Sunday, February 12, 2006

1982 and counting

Since I'll be reading 1001 Albums for a while, I figured periodic updates were required. I'm at 1982 now - finished with punk, California rock (=Eagles) and heavy metal. New Wave is just beginning, as is "post-punk," which seems to be a catch-all phrase for bands that seem smarter than The Sex Pistols, which is pretty much everybody. Rap and hip-hop are also burgeoning: I just read about Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. But the most interesting synopsis of a 1982 album is also the most obvious:

"Thriller is surrounded by a cloud of statistics - the biggest album in history, it sold more than 40 million copies on its first release; it shifted a million copies a month in the first half of 1983; of its nine tracks, seven were hit singles.
It does not stand up as well as Off The Wall overall, but some of its meticulous fusions of pop, rock, and R&B manage to improve on even that template. Ignore the ridiculously camp title track - a song that drains the life out of the record at the end of side one - and concentrate on the undisputed masterpieces. The funk opener "Wanna Be Startin' Something" serves the same funtion as Off The Wall's "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough" - a minimal, riff-based framework for Jacko's hyperkinetic hiccups. It also "borrows" rather heavily from Manu Dibango's "Soul Makossa" (Jacko's lawyers made a large out-of-court settlement). Elsewhere you will thrill to the airbrushed funk-rock of "Beat It" (Eddie Van Halen's guitar solo was cut and spliced from 50 different takes); while "Human Nature" is a digital ballad so beautiful that Miles Davis covered it.
But the star turn is "Billie Jean," on which a creepy, electronic bassline gets under your skin while the dubious lyric asks you to side with the paranoid millionaire superstar rather than the impoverished single mother. Like the rest of Thriller, it is machine-tooled pop that has been painstakingly crafted by state-of-the-art session men for months, but there is not a note out of place.
Jacko's increasingly freakshow lifestyle should not detract from the brilliance of this album." - John Lewis

Ahhh the good old days. I've actually reached albums that I remember listening to. I enjoyed Thriller, both the album and the song, of which I think the reviewer failed to account for its popularity among five-year-olds. Don't forget to watch the Olympics. Another medal for Canada today.


Kevin Ziegler said...

I heard that Vincent Price only needed one take to record his part for "Thriller". Sounds surreal doesn't it? Price has eerie powers...Fear him.

Molly said...

To hear an even creepier version of "Billie Jean," check out the cover by a group called the Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers. You can get it on their website. It's awesome in some not-fully-healthy kinda way.

Christeen said...

Funny I am reading your post G and I just bought THE ESSENTIAL Michael Jackson yesterday!