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Listen to: Michael Jackson – Off The Wall deluxe edition

The new deluxe re-release of Michael Jackson's Off The Wall

Michael Jackson – Off The Wall deluxe

IT SEEMS crazy that Michael Jackson's debut solo album wasn't a US number one record when it came out in August 1979: however, as history (HIStory, even) reflects, it was probably the one of the most important number three LPs in pop music.

Off The Wall established the adult Michael as solo artist, the success of its singles Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough, Rock With You, the title track and big ballad She's Out of My Life positioning him as potentially one of the biggest pop stars of the 1980s – a potential later fulfilled beyond anyone's expectations with 1982's world-beating Thriller LP.

Listening to Off The Wall today, its warm, Quincy Jones-produced post-disco soul/funk/r'n'b gumbo sounds oddly contemporary, testament to its lasting influence on pop up to and including the output of modern day stars like Justin Timberlake, Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars.

It also finds Michael sounding like he's actually having fun for perhaps the last time on record: Thriller and Bad are pretty angsty, weird, self-conscious affairs by comparison, both lyrically and vocally.

There's not a "shamone" to be heard here, however: instead, as MJ boogies down on Get On The Floor, Don't Stop, Off The Wall, Workin' Day and Night and Burn This Disco Out, Jackson sounds like the young, carefree solo singing sensation he certainly wasn't: a new Spike Lee-directed documentary included with this handsome re-release can fill you in on the Jackson family turmoil that fed into the creation of a landmark record that's well worth re-visiting.

:: Released on February 26

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