this album and also on its predecessor, “Got To Be There”. This sometimes happened on Motown albums. Strange, it was not as if they were short of tracks. Stevie Wonder’s “Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day” has a clavinet-backed funky rhythm to it which again makes this cover version a worthwhile listen. It is still amazing to hear what an effortless soul Jackson had in his voice, at thirteen. Brenda Holloway’s 1965 single, “You Can Cry On My Shoulder” is a pleasant slow number with a nice, melodic bass line. Once more, Jackson “owns” the song.

Look, this is certainly no work of genius, no “What’s Going On” or “Talking Book” but as an enjoyable half hour spent listening to the precocious talent of a thirteen year-old Jackson it is worth your time.

B-

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