The last set from The Jacksons at the zenith of their united, creative ability.
Daryl Easlea 2012
Something of tremendous significance happened after The Jacksons’ Destiny album was released in December 1978: Michael Jackson resumed his solo career and issued his first album of adulthood, Off the Wall. After this point, the balance of power shifted within the Jacksons, and subsequently, they would only last three further albums as a recording outfit. Destiny had proved that the group, who had been in the relative commercial doldrums since their move from Motown to Epic in 1975, was able to produce themselves, and as a result the album and its singles, Blame It on the Boogie and Shake Your Body, were chart successes.
Triumph is the second of the trio of albums that marked Michael’s all-conquering phase. Released in October 1980, just over a year after Off the Wall, and a couple of years before Thriller, it marks his de facto leadership of his brothers on an album of all-conquering dance music. His other brothers – Tito, Marlon, Jackie and Randy – certainly contribute, but Triumph is very much Michael’s record, producing with his brothers and writing or co-writing six of the album’s nine songs.
Triumph is dominated by its hit singles – Can You Feel It, Walk Right Now, Lovely One and This Place Hotel. Can You Feel It – a duet between Michael and Randy – came complete with its oh-so-futuristic video that perfectly encapsulated its moment, as it visualised the song’s calls for peace and harmony, full of the space mania that followed in the wake of Star Wars. The clubby kick of Walk Right Now, with Nathan Watts’ hypnotic bass and Ollie Brown’s metronomic drums, is one of the group’s greatest moments.
If you lived through it, you’ll realise you’re familiar with all of the tracks, as they seemed to be everywhere at the time – such as the swooning urban soundscape of Everybody or the tender balladry of Time Waits for No One. If you didn’t hear it then, it’s a sumptuous where-to-go-next after hearing the best of Michael’s solo career.
Triumph returned the group to the top of the US R&B charts for the first time since 1971 and finally buried any ghosts of their Motown past. Its title sums up exactly what’s inside: this is a triumphant, glorious sound. Although they would make two further albums – the fraught Victory and the largely Michael-less 2300 Jackson Street, Triumph is the last set from the Jacksons at the zenith of their united, creative ability.