Album Review: Michael Jackson – Xscape

5.5/10

Published by JB.

Go with the Deluxe edition.

Graced with the most exciting voice in the history of pop and rock (joining Elvis in that regard) any tidbit of unheard verses from Michael’s past are certain to send tiny shockwaves through millions of curious fans for next several decades.   Xscape provides the first real great glimpse of how rewarding that experience can be.  The formula here is probably one to get used to as the executors of Jackson’s music hold back the real gems – releasing two or three of them slowly while filling up the rest of the album with C-level material.   That’s ok.   $12 for three great, unheard Michael Jackson songs is fine with me.

Despite the now infamous hologram performance of ‘Slave to the Rhythm’, the true find (and best enhanced track) of this collection is the killer opener ‘Love Never Felt So Good’.   For a moment in time you’re transported back to 1983 and you start asking yourself how Jackson or his producers eschewed this track in favor of so many syrupy sing-a-longs over his final two decades.   It’s an absolute gem of a pop track benefitting nicely from the Timbaland production and “contemporization”.  It towers above the rest of this collection.

The deluxe version of the CD makes the music fully transparent by providing the original versions.  Those demos and outtake versions are miles away from the controversial new mixes of the tracks that lead the album off.   So take your pick – old school demo version or the 2014 mixes?   For those who get their panties in a twist that the tracks have been over produced by Timbaland and L.A. Reid, seriously, what did you expect?   Jackson’s entire career was very producer-driven.   He wasn’t Prince.   Producers such as Teddy Riley, L.A. Reid and of course Quincy Jones were as prominent on Jackson’s records as George Martin was to the Beatles and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis were to Jackson’s sister Janet.

So if you’re going to place Off the Wall and Thriller at a 10/10 then Xscape is scratching hard to make it up to a 5.   But unfair comparisons aside the album is must-have for any Jackson fan or aficionado.  There’s no magic formula in play for posthumous releases.   Release all of it I say.   It does us no good sitting in some humidity-controlled vault until the end of time.    Jackson’s legacy is largely untouchable and he did that more damage to that while he was alive than any producer could ever do it while he’s been passed away.

–TWTHS

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