Even after all these years its hard not to wonder at their pop perfection.
Jack Smith 2004
As the publicity circus that surrounds Michael Jackson increasingly overshadows his career, Epic's release of The Very Best of the Jacksons comes as a poignant reminder of the heights he first achieved with brothers Jackie, Jermaine, Tito and Marlon.
The title of the compilation is a little confusing, as it includes the bands time signed to Motown as The Jackson Five. The family signed to the label in 1969 and the in-house writing team set straight to work. The first single "I Want You" sold over a million copies, as did the follow-up ABC (also notable for knocking "Let It Be" from the top of the Billboard chart). CD 1 of this compilation boasts sixteen tracks in total - and includes both these tracks plus "I'll Be There", "Never Can Say Goodbye" and the early Jacko solo venture "One Day In Your Life."
Their fusion of pop and soul owed much to James Brown, and the tight dance routines were indebted to The Temptations. That said, the vitality of those early recordings was unique, particularly when harnessed to quite brilliant arrangements. Even after all these years its hard not to wonder at their pop perfection.
In 1976 the band split from Motown and signed to Epic, changing their name to The Jacksons and replacing Jermaine with fourteen year old Randy. It was hoped that the move would yield greater artistic freedom, but initial releases were mostly the homogenised product of superstar producers Gamble and Huff. "Enjoy Yourself" and "Show You The Way To Go" mark the era on this compilations second sixteen track CD.
A renaissance came a couple of years later when the band had finally won full control. Disco classics form this era "Blame It On The Boogie", "Shake Your Body" and "Can You Feel It" are all included.
The latter section of the second CD documents the Jackson's decline minus Michael, it was inevitable it that the whole would suffer minus their most talented member. But it matters little, the vast majority of the tracks features here are nothing short of brilliant.
Review: Anthony Hatfield