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Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson launched a solo career, or had one launched for him, when he was just 13 and still a member of the then-peaking Jackson 5. He would record four albums for Motown ("Got to Be There" and "Ben," both released in 1972, 1973's "Music & Me" and 1975's "Forever, Michael"), each one less artistically and commercially successful than the one before.

Jackson's early solo work has been the only underexplored part of his discography, at least until now: His Motown discs have been reproduced in their entirety on the impeccably timed three-CD compilation "Hello World: The Motown Solo Collection."

These records served as a way station between the mercilessly adorable soul pop of the Jackson 5 and the R&B-pop-disco hybrid that would reach full flower on 1979's "Off the Wall." "Got to Be There" is the only indispensable disc, offering sweet but not cloying covers (like Jackson's plain, lovely take on Bill Withers's "Ain't No Sunshine") and a handful of puppy love songs ("Girl Don't Take Your Love From Me"), declarations of boyish devotion as unbelievable then as they are now. "Forever, Michael" even has awkward but willing experiments in disco (just four years after its release, Quincy Jones would come in very handy).

"Hello World" isn't much for rarities -- there's a few original mixes and masters and two previously released, post-"Thriller" cash-in discs. "Hello World" is notable because it exists, because someone thought to assemble it in the first place, because now it all seems necessary. It's the first of many collections nobody knew they wanted.

-- Allison Stewart

DOWNLOAD THESE: "Girl Don't Take Your Love From Me," "Ain't No Sunshine," "Just a Little Bit of You"


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